USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘old man’
Legends
Narrative
Tales /märchen

The Old Man and the Cot

In a village lived a very generous and well-liked old man. He was so old that he no longer left his cot. The old man had a young wife, and one day, he saw her sneaking out of the house after dark. The old man did not want to distrust his wife, and so he reasoned that he must’ve imagined it. The next day, he didn’t bring it up. The following night however, he again saw her tiptoeing out yet again and so the night after that, the old man moved his cot by the window and saw her meeting a young man. He decided to ask her of her whereabouts the following morning. When he asked her, she looked insulted and rashly replied, “I was by your side all night, I never left. You dreamt it.” The wife was angry that her husband knew of her affair, and she slit his throat that night while he slept on his cot. As he lay dying, the old man called out to God that in exchange for his righteous, honest life, his wife always have a reminder of his death which she would be haunted by after she’d made off with her lover. God hear his prayers and took him and his cot up into the sky, becoming a diamond-shaped constellation.
This was the second story related by Haleh and translated by Mayuri. This story, like the one about the sisters is about the big dipper; however, this one is only about the “dipper” in the big dipper which turns out to be the old man’s cot.  Haleh was cooking for us while we were camping in the Thar Desert, he told the story as a way to entertain ourselves since it was night and apart from the flickering fire that was soon to go out, there was nothing to do and no lights in sight. Therefore, we all stayed around the fire and listened to him and shared stories (all relayed by Mayuri who spoke his language, Marwari).

Tales /märchen

Rabbit on Moon – Japan

Informant Bio: Informant is a friend and PPD major.  He is a junior at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business.  His family is of Japanese heritage but has lived in the U.S. in Southern California for several generations.

 

Context: I was talking with the informant about any folklore his family tells.

 

Item: “So there’s this story that my mom used to tell me about why the moon looks the way it does.  Once upon a time, there were a bunch of animals that lived together peacefully.  They would go play on the mountain during the day and, at the end of the night, return to the forest to rest until the next day.  An old man who lived on the moon came down one day disguised as a wanderer to test the animals.  He asked if they could spare anything to eat and the animals each went off.  A monkey brought him his collection of nuts, a fox his fish from a trap, and the rabbit ran off trying to find something.  But, the rabbit couldn’t find anything, and had to go back to the old man empty handed.  Discouraged, the rabbit then told the monkey to get some grass and told the fox to light it on fire and jumped on the fire bed, telling the old man to eat him, as he had nothing to offer.  The man was so touched by this sacrifice that he took the rabbit and restored his form and brought him to heaven.  He placed him to rest on the moon, and that is why, to this day, we see the rabbit on the moon”.

 

Analysis: This tale seems to show the importance of kindness and sacrifice that is important to the Japanese.  Hospitality is also seen as important, as seen by the animals dropping everything they were doing and assisting the stranger.  Finally, when the rabbit realized it had nothing to give, it unquestioningly decided to sacrifice itself to feed the man.  Ritual suicide, known as Seppuku, was a huge part of Japanese culture and very accepted among the Japanese people.  It is not a sin, such as in Western cultures with mono-theistic religions to take your own life.  We also see a tendency to try to explain the unexplainable and assign meaning to all things in the world.  This is a common motif among all cultures, though some take it to further extremes than others.

 

Note: This tale can be found in Dictionary of Nature Myths: Legends of the Earth, Sea, and Sky by Tamra Andrews.

Folk speech
Humor

Moses, Jesus, and a little old man golfing joke

The following is a joke my informant told me:

Moses, Jesus, and a little old man are playing golf. They get to a particularly difficult hole which requires them to hit the ball onto a little island in the middle of a lake. Moses goes first and hits his ball into the water. He then puts his staff into the water, parts it, walks over to his ball, and hits it into the hole on the island. “Two!” he says. Next it is Jesus’s turn. He hits his ball into the water. Jesus walks out onto the water, and hits his ball into the hole on the island. “Two!” he says. Finally it is the little old man’s turn. He hits his ball into the water. A fish swims down, eats the ball, swims to the surface, spits it up, an eagle catches it, flies to the island, drops it into the hands of a squirrel, and the squirrel deposits the ball into the hole. “One!” the little old man exclaims. Moses then turns to Jesus and says: “Man, I hate playing with your dad.”

My informant says that he usually tells this joke while golfing, or at church. However, he says that since it is favorite joke, he often tells it in other situations. Since it is not offensive, it usually goes over well with everyone.

I like this joke a lot. It is not one that requires the listener to participate in the joke, and instead relies heavily on the punch line reveal that the little old man is god. I first heard it when I was 13, and I liked it because I could understand it. Still to this day I think that it is a very clever story. I have also found that even though it is a religious joke, it is not offensive. Often religious jokes cause trouble in that they make-fun of the stereotypes associated with a certain religion. This joke, however, is quite harmless, which is why it is easy to tell to any audience.

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