USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘old man’
Legends
Magic
Narrative
Old age

An apartment is found haunted by reflection on the window

Context
The informant grew up in Beijing. We were discussing ghost stories when she brought out this story.

Content
A man bought a new apartment. It was on the first floor. Outside the window is the garden, a small grassland in a residential district. He said that when the apartment was being furnished, he often saw an old man staring at him strangely from the window. When he walked outdoors to find the old man, the old man disappeared. When he moved into the house, a friend of his came to visit him. He told his friend that he often saw an old man. He asked his friend to go out and take a look, while he stood indoors to see whether the old man disappeared from the window. The friend went out, and then ran in hurriedly, brought him out and said, “You could not live in the apartment. The old man is a reflection on the window.”

Analysis
Because the old man is a reflection on the window, he is a ghost in the house. The main motif of the story is that mirrors or mirror-like object (window in this story) can show the reflection of ghosts, even though ghosts cannot be seen directly. Notice that the ghost is an old man. The old man must have some unfulfilled wishes that connect with the apartment – he probably lives in the apartment. To me, the story reflects the anxiety of the working force who fail to pay enough attention to their aging parents.

Legends
Narrative

NEWLY WEDS HORROR STORY ON THE HIGHWAY TO CHIHUAHUA

Main Piece:

“Growing up…wherever we were in a car on the road to…pretty much anywhere, one of my uncles or aunts would tell us this one story. Apparently in Chihuahua there is this long highway with very few exits or cars passing by. So this couple, who ad literally just married, were on their way to Chihuahua. It was during the night…it was extremely dark. Their car broke down and the husband told his wife that he would walk down the road until he found help, and that she was to stay in the car and lock all the doors. He emphasized that she only opens the doors to him. She agreed and he left. An hour or two after he left, the wife noticed a raggedy man with a brown bag walking down the highway toward her car. The man stopped beside the passenger door and knocked on her window. He smiled at her and pointed at the bag. He knocked again and smiled. Just then a car passed the highway and the man rushed into the trees to hide. The woman flickered her headlights to try to get the car to stop but it did not. After the car was gone, the man with the bag approached her car door window again. He looked at her, smiled, and pointed toward the bag. The wife looked away from him, the man knocked, she turned to face him, again he smiled and pointed toward the bag. Just then another car was making its way down the highway. The man ran into the trees to hide again. The woman flickered her headlights and the car stopped. She told the man from the car that there was an old raggedy man with a bag bothering her and trying to get her to open her door. The man told her that he would hide and when the old man with the bag came back, that she honks many times and he would rush over in his car.

So, the wife waited for the old man to return. He finally did and again he knocked on the window, smiled, and pointed toward the bag. The wife honked and turned her headlights on. The other car rushed over. The old man then tried to escape and in doing so dropped the bag he was carrying. The wife got out of her car and ran toward the bag. The other man stood next to her as she opened the bag. The wife screamed and fainted from the contents in the bag. Inside was the severed head of her husband.”

Context:

The informant is a 27-year-old Mexican-American college student. He learned this story from his uncle, father, aunt, and any and all other family members. It is a very popular story to tell in his family. He believes to a certain extent that the events in this story might be based on true events, but he also believes that it might just be a scary story to tell around a campfire.

Analysis:

This legend seems to have some possibility of being true, which makes for a great legend. I believe that the reason this story continues to be told through generations in this informant’s family is because of how real the legend feels.

This story highlights the idea of sticking together in all circumstances.

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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