USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘parable’
Folk speech
Humor
Proverbs

What Happened to Dorothea

Over the past few years, I’ve heard snippets of this friend’s crazy grandpa. Many nights, we’d eat together and share stories of our nutty families, as we both share lineage with what many would call ‘eccentrics’. Self purportedly from a family comprised of 50% white trash and 50% religious explorers, he grew up around a variety of funny saying and stories.

The following was recorded during a group interview with 4 other of our friends in the common area of a 6-person USC Village apartment.

“You’d go, ‘Oh grandpa, blablablablabla’. And then he would kind of like – you know when you were a kid and you’d kind of like ramble a lot? So he would like loose track and then be like, ‘Well you know what happened to Dorothea don’t ya?’. And then you’d be like, ‘what?’. ‘She went to shit and the hogs ate her’. It wasn’t connected at all. It was basically like, ‘Oh, fuck off. I’m not listening.’”

I love this little proverb or parable or whatever it is, because it’s just so frickin’ unique and strange. At first, you think it’s going to be related to ‘the Wizard of Oz’ or at least somebody named Dorothea, but that’s just thrown out the window with a tragic image of graphic violence. And, to top it all off, it’s hilarious. The shear absurdity of it all perfectly captures the care-free nature of an older generation.

Customs
folk metaphor
folk simile
Folk speech
Humor
Proverbs
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Good Old Grandpa

Over the past few years, I’ve heard snippets of this friend’s crazy grandpa. Many nights, we’d eat together and share stories of our nutty families, as we both share lineage with what many would call ‘eccentrics’. Self purportedly from a family comprised of 50% white trash and 50% religious explorers, he grew up around a variety of funny saying and stories.

The following was recorded during a group interview with 4 other of our friends in the common area of a 6-person USC Village apartment.

“He had a lot of sayings for like the weather. ‘It’s colder than a witch’s tit’. Or, ‘it’s darker than a snake’s asshole.’ There were a lot of asshole things too. ‘Colder than a well-digger’s ass’. ‘I’d rather have acid poured down the crack of my ass than…’ ‘I’m so hungry I could eat the ass out of a dead gorilla’. ‘You talk like you have a paper hat’. ‘You talk like your ass is made of paper’. ‘Wish in one hand, shit in the other. See which one fills up first’. ‘Tough titties said the kitty’. He said that one a lot. ‘As useless as tits on a hoe-handle’. ‘Nervous as a whore in church’. ‘Nervous as a pregnant nun’. If something doesn’t go over well, he’d be like, ‘oh, that went over like a turd in a punch bowl’. He also had a lot of superstitions or tics I guess. He’d always get wine with ice in it – my mom’s family is 100% pure white trash. And so, he would order wine with ice in it, and then he would get it, stir it with his pinky, then suck on his finger, and wipe it on the left side of his shirt. Every single time. He’d like dry it off with the corner of his shirt. So all of his shirts had little things sticking off from him pulling on it to dry off his fingers. He’d stir his wine like it was a mixed drink or something.”

These weird little sayings always crack me up. They range from somewhat clever and somewhat useful to totally nonsensical and just plain silly. I especially love the strange ritual my friend’s grandpa performs every time he drinks a glass of wine. He seemed to do things just for the hell of it. What a way to live.

Folk Beliefs
Tales /märchen

Afghan Parable: Blindness and Truth

Main Piece: “So once my mom told me a story about a group of boys playing near a bridge. So they see a blind kid… um… and they ask why God would make this boy blind? And they feel very sorry for him. So in this story they ask God, ‘why did you make this boy blind?’ and then they tell God, ‘you should give him sight.’ So God does. God gives the boy sight. And then the boys are very pleased with themselves… uh… so they go to the top of the bridge because they have a game of jumping off of it…it’s a low bridge. But the blind boy who now can see has set up sharpened sticks underneath the bridge. So that when the boys jump, they all die.”

Background: The informant’s mother recently told her this story after her grandfather died a few months ago. Her mother had been told this story by her father as a cautionary tale about coming to the U.S. The informant says her mother understood this parable as an implication to not always trust what you think you know. The informant understands it’s meaning to be: “don’t question God ever because purpose is not in our hands.”

Performance Context: The informant and I had lunch together and sat at a table across from each other.

My Thoughts: A generational parable has survived through the family’s telling. The story’s dark nature evokes fear in the receiver of the story. I understand the telling of it as partly religious, partly cautionary, and partly moralistic. I find it interesting that the informant’s mother was reminded of the parable after her father’s death. The symbolism of blindness in terms of truth is a consistent metaphor in moralistic tales. Also important to note is the hesitance to trust American culture as an immigrant. I understand this story as told outside the context of religion, implying more about belief and trust than religion and morals.

general

The Heart

심청이 (Shim Chung-yi) – Heart-yi

The Story:

심청이는 여자의 이름이였다. 심청이의 아버지는 눈이 멀었다 – 안 보이셔. 그리고 가난했다. 어느날 심청이가 자기의 몸을 중국 선원들한테 팔았지. 옛날에는 선원들이 이직 시집을 못 간 여자의 몸을 바다에 빠트리면 가는길이 안전하게 된다는걸 믿었었지. 그래서 심청이는 집을 떠났고 받은 쌀은 아버지가 먹을수있게 저장에다가 넣었지. 중국 선원들이 가다가 심청이를 바다에 던졌어. 물에 빠지면서 거북이가 심청이를 받아서 용공으로 데려갔어. 용공에서 임금님이 심청이에게 물었지 “너 는 어떻게 여기까지 온거냐?” 심청이는 그래서 자기가 어떻게 온걸 설명해주었다. 임금님은 심청이의 예쁜 마음 보아서 다시 자기의 집으로 데려주었고 심청이에게 말 했다 “돌아가면 너의 아버지 눈이 보이것이다. 심청이는 돌아가서 아버지랑 행복하고 풍부하게 살았다. 

Shim Chung is the name of a girl. She lives with her father and he is blind. They are a poor family. One day, Shim Chung sold herself to a group of Chinese people for money. Back then, sailors believed that when a girl who is not yet married is thrown into the water, their voyage will be safe. Shim Chung received rice in payment and stored it in the storage for her father to eat. After she left, her father called out for her but there was no reply. Shim Chung was thrown into the sea and a turtle caught her as she fell, and brought her an underwater kingdom (dragon home). The king asks her how she ended up there and she explained her journey. He tells her she has a kind heart and when she returns her father’s eyes will open. She is returned home and calls out to her father, and he is able to open his eyes. They became rich and happy.

 The Analysis:

The ultimate moral of the story is that a kind daughter will bring wealth and happiness to a family. Shim Chung is the name of the girl in the story but it is also a play on words, which means heart. She has a kind and beautiful heart, selfless and caring only for others and not herself. Her beauty is not skin deep and resonates throughout her personality. The king of the underwater kingdom takes notice of this and sends her back to land. Kindness and goodness will never lead one astray, so everyone should live their live for others, not for themselves. 

Humor
Narrative

The Priest and the Cat

Transcribed from interview with my informant:

“There’s this priest. He goes outside one day, he sees that there’s a cat in a tree. Of course being a priest and a good man he wants to get the cat down from the tree, but for some reason he decides he’s going to go down the most cartoon-y route possible.”

“His neighbor has a pick-up truck, so what he does is he borrows his neighbor’s pick-up truck and then ties a rope to one end–the first end of the rope he ties to the tree, the second end to the back of the truck. Now he thinks he’s going to be able to bend the tree down just far enough that he’ll be able to reach up to the branch, get the cat, and put it safely on the ground.”

“However, the rope snaps midway through- the rope snaps midway through, the tree shoots back upwards and the cat goes flying into the sky. The priest searches all over for the cat, never finds it. Then about two weeks later he’s at the grocery store. He sees this woman who is buying cat food and he knows this woman hates cats, so he asks her ‘Why are you buying cat food?'”

“She says ‘Well you’re not going to believe this but the other day I was talking to my little girl. She said she wanted a cat very badly. I said to her you can have a cat when God gives you one. So she went outside, went on the ground, and started praying. Then out of nowhere a cat flew out of the sky and landed in front of her.'”

My informant heard this story from his Catholic priest in Nantucket, who would apparently end every sermon with some sort of a joke. He couldn’t remember the particular sermon this story was attached to, but suspected there was some thematic connection between the above narrative and the sermon.

This particular joke is interesting in that at its root, it concerns the actions of a priest being mistaken for divine intervention, perhaps speaking to some concerns of the Catholic faith. Notably, the priest was unaware of the consequences of what he did, so the point might be that providence governs our actions whether we realize it or not.

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