USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘quilt’
Tales /märchen

The Seamstress

Main Text

Subject: I think the one that is…the details I remember most, is about…like, the mother daughter story? And I think my mom called it like, the seamstress or something?

Interviewer: Hm, okay.

Subject: But basically it was about a daughter who was like, leaving their home village to work, or something? And then the mother like, was really sad that she was leaving, and then, I think the night before she left, she ended up sewing this entire quilt that night? Uh…of like, memories, or something, something mystical. And then, and then like, the daughter like, brought it, away. And then I think she ended up like, not being able to come back, and then she just like, always had that like, quilt, as, like, a symbol of her mother’s love.

Background

The subject is a 22-year-old Taiwanese-American woman in her fourth year at USC. She was around four when she heard this story for the first time. She remembers her own mother telling her this tale as a bedtime story, and that it was so sad it moved her to the point of tears. Her mother had framed the story as an example of how a mother’s love was so deep, it could travel with you wherever you would go.

Context

This was the first item of folklore the subject brought up in a broader interview over folklore that the subject knew. As a child, the subject had a very literal interpretation of the tale. She thought her mother was literally going to make a her a quilt in the name of motherly love, just like the mother in the tale did for her daughter. As she grew up, she realized this interpretation was not grounded in reality, and that her mother had intended the tale to be taken no more literally than other folk stories she told at bedtime.

Interviewer’s Analysis

As a college student preparing to graduate this semester, the subject likely was thinking about reuniting with family again after an extensive institutionalized period of separation, much like how the daughter in the tale was extensively separated from her family by the institution of labor. Now, at a different stage in life, her identification with the daughter in this tale has become more literal, albeit in a way her four-year-old self had not considered.

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