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

“The Value of Hard Work”

Context & Analysis

The subject and I were eating lunch together and I asked him to tell me about any traditions or sayings he remembers from his family. The subject told me he doesn’t have a strong connection with his parents, but that in particular, his parents have always emphasized the value of hard work. The subject stated that the proverb is a traditional Chinese proverb, but provided me with a rough summary as he remembered his parents telling him. After doing some research, the story comes from a Chinese idiom, “Shòu zhū dài tù”, or “Watching a tree stump, waiting for rabbits” (visiontimes.com). Additionally, the original idiom does not mention the farmer himself dying, so this could possibly be an alternative ending that the subject’s parents told him for extra emphasis. This seems like a rather graphic story to tell to a young child, but the proverb and the idiom it originates from highlights the reliability of hard work instead of luck. (Source url: http://www.visiontimes.com/2013/11/18/the-chinese-idiom-watching-a-tree-stump-waiting-for-rabbits.html)

Main Piece

“The jist of the proverb is about a farmer who one day luckily manages to catch a rabbit that runs head first into a tree. So instead of farming or working hard, he decides to sit by the tree every day and wait for more rabbits to run into the tree. Of course that never happens because that’s only a really lucky occurrence, so he starves and dies.”   

Tales /märchen

Rabbit and Turtle

Main Piece:

 

큰 병을 얻어 임종을 눈앞에 둔 물 속 나라 용궁의 용왕이 병을 낫기 위한 방법을 수소문 한 결과 토끼의 간을 먹으면 낫는다는 이야기를 듣게 된다.

 

하지만 물 속 나라의 백성들은 전부 물고기인지라 뭍에 사는 토끼를 잡아올 방법이 없지 않은가. 그 때, 용왕의 신하인 자라가 자신만만하게 나서며, 손바닥 뒤집듯 쉽게 토끼를 잡아올 수 있을거라 말한다. 자라는 물과 뭍을 오갈 수 있기 때문에 뭍으로 올라와 토끼를 찾아 간다.

 

토끼를 만난 별주부는 달리기 경주에서 승리하여 온갖 아양과 아부를 떨어 토끼를 설득하며, 결국 토끼는 별주부의 등에 타고 용궁으로 가게 된다.

 

토끼를 본 용왕이 대뜸 “내가 살기 위해서는 니가 죽어야 한다.” 라고 말한다. 이에 토끼는 잠깐 당황하지만, 기지를 발휘하여 “안타깝지만 지금은 나에게 간이 없다. 나만 아는 곳에 몰래 감춰두고 왔다.” 라고 말한다. 토끼는 잔꾀로 용왕을 속이고 무사히 탈출한다.

 

토끼의 배웅 겸, 몰래 감춰놓았다던 간을 받아올 겸 해서 별주부가 다시 토끼를 데리고 육지로 올라가나, 토끼는 “거짓말이야”를 외쳐주고는 산속으로 도망가버린다.

 

이에 허탈한 별주부가 자살을 결심하려고 할 때 지나가던 도인이 “그대의 정성에 하늘이 감동했다” 라며 신선들이 사용하는 약을 건네준다. 별주부가 “어르신의 존함은 뭡니까?”라고 묻자 도인이 “나는 패국 사람 화타다”라고 자신의 이름을 밝히고 이야기는 끝난다.

The King of the country in the water got very sick and heard that only the liver of a rabbit can cure it.

 

But all the people of the country in the water are fish, so there is no way to bring the rabbit. At that time, Yongwang(The King)’s servant, the turtle says that he is able to grab the rabbit easily. Because he can go to water and land, the turtle went up to the land to visit the rabbit.

 

The turtle that meets the rabbit wins the running race and eventually the rabbit rides on the back of the turtle and goes to the palace.

 

“You have to die for me to live.” the king says. The rabbit panicked for a moment, but said, “Unfortunately, I have no liver now.” The king is suspicious, but let the rabbit go to get the liver.

 

The rabbit shouted to the turtle, “It was a lie” and run away into the mountains.

 

Disappointed, the turtle tried to commit suicide, a stranger gave him a medicine from heaven that can cure the king’s illness. The turtle asked “What is your name?” and the stranger answered “I am Hwata from China”.

 

Background Information:

This is a very old Korean novel. It figuratively shows how Choonchoo Kim of Shilla escaped from Kokuryeo.

Interestingly, this story can be viewed from the rabbit or from the tortoise.

 

Context:

This is performed as puppet animation or graphic animation for children.

Personal Analysis:

The ending is a bit of a plot twist and also a bit random. The rabbit is very sneaky, and the turtle is a faithful servant. From the rabbit’s point of view, he was just trying to protect himself and did what it takes to survive. He became a victim at one point because the king asked for his life to keep his own. On the other hand, from the turtle’s point of view, the rabbit is the bad guy for running away with a lie. We want to pity the turtle and side with him especially when he wants to die, but he was given the task to kill a rabbit which is cruel. It is an interesting story because it correlates with history. These animals are a popular choice in lead characters in children’s stories, because they contradict each other.

Myths
Narrative
Tales /märchen

The Rabbit On the Moon

The Main Piece
When one looks up at the moon some say that they can see a rabbit made out of the craters on the moon. My informant, Demie, has told me that her family would often tell her the story of how the rabbit got to the moon. There were three gods and one of them lived on the moon. They all came down to Earth to look for food. There, they met a monkey, a fox, and a rabbit. They asked each to find them some food and while the monkey and the fox were able to get them food, being the cunning and quick animals that they are, the rabbit was unable to get them any food. The rabbit felt so bad that it offered itself up for food for the gods. The moon goddess was so touched by the rabbit’s generous act that she took it up with her to the moon to live with her. The story is told to represent selflessness and generosity.
Background Information
My informant is Demie Cao a current undergraduate student at USC and friend of my close friend, Elizabeth Kim. She enjoyed hearing this story from a young age because her favorite animal was the rabbit, therefore it was incredible to think that she could simply look up and it would be right there on the moon. Her father and mother would tell her the story from time to time and she would be reminded of the story whenever she would look up at the moon and see a rabbit. It is a symbol of her childhood and part of her culture as well.
Context
I was told this story as she, Elizabeth, and I were discussing folklore in her room. The conversations were casual as we relaxed in my dormitory. We were simply sharing stories, laughing at our own pasts.
Personal Thoughts
Hearing how a culture explains visuals in nature reveals a lot about the way they think in terms of who and what they respect. In this instance it is obvious that religion and moralistic values are an important part of their society. I felt the story did well in being able to instill these values in children from an early age and was a memorable story for all to remember.

Folk speech
Riddle

The Impossible Men and the Rabbit

“Nekoč so šle trije počaci.

Eden je bil slep,

Drugi je bil nag,

Treti je bil hrom.

Slepi je zajca videl,

Hromi ga je ujel,

Nagi ga je pod srajso del.”

Translation:

“There once went three together slowly –

One was blind,

The second was naked,

The third was lame.

The Blind one saw a rabbit,

the Lame one caught it,

and the Naked one put it under his shirt.”

Born and raised in former Yugoslavia, what is now known as Slovenia, the informant was continuously exposed to folk traditions that originated and permeated this region. The informant knows very little about the origins of this joke, but he compares them to many of popular self-contradictory English limericks, such as “One bright day in the middle of the night . . . ” The translation into English really tarnishes its humor, as the cadence of the joke is broken. The rhyme scheme is also distroyed as the punchline of the original joke cleverly rhymes with the line before it. Slovenian also has this incredible quality of succinctness, whereby a speaker can use an adjective, such as “lame” or “blind,” and turn it into a noun, generating much of humor from this reductive address (i.e. a man who is naked becomes simply “the Naked”).

Folk Beliefs
Gestures
Kinesthetic

Pointing at the Moon

If you point your finger at the moon, you would anger the moon, and the deity living on the moon will slice off your ear when you sleep.

The informant is not sure why this is so or who the deity living on the moon is. However, this superstition may be rooted in respecting the deities, and could possibly be linked to the myth of Cháng’é (嫦娥), the Chinese goddess of the moon. She lives on the moon because she had swallowed the elixir of life and became light, floating away from the earth. Her husband Hòu Yì (后羿) was a mortal archer known for shooting down nine of ten suns that were scorching the earth. Cháng’é lives on the moon with a jade rabbit.

It is interesting to note that pointing is disrespectful in cultures all around the world.

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.

Customs
Foodways
Legends
Material
Narrative

Moon Cakes

The world used to have 10 suns, but a man took arrows and shot them down until only one sun was left. He had a beautiful wife that wanted to become immortal. One day, the wife found her husband’s medicine and ate it, turning into an immortal fairy. She flew away to the moon where all the fairies lived and the woman brought a rabbit with her. Even though the husband was angry, he did not shoot down the moon because he loved his wife so much.

Whenever my informants family buys mooncakes (the Chinese sweet cakes that are consumed on/around Chinese New Year), there is a picture of a lady included in the package. Neither he nor his family is quite sure how this story relates to mooncakes, but they all agreed that the lady in the image is the lady from this story. He first heard this story from his mother when he asked about the picture. Unfortunately, my informant did not remember many of the details from this story, so it is difficult to analyze it without explanations for why she left her husband, however it is worthwhile to note that this story serves as an origin story for the rabbit on the moon visible if you turn your head to the right.

Game
general

Game – Los Angeles, California

Rabbit Game

1st day of month you win the game if you are the first person to say rabbits

The informant said that this is a game within his family and he thinks it’s from his father, who is from England, so that it might be English.

I’m not certain on the significance of the game, but I know that rabbit is a much more popular food overseas in England, than it is here in America.  England also has a booming rabbit population and rabbit hunting is quite popular.  So, perhaps, this game represents a rabbit sighting, which would lead to a rabbit dinner.  In saying “rabbits!” one may expect to see rabbits, which could then be hunted.  Therefore they win because the sighting would lead to a tasty dinner for the family.

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