USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘rat’
Narrative
Tales /märchen

The Monk and the Mouse

The tale: “So this monk was sitting on the beach when a kite fly, which I don’t really know what that is, but he saw a kite fly carrying a mouse and the mouse fell on the monk. So the monk wrapped the mouse with a leaf and took it home and prayed that the mouse would turn into a girl. And the mouse turned into a really beautiful girl, and the monk and his wife adopted her, so she like grew up and um, when she was an adult the monk told her that she should get married. And he told her to choose a man to marry, and the girl said she wanted like the most powerful man in the entire world. The monk thought she meant that she wanted the sun, so he went to like look for the sun and he found the sun and asked him if he wanted to marry his daughter. But the sun was like there’s someone more powerful than me…it’s um this cloud that covers me up during the day. So the monk left the sun and went to the cloud but the cloud was like there’s someone more powerful than me too, it’s the…um…oh yeah, it’s the wind. Because it blows me around. So the monk went to find the wind but the wind was like there’s someone EVEN MORE POWERFUL THAN ME, it’s the mountain, because it doesn’t move when I try to move him. So the monk went to find the mountain and the mountain says that the rat is more powerful because he can dig holes in me. So the monk finally goes to the rat and asks him to marry his daughter, but the rat says that he can only marry a mouse, right? So then the monk prayed that his daughter would turn back into a mouse, which God answered, and the mouse and the rat lived happily ever after.”

 

The informant is Indian American. Her parents are both from India, but she was born in California. She’s not very religious, but she considers herself culturally Indian. When I asked her where she heard this story, she said “The story is from The Panchthantra, which is an Indian book of myths and stories, and I used to have a comic book version growing up.” So the story is clearly a folktale that was transcribed into authored literature, which then became many different versions, one of which was a comic book. It follows traditional oral tradition, the most prominent of which is only two characters in a scene. The monk only speaks to one person at a time. I think the message of the story is to remain humble. The young girl wants the most powerful husband in the world, but it ends up being a simple rat. And even then she cannot marry him unless she is reduced to her original state; so regardless of her transformation into a beautiful woman, and her wish for a powerful husband, she herself is humbled by her transformation and her final choice of husband. I think another message is that power is not where we’ll expect it, and there are many different forms of power. This tale is probably a good one to tell to children who become to over-arrogant.

Musical
Narrative
Tales /märchen

Folk Song – American

The informant learned the following folk song, called “Froggy Went a-Courtin,’” at “Rendezvous . . . a campout. [He] learned it at a campout from several other people who were singing it ’round a fire playing guitar and a banjo.” The lyrics are as follows:

Froggy went a-courtin’ and a-he did ride, mm-hmm, mm-hmm
Froggy went a-courtin’ and a-he did ride, mm-hmm, mm-hmm

Froggy went a courtin’ and a-he did ride,
Sword and a pistol by his side, mm-hmm, mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

Froggy went down to Miss Mousie’s house, mm-hmm, mm-hmm
Froggy went down to Miss Mousie’s house, mm-hmm, mm-hmm
Froggy went down to Miss Mousie’s house,
Wanted to marry that cute little mouse, mm-hmm, mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

Sat Miss Mousie down on his knee, mm-hmm, mm-hmm
Sat Miss Mousie down on his knee, uh-huh, uh-huh
Sat Miss Mousie down on his knee,
Said Miss Mousie, would you marry me, mm-hmm, mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

Not without Uncle Rat’s consent, uh-huh, uh-huh
Not without Uncle Rat’s consent, uh-huh, uh-huh
Not without Uncle Rat’s consent,
She would not marry the President, uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh.

Here is a sound clip of the informant singing the song: Froggy Went a-Courtin’

The informant says that the only place he’s ever performed the song or heard it performed is at campouts. His opinion of the song is that “it’s a great little song. It’s great for a singalong; it’s very easy to pick up.”

The song is rather repetitive and, according to the informant, has many more verses, so it does seem like the type of song that anyone could pick up, sing until he or she got tired of it, and then make up his or her own verses. My guess would be that the lyrics are quite flexible. The song is listed in the songbook 500 Best-loved Song Lyrics with slighty different phrasing as an English folk song (103) and there is actually a musical of the same name by Stanley Werner based on the song. The song is also interesting as a tale; it appears to promote the traditional value of female obedience.

Sources:

Herder, Ronald. 500 Best-loved Song Lyrics. Mineola, NY: Dover, 1998.

Werner, Stanley. Froggie Went A’Courtin.’ Woodstock, Illinois: Dramatic Publishing, 1970.

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