The following is from a 20-year-old USC student. She is describing a superstition she was taught. I will be represented by K and she will be represented by A.
K: So, tell me about some superstitions you have.
A: Uh, yeah, so… my… my grandma used to tell me, back in North Carolina, if it’s raining… with- when the sun is up, like it’s not cloudy and it’s raining- and you look under a rock, you’ll find the color of your future husband’s hair… It’s… true story.
K: So, what does this piece of folklore mean to you?
A: Uhm… to me it means that… uh, my husband’s going to have brown hair… and every day I look for him… Thanks Grandma!
This conversation took place in my living room with a group of people. The informant brought up the superstition taught by her grandma and I asked her if I could record it for this project. She agreed and we all listened to the story.
Like most superstitions, it is clear that this one is not necessarily accurate, but something fun to believe in. The informant’s grandma told her about this when she was younger, probably trying to give her something to believe in and look forward to as a lot of adults do with kids these days. We see this in a lot of Disney films with the idea of believing in a better future and looking forward to a happily ever after. It is likely that this belief is meant as a happily ever after type.
There once was a woman who lived in North Vietnam with her husband. One day he left to fight overseas when the woman was pregnant. She missed him so much that she waited for him every day outside on the cliffs overlooking the land and sea, holding their child. No matter what the weather, she remained outside waiting for her warrior husband to return home, in the storms, sun, and the rain, but he still did not return. So as she waited and waited until finally, she turned into stone, and is still waiting alone at the top of the cliff.
The informant first heard of this legend from his mother when he was living in Vietnam at the age of about ten or twelve. His loved his mother and followed her around everywhere and she would tell him stories about Vietnam and how it was created and about famous people or events in the past. The day his mother told him this legend he was complaining about having to walk outside when it was extremely hot and humid, even more so than normal. This is when she told him of the woman who would wait outside no matter what, heat or cold, just to see her husband again. The informant believes this legend is a story that serves as a model to Vietnamese women, telling them that they must remain strong and loyal to the central nit of life in Vietnam, which is the family. It is the woman’s job to hold the family together when the father is out trying to earn money to feed the family. He retells this legend primarily just to little children, as a form of entertainment and to keep them quiet and attentive during family gatherings.
This rock is called “the Statue of the Awaiting Wife” and is very famous among the Vietnamese people. It represents the strength and perseverance of the Vietnamese woman, as well as the loyalty and dedication that she contributes to the family. Though it is hard to say whether or not the rock exists and really used to be a dedicated woman and her child waiting for their father and husband to return home, it is a form of Vietnamese folklore that has been passed down through the generations for so long that it is almost accepted as true, and that is the reason why it is continued to be told and retold. I also think that in many Vietnamese legends, there are many things involved with nature and this story represents it, that we are a part of nature so it would be natural for a human to turn into stone. The stone also represents strength and resistance, as the woman was strong and persistent as she waited for her husband to return home.
My informant has lived on the island of Hawaii his whole life. He currently works at the Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park. He first heard of the superstition when his parents would complain about the increasing amount of tourism to the island. They would justify their discontent by acknowledging that all of the tourists who would return home with volcanic rock would be stricken with bad luck.
At the national park, my informant has been taught, and is expected to know, the details of the superstition. Apparently, the volcanic goddess, Pele, curses visitors who return to their homelands with a lava rock. At the national park, they frequently receive packages which contain lava rocks that people have taken and wish to return because of their bad luck. They expect that by returning the rocks, their luck will change for the better. The worst instance he has heard of was a man who was laid off of work and broke his leg in the same month. He believes the superstition was created by native Hawaiians trying to discourage tourists from disturbing the landscape. He has never left the island with a volcanic rock before, so he doesn’t have any firsthand experience with the curse.
In my opinion, the lava operates as an item the tourists can blame their misfortunes on. Then, whenever something goes wrong, they think of the lava rock instead of brushing it off. Then the tourists feel like they have to free themselves of the burden the rock has put them in. Also, I have heard of how much the native Hawaiians hate tourists, so it’s likely this superstition was started to discourage tourist activity. Also, this makes sense because tourism to Hawaii has only become popular in the last century. To tie an ancient figure like Pele to a more modern practice makes it evident that the curse is not genuine and the native Hawaiians just don’t like tourists taking pieces of Hawaii home with them.