USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘rooster’
folk metaphor
Folk speech

The Landowner and the Rooster

The Main Piece
Many East Asian cultures instill values in children through the legends they tell. Catherine recalls a story her grandparents would tell her as a child about a greedy landowner, his workers, and a rooster. Although the landowner was rich, he was extremely greedy, trying to make as much money as possible. Every day his workers would wake up when the rooster crowed and begin plowing the fields. “The landowner wanted them to work more so he came up with…with a scheme! To make the farmers work more, he would sneak up into one of the villager’s rooster house and would make a crowing sound. When the rooster heard this it too would make a crowing sound, but a louder one that woke up the other roosters in the village. Then, the workers would wake up, thinking it was time to plow the fields, making them work longer hours. One night a boy went to take a piss outside and saw the landowner. He told all the farmers so they came up with their own plan. The next night, when the landowner crept up into the rooster’s house one of the men yelled ‘THIEF’ and all the villagers came out and beat him up. That’s pretty much the end.”
Background Information
The informant of this story is Catherine Wang, a current undergraduate student at USC and personal friend of mine. She recalls this story being told to her by her mother in an attempt to teach her daughter not to steal from or swindle others. As a child she enjoyed hearing this story because she felt it was funny imagining the landowner getting “beaten to a pulp.” To this day she still enjoys hearing and telling this story, but now it is because of the righteousness the plot line contains which she believes is absent in reality.
Catherine told me this story as we were riding the monorail together and we were talking about each other’s families. The conversation turned into more of a comparison of our two different lifestyles as we saw how our family’s differing beliefs influenced the stories we were told at an early age.
Personal Thoughts
At first I had no idea what to expect when Catherine asked me “Do you know the story that had the rich landowner and the rooster?” It sounded as if it would be a simple children’s book, but as Catherine later explained to me, it represented the abuse of the Chinese government during the time and encouraged workers to take a stand and revolt against the government. While I always understood many children’s stories to have some type of moralistic meaning behind it, I did not consider this legend to also be a metaphor for the governmental system and abuse and the current time.

Folk speech

Lilli Lilli Auzak: Farsi nursery rhyme and hand game

Context: The informant is a grandmother of 8 whose parents were originally from Afghanistan but settled in Pakistan. She also lived in Saudi Arabia for many years and has a working knowledge of Farsi, Arabic, and Punjabi along with her native Urdu. The following nursery rhyme is one in Farsi that she and her siblings learned from their mother when they were very young, but that few of their children (and subsequently grandchildren) learned in their turn.

Audio File

Text in Farsi:

Text in Farsi for Nursery rhyme "Lilli Lilli Auzak"













Lilli lilli auzak

dowre auzak sauzak

Tutti (murghe) aamad au khord

Paish lakkad au bourd

Ee gereft, ee pukhte kard

Ee rasad kard, ee khord

Ee  aamad:

     “Khala khala?”

               “Jaane khala.”

     “Rasad-e-ma kojaast?”

              “Meene doli.”

     “Meene doli neest.”

               “Peeshek khourd.”

     “Peesheke softe neest?”

               “Une aamad, miaouw, miaouw, miaouw”


[note: This translation was not a line-by-line rendering; rather, the informant gave a general idea of what the little narrative was about, in Urdu. The conversation was then translated into English, which is what appears below.]

Inf.: There was a auzak, you know, like how do you say?

Me: Like a fountain?

Inf.: No, not fountain.

Me: A pool?

Inf.: No, not a pool–but anyway, there was–and you know how at the edge of the water that greenish chip-chip [sticky] stuff that grows you know? Around the auzak that slippery stuff was growing and a murgha [rooster*] came to drink water, and his foot slipped on the green stuff, so, he fell in and drowned. One got him, one cooked him, one served him on the table, one ate him; and the fifth came and said, khala (mother’s sister=aunt), where is my piece? And she said, It’s in the doli (pot). And he said, No it’s not. And she said, Then the cat must’ve eaten it. And he says, the cat’s not here, there’s no trace of the cat, and she said, No look, here he comes going “meow meow meow”.

*[note: in the transliteration above, both murgha (rooster) and tutti (parrot) are mentioned; in the audio, the informant almost says tutti but says murghe instead; and in the written text, only tutti is mentioned, but spelled two different ways.]

Physical description: Like the Western nursery rhyme “This Little Piggy”, this rhyme also has a tactile/physical component. The performer takes the child’s hand in theirs and begins the first two lines by tracing a circle on the child’s palm. At the third line, the performer imitates a bird’s peck coming to land in the center of the child’s palm (representing the rooster/parrot coming to drink water from the pool) then twists the tips of the fingers around to indicate the drowning. At lines 5 and 6, the performer closes one finger into the child’s palm for every action mentioned (i.e., “one caught it”=a finger down, “one cooked it”=second finger down, etc.) and at the seventh line, the performer holds the child’s thumb and wiggles it to match the conversation between the little boy and his aunt. At the mention of the cat coming (“meow meow meow”) the performer usually walks their fingers up the child’s arm and tickles them.

Analysis: This nursery rhyme is one of the only ones that is somewhat familiar to the informant’s children, who are all Urdu-speaking themselves, not Farsi-speaking. It is relatively easy to remember because so much of it rhymes and many of the words are the same in Farsi and Urdu (like rooster, parrot, foot, pot, aunt, etc.). Like many nursery rhymes with a physical component, this one in particular may be popular with young children because an integral part of the performance is the physical contact and the subsequent connection established between the parent (or other beloved adult) and the child, who relishes the special attention. The tickle at the end especially is eagerly waited and enjoyed, because the child and the adult both know it’s coming, and the slow buildup to it is part of the appeal.

As for the content, it seems to be a common occurrence in nursery rhymes, both Western and otherwise, for animals or even people to be violently injured or killed, and/or cooked and eaten (for instance, Sing a Song of Sixpence). The cat taking the blame for the boy’s missing share is an interesting element: the aunt (and other family members, of course) have eaten their find and left none for the boy, who immediately notices and outright asks the aunt, who outright lies to him and redirects his attention elsewhere. Both are quite aware of what the other is up to, but engage in this playful banter anyway. I think this may exhibit and model a joking relationship between aunts and their sisters’ kids, or more generally, between children and their parents’ siblings that is also present in real life. In the informant’s family, for instance, her youngest sister is only a few years older than the informant’s oldest daughter, and so the aunt and niece maintain a very casual, joking, teasing (but still respectful) relationship.