USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘royalty’
Customs
Folk speech
general
Rituals, festivals, holidays

How to Name Scottish Royalty

Context: Gathered from one of my roommates once he found out about my collection project.

Background: My roommate comes from “a long lineage of Scottish kings and clan leaders of a certain group of isles.”

The Tradition: In Scotland, the ritual for naming a child in a family line, particularly if they’re royalty, is to simply add the prefix “Mc” or “Mac” to the name of the father and make that the child’s surname.

Example: My roommate has an ancestor with the full title Angus McRonald McDonald Sworely, King of the Isles. Thus, he is alternatively know as King Angus, Son of Ronald McDonald Sworely, who was himself at one point King Ronald, Son of Donald Sworely.

(Note: The proper spelling of the surname “Sworely” is unknown.)

Analysis: I found this Scottish process of naming is most comparable to the Vikings’ method of creating the “____son” surname (Ex: Lief Erikson, or Lief, Son of Erik). I put a little research into the claims my roommate made, and the only thing I found off about the whole thing was that the names mentioned above are in fact “MacDonald” rather than “McDonald” (I kept the piece above as is for the sake of putting down what I was told by my roommate).

Customs
general
Material

The Origin of the Hawaiian Fishhook Pendant

Context:

I was wandering through some of the shops in Lahaina, wondering about the abundance of fishhooks that could be worn as necklaces. So I asked one of the shopkeepers about them.

 

Interview:

Me: So I was curious as to where the practice of wearing fishhooks originated. Do you know?

Informant: There are many wild tales as to how the practice started. I had a customer about ten years ago who was very concerned about because of his religious beliefs. He wanted to buy a fishhook but was worried about its pagan connotations.

Me: Okay. Makes some sense I suppose.

Informant: Yes. So I contacted a friend who lives on another island about this. And his response was that the Hawaiians never wore their fishhooks.

Me: Okay.

Informant: The Hawaiians were a purely practical culture. And for them, they would not have worn their fishhooks as ornamentation. They would only carve them to use. So when you hear these legends of safe voyage and this and that – that is not true. However, I do have some examples of one of the few things that the Hawaiians did wear. You see these things here that look like hooks? [Pictured above]

Me: Yeah.

Informant: They look like hooks, but they’re not. They are something that was only worn by the royalty, the ali’i, or the representative of a royal. They are called paloas, which roughly translates as “whale’s tooth” or “tongue of the chief,” and they would wear massive ones on dozens of strands of braids. And that was one of the few things that the Hawaiians wore as a culture. This then translated, over time, along with the importance of the fishhook to the Hawaiian peoples, into the practice of wearing fishhooks as ornamentation. Also, these are mostly Maori designs that we have, not Polynesian. So this is one possible origin of the fishhook as ornamentation. I hope that answers you questions.

Me: Yes. It does. Thank you very much.

Informant: You’re welcome

 

Analysis:

To me, it is odd that something that has become such a major part of the consumer culture of Hawaii, something that is often seen as being traditional Hawaiian ornamentation, actually was not used for ornamentation at all. Yes, the fishhook is an incredibly important aspect of the Hawaiian culture, as the Hawaiian’s main source of protein came from the sea. There were no large land animals, no large game birds. Pigs, cattle, cats, dogs, and chickens only came to the Hawaiian Islands when the Europeans brought them. Thus, the fishhook would have been extremely important to the Hawaiians, an idea that was then taken by the tourist industry and turned into a decorative consumer item. I personally even have a fishhook on a length of cord that I got in Hawaii (the Big Island) years ago. Yet, the fishhook as decorative ornamentation has become so ingrained in Hawaiian culture that it might as well have become a folk tradition. It has become part of the traditional Hawaiian culture.

general
Legends

Legend of Lowenherz

Context:

I was talking with my Austrian roommate about national legends when she offered me this one, a piece of her friend’s hometown’s legendary history.

 

Legend:

Another Austrian legend that I know is one that is based in my friend’s hometown, which was once the last town to be occupied by Turkey. This fact is a very big part of her town’s history. They have signs and everything, as they were the only ones left standing during the Turkish invasion and occupation. And I remember this story. There was a king named Lowenerz, who was caught by someone and thrown in prison. Lowenherz began to sing a song that he used to sing with his friend. Lowenherz’s friend walked and walked and walked until he finally heard Lowenherz’s singing the song they always sang together, and rescued Lowenherz.

 

Analysis:

I did a bit of research, and found that the translation of Lowenherz is “Lionheart.” I was quite surprised when I found out that Lowenherz most likely referred to King Richard the Lionheart, the English King who went on the Crusades during the 12th century. Digging into his life, I found out that the Lionheart was imprisoned in Austria where he wrote a song that detailed his feelings on his capture. He was essentially ransomed by the European royalty to his brother King John. I find it interesting how the historical account of what happened to the Lionheart became changed, twisted, through the retellings of the story. Historically, the Austrians were the “bad guys” per se, the ones who had captured Lionheart and held him captive, but in my roommate’s version of the story, it is the Turkish who are the bad guys who captured Lionheart. To me, this shows how legends and stories can be created from factual events, of how the times changed. Lionheart was, while not overtly antagonistic of Leopold V, who was from Austria’s first ruling dynasty, was not exactly buddy-buddy with him either, and this story shows how the same story, simply told from a different tellers’ viewpoints,  can be twisted by the tellers into showing the teller’s people as being in the good, while another’s viewpoint shows them in the bad.

Legends
Myths
Narrative

Legend of the Rice Cakes

There once was a King with three sons.  He was about to die so his dying wish was to have one of his sons succeed the throne after him.  However, he couldn’t decide which son to choose, although they all wanted it.  Since he enjoyed food, he said to his sons, “Whoever brings me the tastiest food he made from Vietnamese ingredients will become king after me.”  So the sons set off around the world to find the best food.  One son traveled to the mountains to bring back boar meat.  The second son brought back the tastiest fish from the South Sea.  The third thought long and hard about what he should bring to his father.  On the final day, he brought two simple rice cakes, which looked very plain when compared to the expensive dishes his two brothers had brought.  When the king asked the youngest son to explain why he had brought such simple dishes, the son explained that rice is the most valuable food in Vietnam, although it is very abundant.  The round rice cake represented the sky under which all the Vietnamese lived, while the square rice cake was stuff with beans and pork to represent the Earth that they live on (back then they still believed that the Earth was square). Each rice cake was made to represent the love that the son had for the King as well as Vietnam.”  After everyone heard this explanation, they knew that the youngest son would be the next king, and they all bowed down to him.

The informant first heard this story when he was a teenager, although he doesn’t remember who told it to him.  It was during the Lunar New Year (Tet) season because the Banh Chung and Banh Day (square and round rice cakes) are traditionally made and eaten during this time of the year.  During this time, families make Banh Chung and Banh Day and travel to their relatives’ houses, giving these cakes as a gift of love and caring for one another.

The feeling of receiving these rice cakes is a feeling of love and belonging to a group of people who care for you.  Because of this, the Vietnamese people have carried this tradition across the Pacific Ocean to America and still do this during the New Year season, maintaining the Vietnamese traditions and unity of the people.  The story continues to be passed on by those who know it, generally those who are adults and can remember the story and the significance of it are the ones who pass it down to the younger generation who in turn cherish it and will later pass it down.  I think this legend, real or fake, is a good explanation of Vietnamese unity and loving spirit.

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