The informant is a 21-year-old college student who was born in France, and continued to live there until moving to the United States at age 15. His native language is French, and he did not learn English until after moving to the US.
I asked the informant to grab a cup of coffee on campus, and asked if he could share any French proverbs with me.
The proverb, in French, that he chose to share is: “Qui recherche la lune ne voit pas les étoiles.”
The English translation he provided is: “Someone who looks for the moon misses the stars.”
He said that the proverb is used as a small piece of advice used to let someone know that “if you try to accomplish something that’s near impossible to do, you will miss the things that are possible and that you can do.”
I thought that this proverb was a nice reminder to keep realistic expectations and not worry about factors in life that are outside of our control. It sounds very beautiful when spoken in French, and so I can see how this proverb’s aesthetic quality coupled to its meaning would make it popular among those who speak the language. Following my conversation with the informant, I would love to expand upon my knowledge of the French language and continue to learn more of the proverbs used by those who speak it.
Informant: “One interesting thing I remember doing as a kid was wishing on a star. The idea was that you had to wish on the first star you see at night, so if there was only one star in the sky, you would make a wish and not tell anyone, and it would come true.”
Informant’s daughter: “That’s weird, I had always heard the same thing, except it was supposed to be a shooting star, not the first star in the night sky.”
Informant: “Yeah, it was supposed to be the very first star you see. I actually don’t remember where I first heard about this, I don’t think I heard it from my mother. I think it was just something that kids would say. I know my sister and I both did this, and we would always wish for the same thing. We had a cousin who was blind, and we would both always wish that she wouldn’t be blind anymore…She’s still blind, so I guess that says a lot about how well this works…”
Informant is a middle aged mother of three who lives in the suburbs in the Midwestern United States. She identifies as of “American” heritage, which she bases on her admission that she never particularly looked into her family’s European heritage. The informant’s daughter is a recent college graduate.
Collector Analysis: It’s curious to see how for this particular piece of folklore, not only does the informant not know where she first heard it, but the informant’s daughter had heard an entirely different version of the same piece of folklore, making this folklore the inverse of a generational piece of folklore. Yet at the same time, there is some familial aspect to it, as shown by the fact that the informant’s sister had the same belief, and that the two of them would always use their wish to try to help their cousin.
In a village lived a very generous and well-liked old man. He was so old that he no longer left his cot. The old man had a young wife, and one day, he saw her sneaking out of the house after dark. The old man did not want to distrust his wife, and so he reasoned that he must’ve imagined it. The next day, he didn’t bring it up. The following night however, he again saw her tiptoeing out yet again and so the night after that, the old man moved his cot by the window and saw her meeting a young man. He decided to ask her of her whereabouts the following morning. When he asked her, she looked insulted and rashly replied, “I was by your side all night, I never left. You dreamt it.” The wife was angry that her husband knew of her affair, and she slit his throat that night while he slept on his cot. As he lay dying, the old man called out to God that in exchange for his righteous, honest life, his wife always have a reminder of his death which she would be haunted by after she’d made off with her lover. God hear his prayers and took him and his cot up into the sky, becoming a diamond-shaped constellation.
This was the second story related by Haleh and translated by Mayuri. This story, like the one about the sisters is about the big dipper; however, this one is only about the “dipper” in the big dipper which turns out to be the old man’s cot. Haleh was cooking for us while we were camping in the Thar Desert, he told the story as a way to entertain ourselves since it was night and apart from the flickering fire that was soon to go out, there was nothing to do and no lights in sight. Therefore, we all stayed around the fire and listened to him and shared stories (all relayed by Mayuri who spoke his language, Marwari).
Once there were seven sisters and when it came time for marriage, the proposed sister decided to runaway for she did not want to be married. When her sisters saw her escaping, they followed her one-by-one and when the first runaway fell in a well, the other six followed. The constellation therefore shows the seven sisters in the well (cluster)
Indian stories, these were collected from a nomad camel driver named Haleh in the Thar desert in Rajasthan (he was Muslim, his village was near the Pakistani border). Haleh spoke only Marwari and his words were translated and related by Mayuri Bhandari. This story relates the creation of the star constellation known in North America as “the Big Dipper”. In this story, the well is the four star, square cluster (occupied by four of the sisters) and the tail is the line of the remaining three sisters waiting to throw themselves in it.