Informant EB is a senior at the University of Southern California majoring in political science. EB is originally from Boston, Massachusetts, but he has spent the majority of his youth in Connecticut. Here, he shares a ghost story known to a town in Connecticut called Dudley Town.
EB: “So Dudley Town is a famous old colonial town in Cornwall, Connecticut, and most people who are from Connecticut know of it as a spooky, old ghost town. Back in the mid to late 1700’s, Dudley Town was mostly farmland and it was used for farming purposes only. But because other businesses were opening up and it was located on an area that was not ideal for farming, the agricultural production suffered and eventually closed down. So the story is that there was a doctor in this town who killed all of his patients when he would go visit them at their homes. He would poison his patients by giving them the wrong medication. This doctor was known to be a Satanist and that he believed that if he followed and did what the devil instructed him to do, he would be rewarded with a rich and fruitful afterlife. So he did this for years and years up until he hung himself in the middle of town. It has been known that his dark, evil spirit haunts the remains of this old town and that no one will really go near it because of all the strange things that have happened. I think it is even closed off to the public today.”
Where did you earn about this legend?
EB: “Um well I heard it while going to school when I was younger and it is a story that is talked about in school by our the older classmates. I have heard variations of the story over the years, but it is something that has been talked about among friends and schoolmates for generations.”
Does this legend have any significant meaning to you?
EB: “Uh kind of in that it is was talked about in school as a way to warn the students to not venture over to that town because of what happened, but it mostly freaked me out when I first heard in school.”
What context or setting would you share this story?
EB: “I have shared this legend to other people when it has been close to Halloween, but I feel like if I were to run into someone who is from Connecticut, they would have a better understanding of the whole ghost story thing and we would be able to relate to it better. I feel like most people who aren’t from Connecticut would look at me weird because they may not know the historical background of old colonial towns like Dudley and or they might now believe in the supernatural. But it’s also a fun story to share for entertainment purposes too.”
Connecticut is a New England state that is prominently known for its coastal cities and its mysterious rural areas. The remains of an old colonial settlement, Dudley Town is known to be cursed. Plagued by hundreds of unexplained deaths and tragedies, this town is now prohibited to the public and has been reclaimed by the surrounding forest. The remains of this eerie town are now fully covered by trees and wildlife. I found it interesting how the informant learned about this legend in school while he was a new student and how it is tradition each year to share this legend with the younger incoming students.
Informant EM is 18 years old and a freshman at the University of Southern California. Her major is cinema and media stories. Here, she discusses her ghostly experience as a freshman in high school in Connecticut:
EM: “For my freshman year of high school, I went to boarding school in the middle of nowhere in Connecticut. It was kind of an isolated community so we had to tell each other stories to keep us entertained for the most part and a lot of those stories involve the founding of the school and the legacy of the people who founded the school. So I got the luck of moving into the oldest dorm on campus that had been around since the 1800’s and it was a scary place. It was drafty, it was cold, it was falling apart, so naturally we had a bunch of ghost stories about it. The most memorable one was the story of the ghost of Maria Bissell Hotchkiss who was the founder of the school. Legend had it that if you went out at night to the hallway and you went to the back staircase of the dormitory, which was named after her by the way, you would see a woman dressed in white in a Victorian costume, like very old fashioned clothing, walking back and forth throughout the hallway and she would go down the stairs and if you tried to follow her, she would disappear. A lot of this has to do with the fact that back part of the dorm used to be her home when the school was originally founded. It’s kind of like the idea that she is looking out for the students. She’s been known to be a benevolent ghost, nothing really scary about her, but it was still creepy and there were definitely tons of sightings. I remember in particular when we had a blackout, because we were snowed in, there was this horrible blizzard. I actually feel like I might have seen something. I like to think that there is a rational explanation because like again it’s an old building, but I heard footsteps out in the hallway and I had the room closest to the back staircase and there wasn’t anyone with me. My roommate was back in my room but she heard the footsteps too, but she didn’t see what I saw. I saw someone in the dark who was dressed in white and this figure was opening the back door to the staircase and going in and you know there could be many explanations obviously, but it definitely made me think and it was kind of a fun story to tell other people after.”
How did people react to your experience?
EM: “Well there was this girl who was a daughter of a teacher and she lived in the house adjacent to the dorms, and she said that all throughout her childhood before even knowing who Maria Bissell was, she had actually seen the ghost in one of the rooms, which when we later went upstairs to look at it, it turned out to be my room because it is the closest to the back. So we were thinking that maybe this used to be Maria Bissell’s room when it was a house, so maybe that explains why she keeps going there. But the girl said she wasn’t scared of her as a young child. She said that she got the impression that this spirit was kind to children. She started a school so maybe she is still around just to keep looking out for her students to make sure that they are OK.”
How or from whom did you learn about your school’s history?
EM: “Well before I saw it with my own eyes, I had the background because it was a popular story to hear around Halloween from the older students. It was kind of like an initiation thing like I would hear it from like the girls who were proctors and were seniors and you would hear it from the faculty. But I remember that they would make this little ritual out of it on Halloween where they would take us to a graveyard. They would take us out on Halloween night to the grave of Maria Bissell. It was just to scare us and it was part of the initiation process. It was a big part of the school culture and especially the women who are a part of the school. The boys never heard about this kind of stuff that went on, only the girls were involved.”
Did any of the girls ever share this with the boys?
EM: “Never. No, actually it was very exclusive. I don’t know if it had to do with that the dorm was a girls dorm, but it was definitely women who passed it on to other women.”
Does your experience have any meaning to you?
EM: “Well I’m not sure, but I like to keep my mind open. I like to think of it more as a lucky encounter or a positive thing, almost like a good luck charm more than it would be like something that is very scary because it was a way in connecting with the history of the place and also it’s nice for a change to have like a mascot ghost that isn’t out to get you. It was definitely a positive experience.”
What context would you share your experience in?
EM: “Well it makes a great story for stuff like Halloween, but I feel like it’s probably easier to explain to people from my same background. So if I were to meet another girl who went to Hotchkiss, I would probably ask her if she heard about Maria Bissell and ask her of she experienced anything similar. Everyone has their own story on Maria Bissell, which kind of defines your belonging to group of Hotchkiss girls. It would definitely be a bonding thing.”
EM’s experience with the ghost of Maria Bissell Hotchkiss is a large part of the schools initiation process and part of the tradition of passing those experiences onto the new class of girls who are coming in. It represents belonging within the community and the spirit of Marie Bissell Hotchkiss is portrayed as a benevolent spirit who is a reminder that the girls of this community a part of a tradition that was upheld for decades. The shared experiences and stories brought the community together. It solidified the bond between the girls of the school. It also established a sense of identity for the girls who went to Hotchkiss. Many girls came from all over the U.S. and the world to earn an education at this school and through the many experiences of encountering Maria Bissell over generations brought a sense of community and a shared belief system that all the girls could relate to and understand.
For another version of this legend, check out this article written by Stephanie Thomas:
Thomas, Stephanie. “Origins of the Bissell Halloween Walk.” The Hotchkiss School. N.p., 2014. Web. Apr. 2016.
Informant: Okay there’s this story they always talk about where it’s like, there’s a man on a beach with Jesus, and he has these two footprints in the sand or two sets of footprints in the sand. And at one part he looks back, he looks back and he sees in his life there’s a time where there’s only one set of footprints, and he’s like, “Jesus, that was a really rough time in my life, what you doin’? Why you leave me?” Um, and Jesus is like, “No, during those times, those footprints were mine because I was carrying you, and that’s it.
Collector: Where’d you learn that from?
ML: Um, I’m not sure where I learned it from, but the instance I can most vividly remember about hearing it was in religious class, religion class, probably religion class to be honest. They sometimes say it at funerals.
Informant is a freshman at the University of Southern California. She is studying animation in the film school here. She is from New Orleans, Louisiana. I spoke to her while we were eating breakfast in EVK one morning. We were sitting together with her two other friends, Ashley and Madeleine. Much of what she told me was learned from her sister or her own experiences.
This is an interesting story because it always seems to come up when there’s a difficult time. The story itself is based on a person going through stuff, and seems appropriate to be shared with young people as a way of reaffirming their belief in God, even when times are difficult. This story also seems to have spread pretty far because it’s a part of the Kairos retreat in Sacramento as well as being shared in a religion class in New Orleans.
Informant: Okay, so, um, my sister’s sorority house is haunted. And, um, she’s in AChiO at Oregon, and they were like the first sorority on campus, or first ones to have their house that they live in now on campus, so basically like AChiO here. So like because it’s been there for so long, two girls have died there and one of them died at the turn of the century. I think she fell down the stairs, but it doesn’t matter much, but the other one, this girl died in the seventies because she was on the stairs in some high heels and her sister as a joke, like, pushed her, but she fell down the stairs, and it’s a three story staircase, and she fell and broke her neck. And so she died in their house on like a normal night, and now she haunts the house and um her thing is that her ghost comes in the form of a cat so people hear weird meows in their room, and also she’ll come in the bathroom and like flicker the lights. She like threw paper towels at somebody, like this girl was just in there and paper towels just flew at her like peoples baskets will just get knocked off the wall. Also, they have a cat statue in their house, don’t know why, but they always say that it’s the ghost of the woman, and they’ll put it in people’s rooms and their suitcases when people go home just to scare them. It was really scary when I went up.
My informant is a freshman at the University of Southern California. She is from San Diego, California. We had this conversation in the study room of my sorority house.
This is something that seems to be a basis for some fictional stories. There was an episode of Psych having to do with a haunted sorority house. It seems that in this type of horror story, the person who dies always dies in a certain way, and if there are multiple deaths, they happen in the same way. In this case, both deaths happened on the stairs. It also seems common in many ghost stories and perpetuated by the show Supernatural, ghosts inhabit some type of object to haunt people with.
The first informant is a 65-year-old man who grew up in Southside Chicago and Baltimore with his parents and two brothers. He is a father, grandfather, patent attorney, musician, and inventor.
The second informant is a 95-year old man who grew up in Davenport, right near downtown with his parents and two brothers. His father came over from Russia and owned a grocery store in Davenport. He now lives in Skokie, IL with his wife and caretaker. He has three sons and 9 grandchildren.
Informant 1: “Your great, great-grandmother on your Grandma’s side was the pioneering movie theater operators.”
Informant 2: She was the one who started popcorn in theaters.”
Informant 1: “Well, it was rumored she was.”
Informant 2: “No, that was a definite.
Informant 1: “Umm,”
Informant 2: “And, what happened was there was a theater chain that was in Davenport. And it was very profitable, and the owner found out that she was doing it, and he started doing it and told the other theater chains. I read something historical somewhere about popcorn and they’re giving that theater chain credit, when they actually copied it from Grandmother.”
This particular interview made me think of the film we watched early on in the semester, Whose Song is It Anyway.
It’s an origin story—or an attempted, alleged origin story—of popcorn in movie theaters. Informant 2 was insistent that his grandmother had in fact been the pioneer of movie theater popcorn and got somewhat heated when Informant 1 suggested that it might be rumor that she actually did this. Informant 2’s account was closely concerned with credit and business—the idea of the underdog, or the small business, versus the big chain.
This interview concerns originality and relates to our discussions about originality and society’s—in particular, American society—obsession with it. Copyright falls into this arena, as well, a legal way of giving credit, and in doing so, giving ownership, to one individual or corporation for something that very well has been the product of several minds and over the span of several years.
About the Interviewed: Jakob is a senior at Calabasas High School. His family is half Isreali-Jewish, and half French-Canadian. He’s about 18 years old.
Jakob told me a tale his father told him when he was very little about the woods they lived in.
“Once upon a time there was a fairy named Silvertree, and she had a beautiful daughter named, Goldentree. Silvertree was jealous of Goldentree’s beauty. She wanted to eat her daughter’s heart because that’s what fairies do when they’re angry.”
“Silvertree was married to The King of the Forest. One day the King noticed that she was upset and asked what he could do to end her troubles. Silvertree demanded that the King bring her Goldentree’s heart.”
“The king, shocked by this turn of events, buried Goldentree away in the soil where she would be safe from her evil mother. He gave Silvertree the heart of a chicken, which fooled her for many years.”
“Many years later, Silvertree was walking through the forest when she stumbled across the most majestic looking oak tree in the whole forest. It was Goldentree, who by her father’s magic, had turned into the most beautiful creature of all. Struck by jealousy, Silvertree withered away, until she was nothing but a mere weed.”
Jakob noted that when his father told the story, he pointed to the oak tree that was on their front lawn, to indicate that Goldentree was always there.
It amazes me the power that stories have on us as little children. Jakob was only six at the time and yet he remembers it pretty well. I have stories stored in my mind that I don’t think I’ve heard since I was a child. We get to pass those stories on to the next generation, only maybe a little different than from when we first heard them.
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. This story is a popular one among her grandchildren; here it is transcribed in English, though it was originally told in Urdu.
“Once in a house near the jungle there lived a goat with her three kids. Their names were Ungus, Bungus, and Tipopi. One day, the mom goat had to go out, maybe to get groceries, but she told her children: lock the doors and don’t let anyone in except me. I will say, Ungus, Bungus, Tipopi, open the door! And only when I say that do you let me in. So the kids said, ok Mama, and she walked out and locked the door and she went.
Now in the jungle next to the house there lived a big scary wolf: he had long hair and big eyes and hungry and he saw the mom goat leave, and he heard what she told her babies, and he said to himself, I think I’m going to go eat those delicious goats.
So he went up to the house and he knocked on the door and he said, Ungus, Bungus, Tipopi, open the door! And Ungus and Bungus ran to open the door, but Tipopi said to them, wait! This is not out mom! Our mom’s voice is light and sweet, and this voice is heavy and ugly. So Tipopi said to the wolf, You’re not our mother! You’re the wolf that lives in the jungle! Go away and don’t come back!
And the wolf was very mad but he had to leave.
And now when the mother goat came back and she opened the door and her babies rushed to tell her what happened, and she was so relieved that they were all safe.
Then the next day, she had to go out again, but was so worried and scared that she said, now when i come home, I will say to you, Ungus, Bungus, Tipopi, open the door! And you ask to see my hand, and i will show you my hand. And only then do you open the door. And her kids said, Ok, Mama. So she went out the door and locked it and went.
Now the wolf had seen the mother go out again, and he wanted to try again to eat the kids; but this time he ate a whole spoonful of honey before he went, to make his voice light and sweet, and went up to the door and said, Ungus, Bungus, Tipopi, open the door! And the kids heard a light, sweet voice so they rushed to the door and asked, Mama, show us your hand! And the wolf showed his paw, and it was big and black and hairy and ugly, and Tipopi said, This is not our mother! Our mother’s hand is small and white and pretty. This hand is big and hairy and black! And he said to the wolf, You are not out mother! You are the wolf that lives in the jungle! Go away and don’t come back!
So what could the wolf do? He left.
And again the mother goat came home and the kids rushed to tell her what happened, and again she was so happy they were all safe.
And when she had to go out again the next day, she was very worried and scared so she said, this time when i come home, i will say, Ungus, Bungus, Tipopi, open the door! And you will ask me to see my hand, and I will show you my hand. Then you ask me to show you my foot, and I will show you my foot. And only then will you open the door. And the kids said, Ok Mama. So she went out and locked the door and she left.
And the wolf was watching and he saw her leave, this time before he went to their house, he ate a whole spoonful of honey to make his voice sweet and light, and he covered his whole paw in flour to make it look pretty and white, and he went up to the door and said Ungus, Bungus, Tipopi, open the door! And the kids rushed up to the door and asked, Mama, show us your hand! And this time, the wolf showed them only one finger, and his one finger was as big as the Mama goat’s whole hand! And the kids said, Mama, show us your foot! And the wolf showed them his foot, and it was huge, and black, and it had long claws–this long claws! [holding hands about a foot apart] And Tipopi said, this is not out mother! Our mother wears pretty shoes and her feet are small and white. This foot is big and black and hairy. This is the wolf that lives in jungle! Go away, Wolf! Don’t come back!
And the wolf was so angry, and he was so hungry, but what could he do? So he left.
And when the Mama goat got home, her kids rushed to tell her what happened.
And the next day she had to leave again, and she said, now when i come back today, and i say Ungus, Bungus, Tipopi, open the door! Just do what you did yesterday, and you will be safe.
And the wolf was waiting for her to leave again, and this time he ate a whole spoonful of honey to make his voice sweet and light, and he covered his whole paw in flour to make it look pretty and white, and he covered his feet in flour too, and we put tiny beautiful shoes on his big toes–just one big toe fit into the whole shoe, can you imagine that?
And the wolf went up to the door and said Ungus, Bungus, Tipopi, open the door! And the kids rushed up to the door and asked, Mama, show us your hand! And the wolf showed them only one white finger, and the kids said, Mama, show us your foot! And the wolf showed them his one toe covered in flour in the pretty shoe, and the kids rushed to open the door…
And there he was…standing in the doorway…his big big eyes…and his long long hair…and his drool dripping off his teeth…it was the wolf! And the kids ran screaming into the house, and the wolf came chasing after them, and he swallowed up Ungus and Bungus in one gulp. But Tipopi hid inside the milk jug, and wolf looked everywhere, but he couldn’t find him. So he left.
And when the Mom goat came home, she saw the open door…and she went in and she saw the ripped curtains, and the broken tables and chairs…and she started calling, Ungus, Bungus, Tipopi, where are you? Ungus, Bungus, Tipopi, come out! Ungus, Bungus, Tipopi, your mom is home!
And Tipopi heard her and he peeked out of the milk jug and there was his Mom, and he leapt out and hugged his mom and started crying and he said, Mama the wolf came and ate my brother and sister! And the Mom goat was very sad and very scared and angry, but she said, Tipopi, go get my sewing kit. And Tipopi ran and found his mother’s sewing kit and the Mom said, You stay here, and I will go find the wolf.
And she went out into the jungle and she walked and walked, and then she came to a river, and it was warm and sunny, and there was the wolf, lying against a tree asleep. The mom goat crept up to the wolf and began to cut his belly open, and when she opened it, there was Ungus, and there was Bungus, and they were scared and they started crying, but the Mom goat went, Shh! Shh! [puts finger to her lips and makes a "come on" gesture with one hand] and she got them out of his belly. And then she went down to the river and found two huge stones, one for Ungus and one for Bungus, and she carried them all the way up to the wolf, and she put the stones in his belly, and then she sewed it up, and it was so fine you couldn’t even tell it was there. And then she took her kids home, and then they were safe and together at last.
And when the wolf woke up he felt so thirsty, so went down to the river to drink some water, and he was so heavy the he just tipped [tilts her whole body to the side] over and he fell into the river and drowned.”
Analysis: This story can be examined through multiple facets. It’s a simple fairy-tale, along the lines of the Three Little Pigs and Little Red Riding Hood. The wolf here could be symbolic of nature/the wild, and how it is dangerous to people living in villages where the border between the wild and the domestic is very thin. It is notable that it is not just any herbivore that is attacked in this story, but goats, domestic animals which are an important source of sustenance and incomes in some of the more rural areas, as they provide milk, meat, and hides. So in that respect the story is a simple study of the dichotomy of village/jungle and civilization/wild, and how it is dangerous, but nevertheless not uncommon, for the two to meet or mix.
It is also notable that, while in the Western version of Little Red Riding Hood it is a little girl who is sent by herself into the wild and disobeys her mother and therefore gets into trouble; in this version it is three siblings of mixed genders who are attacked in their own home while trying to obey their mother. This would seem to squarely place villainhood on the wolf’s shoulders, and none of the blame on the innocent(s); while Little Red Riding Hood is often blamed for what happens to her by pointing out that she shouldn’t have disobeyed her mother. As such the message in Little Red Riding Hood seems to be, listen to your parents and if you don’t it’s your fault if something bad happens to you. Whereas the moral in this story seems to be that bad things happen even when you’re good and smart and listen to your parents, and it’s nobody’s fault but the bad people who hurt others.
It’s also interesting that, in some versions of Little Red Riding Hood, the girl and her grandmother are eventually rescued by a father figure, the woodcutter; but in this story, the kids are rescued by their very brave and clever mother. I think this reflects the fact that in the informant’s family and culture, the bond between mothers and their children are usually very strong, whereas the relationship between father and children depends on each individual family: some fathers are strict and distant, others indulgent and doting. The informant’s own father, she reports, was strict but loving, but her relationship with her mother, and especially the relationships between her younger sisters and her mother, were very very close. Contrast this with the heroicizing of the father figure in Western culture, where any time the child is in trouble, it is the big strong dad that comes to the rescue, and perhaps the mother figure comforts the children afterward (for instance, The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, the character of Wolverine).
And finally, the reasons it appeals to so many kids of different generations are pretty obvious: especially when there is a good storyteller, who knows her audience and how to get the reactions from them. The description of the wolf is something the informant says she usually embellishes to get the kids really frightened, and then making gestures to go along with the story (for instance, imitating the mother goat’s small, pretty white hand) is always part of the act of storytelling too.The fact that there is a happy ending for the kids (with whom the children usually identify) and that the wolf gets what he deserves also makes it a popular story in the informant’s repertoire.
In the forest of Chapultepec in the capital (DF) there is an old dilapidated house that is said to be inhabited by a woman who flies into a rage when curious onlookers come to visit. Visitors to the house have said that when she is enraged, you can hear strange noises in and around the house; you will often see a shadow pass through the windows and the feeling of being watched by someone who sends chills down your spine and goosebumps over your flesh.
The name of the woman was “Tia Toña”, and she was a very wealthy widow who lived many, many years ago in her house by herself. She was a very kind person and to ease her loneliness, she started taking in homeless children off the street. She gave them money, food, clothes and shelter. But in spite of her charitable acts, the kids were unruly and ungrateful. They made her life impossible and one day, they banded together and decided to kill her in order to take the house and her money.
The kids carried out the murder and threw the body down in the attic. However, they were unable to live in peace because the woman’s angered spirit returned and chased them out of the house – eventually leading each to a terrible death. From then on, the woman’s angry spirit haunted the house and continues to do so now. Kids are especially warned to stay away from the house.
There is another version of this story that I found in this Mexican newspaper: http://www.vanguardia.com.mx7leyendasdeterrorquehanpuestoatemblaraldf-668416.html
It is all the same except for the fact that the woman is the one who kills the kids (because they misbehaved so much) only to then be driven to guilt by her actions. She locks herself in the house and has been there ever since. Flory told this story to me during a coffee date, there were no particular gestures that she used to relay it; however, she did say that when she visited the capital for the first time with her parents, her mother repeated this story to her in an effort to scare her away from wandering away from them (it worked, especially in said park).
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“So there is this story about a girl at a gas station filling up and she sees [a gas station attendant] and this person is being really odd and waving and trying to get her to come to him and stuff so she gets scared and gets in her car and drives off. But apparently the attendant was trying to get her to leave the car because the attendant saw someone hiding in her backseat. And I think I heard this from my sister or something and apparently it might have been inspired by something that might have been true. And that’s why my sister tells me to always look in the backseat before I climb into my car because she’s scared someone will try to kidnap me. Either that or kill me, but I think I don’t know.”
The informants sister told her this piece of folklore. I have heard this piece of folklore many times. From what I can gather, there are two main versions of this piece of folklore. There is a version with a gas station attendant and a version with a motorist. Usually, in the gas station version, the attendant sees a would-be killer hide in the backseat of the woman’s car. The attendant then finds a reason to call the woman over to his office. The reason can vary a lot ranging from claiming the woman provided him with counterfeit money to telling her that her car needs an oil change. When the woman enters the attendant’s office and the woman is told discreetly that there is someone hiding in her backseat while the attendant locks the door and calls the police.
In the motorist version, a passing driver sees the killer rise out of the back seat while the woman is driving. This prompts the driver to flash his lights at the woman, trying to warn her. However, all the woman sees is that there is a car following her flashing its lights and panics. Eventually she stops somewhere in a panic, calling for police and the driver of the other car points out the would-be killer.
In both of these stories, the almost victim is always a woman. Perhaps this is popular because as a society we believe women to be vulnerable and in need of saving. Additionally, both versions hit home the idea that things are not always what they seem. In both cases, the strangers trying to help the women both seem like they represent trouble of some kind. When, in reality they were trying to save the woman. This piece of folklore also serves as a warning to women to be cautious when out and about alone, as the woman would have been murdered had a stranger not intervened.
Both versions and more information can be found in the following:
Brunvand, Jan H. Encyclopedia of urban legends. Santa Barbara, Calif: ABC-CLIO, 2012. Print. 358-351
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.