Tag Archives: tale

The Legend of The Beast of Bodmin Moor

Informant: In the 1970s there was a rumor, legend, whatever, that there was a beast on Bodmin Moor in Devon. The moor was isolated and creepy and people became afraid to go there because of this beast. You need to know there were a lot of sheep on the moor that had been found mutilated and chewed by something. And there were reported sightings of a huge panther like thing with yellow eyes and a big black cloak. Then in the late 1970s people said somebody found a huge cat like a lion or a tiger or something. The rumor said it had been released from a nearby zoo or private owner, someone like Jo Exotic.
Other people said it was some sort of paranormal beast. Nobody ever got a picture of it. But THEN, and I think it was the late 1970s, somebody found a tiger or a panther skull on the moor.

Interviewer: So wait there actually way a panther on the moors?

Informant: Ah but! They sent it to the museum in London and it was indeed the skull of a panther, but the way it was detached from the rest of the body it looked like a rug. It turned out somebody had chucked out an old ratty rug and it rotted away leaving only the skull. So the mystery has never been solved.

Interviewer: Do you think it could have been someone just wearing the rug as a costume and messing with people?

Informant: Might have been, yeah. Could have been.

Interviewer: But I don’t know how they would have disemboweled the sheep like what you described.

Informant: Yeah. There weren’t wolves around there in 1978, I don’t think, so it couldn’t have been them. But it might have been foxes or natural wildlife, or a big dog.

Context: I asked my informant about what stories she knew about as a kid growing up in England. This was the first thing that came to mind.

Thoughts: There are pictures of a black cat when one searches for the beast which definitely coincides with my informants description of the creatures. I wonder if once upon a time there was a large cat in the area or if it really was just a large dog.

Russian Urban Legend

Name: Баба Яга

Transliteration: Baba Yaga

Description: Informant describes it as an Urban Legend that became a fairytale, but presented more like a legend. It is a witch who lives in a traditional log cabin. The cabin sits on either two or one giant bird feet. She is a cannibalistic witch. Her house is decorated with the decapitated heads of her victims. She flys in the sky on a butter churner. She lures children if they are not sleeping and kidnaps them. Described as an ugly old lady with a big hook nose. People have expressed memorates of how they have seen her and how disturbing she looks.

Background Information: Russian legend whose story is told by adults to children or spread from children to children. Also spread and kept alive through memorates.

Context: The informant had originally told me this story when we were children. She recently reiterated it to me through video call. She is of Russian and Armenian descent. She was originally introduced to Baba Yaga by her cousin who was living in a small town named Stary Oskol, which is located in Russia.

Thoughts: Classic example of stranger danger. This legend is used as a lesson to children to sleep and not to wander (especially into the woods). Informant told me that Russia is very forested, so Russians try to warn children to not go into the woods because it is very dangerous. Baba Yaga is used as a cautionary tale to not go into the woods because the witch lives there. Adults need to make a fear that the children will understand instead of telling them the reality of the danger of the woods. Fantasy is more effective for children in contrast to reality.

Armenian Tale: Kikoyi Mahy

Կիկոյի մահը

Transliteration: Kikoyi Mahy

Translation: Kiko’s Death

Description by Informant:

There was a poor family who had three girls. All of which were unmarried. One day the dad sent one of the daughters to bring a water from the well nearby. The girl goes to the well and sees a big tree next to the well. She starts thinking or dreaming, “If I get married one day and have a son named Kikos, what if Kikos comes to the well and climbs the tree and falls from it and dies?” She starts crying, “My dear Kikos, why did you die? Oh my dear son, how did this happen?” And she stays at the well and keeps crying and crying as if this truly happened.

Meanwhile, the parents notice the girl didn’t come back, so they sent the second sister to see what happened. The second sister goes to the well and finds her older sister crying at the well. After finding out why she is crying, the sister also starts crying “Oh my dear nephew Kikos, why did you come here and climb the tree?”. Then the third sister joins and also cries. Then the father sends the mother to see what happened to the girls. The mother arrives and finds out what could happen to Kikos. She joins the daughters in crying.

Finally the father decides to go and see what happened to his family. When he comes to the well and finds out the destiny of his unborn grandson, he says “Are you women crazy? Who says that Kikos will come to the well to get water? Kikos is going to become a king. When have you seen a king go and get water for himself? Someone else will get the water for him. Now lets go enjoy life!”. The End.

Background Information: This is a popular Armenian children’s fable/ fairytale. Many different versions, some with more detail than others.

Context: The informant told me about this tale during a conversation in which I asked her to tell me about an Armenian folk narrative that she knows about.

Thoughts: It is clear that this is a story for children. I believe that the moral of the story is to not look too far into the future and worry about things that may never happen. Live in the present and enjoy life. If you are going to thing about the future then think positively, not negatively. I think the story has underlining air of misogyny. It is portraying the women as these highly emotional beings who cannot decipher reality from fantasy, while the only man in the story is pictured as the reasonable one although he does say that his grandson will become a king. I think he says this to be sarcastic and to show how dramatic the women are being.

Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves Variant

Context: The following is an account from the informant, my father, that was told to him as a story during his childhood in a Pakistani village.

Background: The informant was recounting a story told to him by his great-aunt when he went to visit her. She regularly told him and his siblings many different stories whenever she saw them. This story is a version of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, specifically the portion where Morgana manages to outwit the thieves’ plots.

Main piece: As the forty thieves tried to track down who had taken their gold, they traced the trail to Ali Baba’s door. Initially, they attempted to leave a mark on his door so they could recognize it the next day, but the slave-girl Morgana sees this and marks the other household’s doors similarly, foiling their plot. 

For the second attempt, Morgana cooks a pot of halwa, a sumptuous dessert, but she mixes glue into it. When the thieves once again find their way to Ali Baba’s place, they are distracted by the wonderful smell coming from the halwa that is left outside. Unable to resist, the thieves stick their hands into the pot, only for their hands to become stuck, forcing them to cancel their plans to attack.

Lastly, the head of the thieves comes to Ali Baba’s house with his men in barrels, claiming to be an oil merchant who needs a place to stay for the night. In actuality, he is planning to attack Ali Baba with his men in the night. However, Morgana nears one of the barrels of oil and discovers that the contents are thieves, not oil. Quickly, she pours scalding oil into each of the barrels, killing all the thieves.

Analysis: This version of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, specifically the section included above where Morgana proves herself clever enough to foil the assasination attempts, is interesting in that for the most part, it is identical to the standard version included in every children’s story book. However, the second part about the pot of halwa is something that I have never heard before, and seems very specific due to halwa mainly being a dish eaten in South Asia.

For a French text of this story heard from an oral story-teller, see Les Mille et Une Nuits by Antoine Galland. 

The Fox and the Rooster

Context: The following is a story told by the informant, my grandmother, when recounting to me a story she had heard during childhood. 

Background: My grandmother heard this story from her older cousin when chatting after school. She remembers it because unlike most stories she heard, this one was from someone closer in age to her.

Main piece: 

Once there was a fox that lived in the forest. Seeing a rooster sitting in a tree, the fox was eager to sink her teeth into it. Thinking about what a nice meal it would make, the fox decided to come up with a plan to get the rooster out of the tree. After thinking long and hard, the fox approached the tree and called out to the rooster, “Rooster! How are you doing today?”

The rooster responded, “I’m doing just fine, thanks to your prayers.”

“Did you know that there has been a new change in the forest?” the fox asked sneakily. 

This was news to the rooster, who hadn’t heard anything, so he asked in return, “No, what do you mean?”

“A decision has been made that from now on, everyone in the forest will live in peace and harmony. You don’t have to be scared of me anymore. Come, get down from that tree and let’s just sit in the shade and chat,” said the fox, greedily eyeing the bird.

“Oh really?” replied the rooster. “That’s great! Actually, I see that someone is coming over quickly.” Hearing this, the fox became frightened and looked around cautiously.

“Someone is coming? Who? Tell me quickly!” the fox said, afraid a predator might be approaching.

Seeing her reaction, the rooster was confused and said, “It’s just some hunting dogs, and they’re closing in fast. Why are you so frightened? Now that everyone is living in peace and harmony, we can all sit together and relax. Come, let’s wait for them to get here.”

Knowing her plan had been foiled, the fox could only grit her teeth and mumble an excuse that she had somewhere else to be before darting off into the forest, stomach empty.

Analysis: This story has the common trait of a more “evil” character that wants to hurt, or in this case eat, the “innocent” character, but has their plans ruined, either by being outwitted or mere happenstance. In this case, the narrative is quite open to interpretation as to whether the rooster actually did see the hunting dogs coming, or was clever enough to conjure up that tale to scare the fox off. Also, knowing the age of the storyteller to be quite young, it is no surprise that this tale focuses more heavily on entertainment than teaching a lesson or moral, although this could also be due to the way it was retold, perhaps being told to the girl in a different manner or emphasizing different parts of the tale.

The Tale of Hukma and Hukamiya

Main Body:

Informant: This is a story I heard from my Grandma. And it’s called Hukma and Hukamiya. So Hukma and Hukamiya are a brother and sister. And they were farmers. So Hukamiya would take care of the house and Hukma would go every day to the farm, in their land.

Interviewer: They didn’t have parents?

Informant: No, they’re not in the story. So Hukamiya will cook for her brother and he will take the food with him to, um, the farms. So Hukma loved khichdi(rice and lentils) so she would make khichdi for him and he will take it. So one day when Hukma was, um, he sat down to eat his lunch, there was a wolf.

So the wolf said, “I’m going to – I’m about to eat you.”  So Hukma says, “Instead, why don’t you share my food?” This is where I get a little fuzzy on the story. So the wolf says, “Sure, either I eat you or I’ll eat the food” or something like that, y’know? And so Hukma says, “Fine, eat my food” obviously. So he gives the wolf his khichdi. And the wolf says “तू हिला मेरी पूक्षिडी, मैं खाऊ तेरी खीचडी” (too hila meree pookshidee, main khaoo teree kheechadee).

Interviewer: *Laughs* So the wolf essentially says, “You wag my tail, I eat your khichdi?”

Informant: Yeah

Interviewer: So does “You wag my tail” mean “You annoy me” or “You excite me” or something?

Informant: You know, I don’t really know, it just rhymes. It used to be so funny for us, when we were little. And for you when you were little. I used to tell you this story. So, poor Hukma will take his tail and –

Interviewer: Oh so the wolf’s telling Hukma that “You have to wag my tail.” It’s a command.

Informant: Yeah exactly. So then the wolf eats his khichdi. So this happens a few times. And then poor Hukma will come home hungry. And then his sister is like, “This is not good. You have to eat, this wolf is bullying you.” I think it’s a story about bullying, basically. But anyway, then Hukamiya is like, “We have to get rid of this wolf, this bhariya(wolf).” So then what they do is the next time the bhariya comes and tries to grab his lunch, Hukma says, “Hey, you know what? My sister has made really good food at home. So instead of this plain old khichdi, why don’t you come to our home and we’ll serve you?”

So the wolf agrees and they both go to the house where Hukamiya had made a lot of food. So they invite him inside the hut and there’s a stake in the ground inside the hut. So they tie a rope and they tie the, uh, the wolf to the stake. So the wolf is like “Why are you doing this?” And Hukma responds by saying “Oh we’re tying you here so you won’t be disturbed. You can just rest and stay in one place and enjoy your food in peace.” So the wolf, he’s stupid, he says OK. I guess he’s more interested in food. 

And then Hukma comes in with a big stick, big oiled stick. And so the wolf asks, “Why do you have this stick in your hand?” And so Hukma says, “Oh I’m just guarding the house.” Then they put the food in front of him and as the wolf starts eating, Hukma just starts beating him up. *Laughs* And then they beat him so much and then the wolf runs off. And he cries “हाय हुकमिया, धोका कर दिया” (haay hukamiya, dhoka kar diya) (Oh Hukamiya, you have betrayed me!

Interviewer: Why Hukamiya, specifically?

Informant: Oh now I remember! Now I remember. Man, I’ve forgotten this story. It was not Hukma the wolf used to bother, it was Hukamiya. So she used to go out to the fields in the afternoon to give her brother lunch. So on the way the bhariya would accost her and take the food. So then the brother finds out because every day he’s like “Why are you bringing such a little amount of food?” So she tells him. So the brother tells Hukamiya to invite the wolf over and then he dresses up as Hukamiya. And then beats him up after doing all that stake stuff. And then the wolf finds out it’s Hukma which is why he cries out saying that Hukamiya betrayed him. So he was bullying the girl who was weaker and then the older brother comes and beats him up. And so the wolf runs off and never comes back. 

Background: 

The informant is my mother, an Indian woman who was born and raised in northern India (Delhi) and moved to the US over two decades ago. This story is one that she was told by her grandmother and mother. It’s also a story that she apparently frequently told me when I was little.

Context:

I am back home due to shelter-in-place. One night when my family was sitting in the study I asked my mom if she had any folklore samples I could add to the archive. This was one of the ones she shared with me.

Analysis: 

There are a lot of interesting things going on in this story but what sticks out to me is that it’s kind of like a flip-flopped version of Little Red Riding Hood. You could think of Hukamiya as Little Red Riding Hood, a girl who runs into a wolf. Yet, in this story, it is not the wolf that dresses up as a grandmother, but Hukma (who fills the role of the hunter) who dresses up and disguises himself as his sister. The sequence of the wolf asking about the stake and Hukma giving an answer and the wolf asking about Hukma’s stick and Hukma giving an answer brings to mind a similar sequence in Little Red Riding Hood. The one where she remarks “What big eyes you have” and the wolf replies, “The better to see you with.” And then she says “What big teeth you have” and he says “The better to eat you with”, etc. Both tales end similarly though, with the wolf either dead or beaten and driven away.

Three Little Piggies- Bedtime Story

Main piece:

“There is the story about the three little pigs. They are brothers and there is a lazy lazy one, a lazy one, and a hard-working one. They build three houses. Each one builds one house, all out of different materials. One of them built it really quick and was like ‘yeah whatever’, the other one worked a bit harder, but not super hard, and the last one worked really really hard on it and made it out of bricks. When the big bad wolf came the house of the super lazy pig that made it out of straws and sticks blew off, and the other sorta lazy pig’s house also blew off, the only house that protected them was the house made out of bricks.”

 

Context and Analysis:

I asked my informant a 21-year-old female if she recalled any folk stories. The informant narrated to me the story of the “Three Little Pigs.” She claims this was a bedtime story told to her when she was a child. She believes the story speaks to the rewards of doing hard work and applying dedication. The informant identifies a lot with the story for her dad was a very charismatic storyteller, so as a child she was very invested in the lives of the little piggies and this story really stuck with her. She remembers her feeling of terror vividly knowing the wolf was approaching the houses of the first two piggies and they were going to blow away. The informant explains how having this story be such a large part of her childhood has taught her hard work and dedication. She will forever remember the hard work the third pig put into his house and the rewards that came from it.

I too remember hearing a version of this story as a child and agree with my informant on the interpretation. There are many versions of the story, but the meaning ultimately remains the same. The story emphasizes the rewards of hard work. The first two pigs did not do a good job of building their houses, and because of this when the wolf came to test their houses they fell apart. The last pig worked really hard and put a lot of effort into building his house making it the only house left standing between the three pigs.  I believe this story is a great tale to teach children about the value of hard work. 

By having the middle pig who did not do a bad job, but didn’t do a good job I think the story also addresses mediocrity. If the middle pig had put in a bit more work into building his house, it would have probably been successful in protecting him from the wolf. This highlights the importance of following through and putting in the full effort as opposed to just “good enough.”  

The use of animals makes the story more entertaining for children because it adds a sense of fantasy and simplicity by using non-human characters. Non-human characters are more relatable and flexible as a tool for storytelling because the author can make them do whatever he pleases. Having pigs be the main characters also makes the kids more invested in the story since talking pigs with houses are unusual and new to them. I think the use of three is also important to note as it is a prominent number in storytelling. Having a trio creates a pattern making the story more memorable and emphasizes an idea. 

 

 

The Crab and the Monkey

Informant: I got one. It’s a folktale from when I was younger.

 

Interviewer: Is it like, a Brazilian or a Japanese tale?

 

Informant: It’s Japanese… I don’t remember who told me the tale, it’s very common knowledge in Japan. It might’ve been in daycare. Does it matter?

 

Interviewer: Not really. What is it about?

 

Informant: Ok, so this is about a monkey and a crab. The crab has an onigiri and the monkey has a persimmon seed… onigiri is like, a rice ball. The monkey wants the crab’s onigiri, so he tells the crab to trade it for his persimmon seed. The crab doesn’t want to at first, but the monkey says that the seed is worth more, since if he plants it, it will grow into a persimmon tree. So they trade and then the crab goes back home and plants the seed… and the crab threatens the **** out of the seed by telling it that if it… if it doesn’t grow fruits it’s gonna cut it up with its pincers.

 

Interviewer: That’s not very nice (laughs).

 

Informant: No, but then the seed grows into a tall tree and gives fruits, so I guess it worked. Anyways, the monkey then goes to the crab’s house and climbs the tree and starts eating the fruit. The crab comes out and asks the monkey to pass him some fruit, but the monkey throws the unripe stinky fruit at ‘em and it ******* kills him, and the shock makes the crab give birth…

 

Interviewer: …Is that it?

 

Informant: No… It’s like halfway done, I’m trying to remember the rest… Ok so the kid crab is pissed that the monkey killed the mom crab, and wants revenge on the monkey. So he goes out and makes friends with like, other bullied guys like the chestnut, the bee… the rock mortar… thing, and cow poop. Then they break and enter the monkey’s house and hide… The chestnut hides in the hearth, the bee hides in a water pail, the mortar hides on the roof, and the cow poop hides on the floor, close to the entrance.

 

Interviewer: Is this like, a real folktale?

 

Informant: I swear, I can’t make this **** up.

 

Interviewer: Ok, ok. What happens next?

 

Informant: Ok so later, the monkey comes home and decides to sit by the fire. The chestnut tackles him and sets the monkey on fire. Monkey is inflicted with burn, so he runs to the water pail to put it out, but the bee comes out and stings the **** out of him, so the monkey tries to run out of the house and slips on the cow poop, and then the mortar jumps off the roof and onto the monkey and it ******* kills him… the end.

 

Interviewer: What? That’s it? … What even is the moral of the story?

 

Bystander: I think it’s about not scamming people or you’ll die. But what happened to the kid crab, what did it do?

 

Informant: Baby crab didn’t do ****. But yeah, that’s it, monkey died because he killed crab.

 

Context

During one of my club’s meetings, I told the members about the collection project and the members started discussing about various folktales and other stories. This was amongst the ones that stood out.

 

Analysis

To be completely honest I was dumbfounded that such a weird story was told to children, but upon further investigation it turns out that, it is in fact, a popular Japanese folktale. From what I gather, it teaches children to not scam or betray people, because it’ll come back to you in some shape or form.

 

Different Versions and Literary Works

The folktale has many different versions, usually changing the baby crab’s allies or the way that the monkey is attacked in its home. In one version, the monkey gets his butt snipped bald by the crab, which explains why some monkeys have bare bums.

Versions of this folktale can be found in Andrew Lang’s The Crimson Fairy Book (http://www.online-literature.com/andrew_lang/crimson_fairy/30/)

 

Or Japanese Fairy Tales by Yei Theodora Ozaki

(http://www.gutenberg.org/files/4018/4018-h/4018-h.htm)

The Tiger’s Whisker – Korean Folktale

TEXT: Once upon a time, there was a woman with a husband who had just come back from a war. When her husband came back from the war, he was a different person. He used to be very kind and loving and stuff. But after the war, he was very harsh and short-tempered. He would snap at her if she had said something that he didn’t like. So the woman went to a local witch and after explaining her situation to the witch, asked if she had a potion that can change her husband back to who he used to be before the war. The witch said that this would be a very difficult potion to make but she did have a recipe for a potion that can help her with her husband. The witch told her that she needed the whisker of a live tiger to make the potion. The woman told her that that would be too difficult and almost impossible. The witch told her that if she did not have the whisker, she would not be able to help.

So the woman went home and made a bowl of rice smothered in meat sauce and brought it to the side of a mountain where a tiger lived. She left it on the edge of a cave and left. The next day, she went back to the mountain and saw that the rice bowl was empty. She replaced that empty bowl with another bowl of rice smothered in meat sauce. She repeated this for multiple days, weeks, months. Eventually, one day, when she was replacing the bowl of rice, she noticed that the tiger had been outside of its cave, waiting patiently. The next few days, she noticed that the tiger was closer and closer to where she normally put the bowl of rice. One day, she decided to stay by the rice bowl to see if the tiger felt comfortable enough to come and eat while she was watching. The tiger came and started eating the bowl of rice, and she even softly pet his head as he ate. The next day, the woman went back up to the mountain where the tiger lived with a bowl of rice and a pair of scissors. While the tiger was eating the rice, she carefully cut off a portion of the tiger’s whiskers, making sure that she did not hurt the tiger.

The next day, she ran to the witch and brought her the tigers whiskers. The witch grabbed the whiskers and threw it into the fire. The woman was very angry. The witch said that if the woman can tame a wild tiger, then why can’t she do the same for her husband. If she can gain the trust of a tiger, then why can she not be just as sensitive and caring for her husband, learning to gain his trust again.

CONTEXT: I asked my informant if she knew any Korean folktales while I was driving her to Orange County. She asked me if I had ever heard about the story of the woman and the Tiger’s whisker. I told her no so she started telling me the story from her memory.

INFORMANT: My informant originally learned of this folklore when she was in junior high school during her Korean Language school that she attended every Sunday after church. She remembered this story primarily because she had to learn it in Korean. This meant that she had to read it over and over again. She also had to practice telling the story in Korean. However, when she told me the story, she told me the story in English because that is her primary language.

My informant really likes the story because she thinks that it has a really good meaning and moral behind it. She likes the fact that the story emphasizes diligence and working at something. She liked how the story was saying that if you work hard at something continually without giving up, you would be rewarded.

MY INTERPRETATION:  My interpretation of this story aligns with my informant’s views of the story. I think the point of the story is to learn how to be sensitive and adapt to people who may be difficult to deal with. Similar to how someone would be very cautious around a dangerous wild animal, the same level of care and caution is required when dealing with people that are difficult. It’s clear that the husband comes back from the war a different person because of the trauma associated with war, or PTSD. If we truly care about something or someone, this story says that we must diligently care and be sensitive to them.

This tale is clearly not meant to be seen as a factual story that happened in the real world. The purpose of this story was primarily to get the meaning of the story across. There was a moment of implied causation within the story that I realized was there after I rewrote what she told me. When the woman in the story first sees that the bowl of rice was empty, it is implied that the tiger had eaten the bowl of rice.

Also, the use of the tiger and rice seems to be a cultural detail, rather than a universal one. If this story were to be told from an American perspective, I would think that the animal would be a lion, primarily because we view lions as the top of the food chain. When it comes to food, I would think that an American folktale would incorporate something specific to America, not rice. Tigers are strongly associated with Korean culture. Everything from the Korean Olympic mascot to children’s television shows, tigers are often used to represent the Korean culture and tradition. This seemed far more real to me when I asked my informant if she knew other stories and she listed off a few other folktales that she knew, all incorporating tigers.

Why You Can Never Keep Glass on the Floor: Puerto Rican Tale

Is this tale well known in Puerto Rico?

L.O. – “Nah, this is just something which was told to my father, and he told it to me.”

How does the story go?

“So, there was a man in my dad’s like, village, or his small town, and he’d just always leave his dishes on the floor after he finished eating and was watching TV.  And one day he tripped, and the glass cut into his neck, and he died.  *Chuckle*  And that’s why you can’t ever leave your dishes on the floor.  It’s funny, this is definitely something that you just tell your kids, so they’ll behave around the house and such.”

Do you live by those rules now?

“Yes, absolutely.  We have like, actually kept those rules in our house.  Because I used to keep my dishes all over the floor, and my dad would be like, ‘this dude injured his neck and died, don’t do that,’ and so I never do.”

When you see dishes on the floor, do you think about it?

“Yes.  Immediately.”

 

This story served to remind this person why he should never leave dishes on the floor.  For me, though, it was a reminder to always remember your roots.  While that sounds cliche, it makes sense to me.  Again this is a person who is completely independent from his previous life where he grew up.  To think that, although one day he’ll live far away from his father, he’ll always think of that one story which was told to him, is quite sentimental.  They are stories like these which we hold onto the tightest.  You can also imply this story in other walks of life, using it as lessons for your children, and their children.