USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘tales’
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Magic
Myths

Sleep Paralysis and Devils

Sleep Paralysis

The Informant:

My friend, was born in Diamond Bar, CA. He is the son of a pastor whose church is in Diamond Bar. He lives with his parents and three younger siblings, a sister and two brothers. His father is Chinese and his mother is Korean.

The Story:

The first time that this happened to me was when I was either a sophomore or a junior in high school. I was lying on my bed, obviously in the middle of my sleep, when all of a sudden I realized I couldn’t move. I couldn’t move my body, I couldn’t scream, there was no air in my lungs. I tried to scream but couldn’t and I started to freak out. All of a sudden… I felt super cold, from top, my head, down, to my feet. I don’t remember if I was outside the blankets or inside but regardless I felt the wind. Suddenly I felt a heavy weight on my chest, as if something was sitting on it, and a shadow on top of me. I don’t really remember what happened after that. All of these instances blur together after a while. This was the first time it happened. After that it happened on a weekly basis for at least a year. There are times when I know it’s coming. You just feel like you’re getting really tired, or sometimes you can just sense something is off, as if there’s something in your room with you. I’ve never seen anything in my room though, and it always happens at night. There’s nothing I could do except wait for it to pass… and I’m always alone when this happens.

The Analysis:

This is a different occurrence of the scissor lock that my other friend experienced. We talked about this in his room, and a couple other friends were present. As he continued to tell his story, our other friends slowly became quiet, and then silent. The way Trevor spoke was genuine and even though such an occurrence would be questionable, there was no doubt in his voice that this was true. In Trevor’s instance, this happens on a semi-regular basis, with the last one occurring a couple months ago. Before that, it happened once a week or once every other week. There is no basis for why he goes through the scissor lock so often, but his actions showed that he doesn’t get used to it, even though it’s happened numerous times. It is creepy that this has happened so many times that they all seem to blur into one for him. One aspect that was interesting is that he is a pastor’s kid. This was one difference I noticed between him and my other informant on this same topic – it is probable that his stronger faith or adherence to Christianity has an affect on these continual occurrences. Whether it is due to faith or not, I wondered if it was the devil’s doing, and led me to question the existence of the devil and it’s many forms.

 

Researchers have attempted to examine the causes of the scissor lock, dubbing it generally as sleep paralysis: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1023%2FB%3ADREM.0000005896.68083.ae

A different version of sleep paralysis from someone not religious can be found at: http://kerryonian.wordpress.com/2013/01/11/the-experience/

general
Humor
Tales /märchen

Good Sir, Bad Sir

흥부놀부 (Heung-bu Nol-bu) – Good Sir, Bad Sir

The Informant:

Sung is in his early 50s and works as an engineer. Born in Incheon, South Korea, he immigrated to the United States after he married in 1990. He heard the story of Heung-bu and Nol-bu when he was in the first or second grade in elementary school.

The Story:

흥은 붕해 뜻이야 – 잘 된다는것이야. 놀은 잘 못 된다는거야 (노는 사람들을 놀부라고 부를듯이).

흥부 하고 놀부는 형재야. 근데 놀부가 형이야. 잘 살아, 부자집. 흥부는 가난한 집이야. 형이 동생을 잘 못 챙긴거지.한국에서는 첫재만 재산을주는거지. 흥부는 둘째니까 많이 못 받은거지. 어느날 흥부는 놀부한테 밥을 달라고 했는데, 놀부의 부인이 식은 밥을

준거지. 제비 (새) 가 날라와서 집을 만들었지, 놀부 집 밑에.옛날에 집 바로밑에 처마가있었어. 근데 제비가 떨어져서 다리가 부러졌어. 그래서 흥부가 다리를 고쳤어. 고마운 마음을 제비가 어떤  씨를 가져왔어. 흥부가 그걸 심었었지. 그 후에 박을 쓸려고했는데 도깨비가 튀어 나온가요. 그 도깨비가 물어본거야 “너는 뭘 갓고 싶으니?” 흥부가 밥 달라고해서 밥을 줬어. 돈도 달라고해서 돈도주고, 옷도주고, 집도주고. 흥부가 잘된거야, 그래서 그 형이 배가 아픈거지. 놀부가 일부로 처마를 떨어뜨려서 다리를 또 부라뜨리고 제비가 이번엔 놀부한테 씨를 가져온거야. 그래서 똑같이 씨를 심어서 이번에도 도깨비가 나타났어. 똑같은 질문을하는대 놀부가 “난 돈이 많이 있지만 흥부보다 더 많이 갓고싶으다! 돈 더 줘!” 라고 했다. 결국 나쁜 마음을 가진 놀부에게 돈을 다 잃었고 가난해졌다. 잘 살던 놀부는 평범한 인생을 살고 없었던 흥부는 좋은 인생을 살게됬다.

 

Heung is a word that means good luck. Nol means bad luck. In light of this tale, people who simply play and don’t work are called “Nol-bu”.

Heung and Nol are brothers. Nol is the firstborn and Heung is the second child. Nol is rich and wealthy while Heung leads a life of poverty. In these olden times, the father passes on most of the inheritance only to the firstborn son and the second son is lucky to have received anything. One day, Heung goes to his brother’s house and asks for rice to eat. Nol’s wife gives him cold and old rice. These old houses there are eaves built under the roofs. A swallow comes and builds his nest there. The swallow fell and broke its leg. Heung came across it and fixed its broken leg. Out of thanks, the swallow returned to Heung and gave him a seed. Heung planted the seed and one day using a gourd to water it, a dokgyebi (Korean bogey) springs out. It asks Heung “what do you want?” and he answers that he is hungry and wants rice. The dokgyebi gives him rice. Heung says he wants money and he is given money. Heung says he wants clothes, a house, and it is all granted to him. The brother sees this and his stomach hurts out of envy. Nol purposely drops the eave so the swallow breaks its leg again. This time Nol fixes the leg and the swallow once again returns and gives Nol a seed. Nol plants it and waits for the dokgyebi to appear. It does. It asks Nol “what is it that you want?” and Nol answers “I have a lot of money but I want more than Heung. Give me money!” In the end, the dokgyebi sees his evil heart and Nol is stripped of his money and wealth. The brother who once was rich is now poor and the brother who once was poor is now rich.

The Analysis:

이 의미는 남들이 잘되는걸 따라가려면 잘 안 된다는거야. 있는걸 있을대 만족해라. 욕심 내면서 살면 망한다. 착하게 살아라.

그리고 사람들이 없는대로 복만받으면 “흥부심뽀다”라고 얘기해.

돈이있고 남을 안 도와주면서 살면 “놀부심뽀다”라고 하지.

The meaning behind this story is that you should not live trying to chase after those who are better off than yourself. In doing so, you will simply lose what you already have. Treasure what you are given and be content. By becoming greedy, you will only end up losing what you already have and can end up in a worse state than where you initially stood.

 

My dad told me this story after I talked to him about my aspirations for the future. In light of my future, he meant to tell me not to put too much on my plate. In becoming greedy not only for money but also in my activities, I can end up burning out or losing more than what I think I can gain. He also meant this story to be a reassurance that all will be well. Instead of becoming lost in the competition against others for a job or for a better future, it’s always best to focus on my life and myself.

Digital
Narrative
Tales /märchen

Auntie Cockroach (kids)

When he was four or five, his grandmother and mother told him a story about “Auntie Cockroach”. This folktale is a very popular Persian fairy tale for kids and it was a popular bedtime story for Arya. Her mother and grandmother would always end their retelling by asking him to answer what the moral of the story was (being generous, helping people and welcoming guests into your home).
He told me the following rendition from what he remembers:
On a very rainy night, auntie Cockroach received many visitors from animals who needed shelter. There was the zebra, the horse, the cat ad the mouse. The zebra asked to come in because his roof was leaking; the horse came next and asked for some food since he had been traveling all night and hadn’t been able to stop anywhere. Then came the cat seeking the warmth of a fireplace and finally, the mouse whose mousehole had flooded with the rains. Auntie cockroach let all the animals in and tended to their needs; the next morning, all the animals left and were eternally thankful for Auntie Cockroach’s generosity.

What’s interesting about this story, is that Arya revealed that there is another version that goes by the same name: “Auntie Cockroach and Mr. Mouse” and is the adult (more elaborate) version of the kids’ one he’d heard growing up. This version can be found online as a PDF and is titled “Auntie Cockroach (Khale Suske) and Mr. Mouse”

Humor
Narrative
Tales /märchen

Greed is Punishment

This folklore was collected from my friend who had learned it from his Jewish friend. It came up when we were discussing how some people had everything while other people had nothing. It seemed like there was no equality because there was nothing to balance out the two. However, this small folk tale came up explaining that there was something to balance the two. It was a somewhat heated discussion, so hearing this light story was very much refreshing and helped put the matter into perspective. My friend said that to him, it was a clear sign that justice would prevail over any other circumstances that might be involved. In addition, by being so greedy, it would inevitably end in loss because trying to grab hold of too much requires you to let go and lose more than what you were holding on to.

A poor beggar was wandering around a rather busy marketplace. It was unusually busy that day, so it was a shock when he came upon a small money pouch that had apparently been lost. Opening the money pouch, he found that it held 100 coins of gold. Just then, he heard a shout exclaiming that someone had lost their pouch and would pay a reward for anybody who would return the purse.

The beggar thought he was in luck! He was an honest fellow and wanted the reward that was due to him for returning the pouch instead of taking it for himself. He walked up to the merchant who had claimed that the pouch was his and handed him the purse. He asked for the reward that he was due after giving it back.

However, it became very clear that the merchant was very greedy and only wanted to keep the money that he had without giving any form of reward at all. After all, the merchant was already counting the gold pieces. “What reward?” he asked. “When I dropped this money bag, it contained 200 gold coins. And now, I see only 100. You’ve already stolen so much from me! Be thankful that I’m not searching you for the gold pieces and go away or else I will call the authorities on you.”

The beggar refused to be cowed down by a greedy merchant. After all, he had returned a purse that he had no reason to return because he would have been better off either way. He decided to claim, “I may be poor, but I am honest. I will not accept this injustice. Let us go to a court of law and see who is the more correct between us.” They then went to court and presented both of their arguments to the judge. The judge was very wise and knew what was good and right according to the law. He was not partial to either side, but he knew what the law had said, and so came his verdict. He claimed that justice could be provided for both parties who had presented a claim before him, thereby allowing any wronged party to be recompensed for the troubles that they had faced.

Addressing the merchant, he said, “You said that your money bag contained 200 gold coins when you lost it. That by itself is a very large amount of money. This bag that the beggar picked up had 100 coins. There is no reason why he would keep 100 to return 100 when it is clear that there is money already in it and that you would know how much money was missing? It then becomes quite reasonable that you were very mistaken. This bag cannot be yours because that does not make any logical sense.

With no further comment, the judge awarded the purse with 100 gold coins to the beggar. The righteous beggar walked off knowing that he had acted according to what was good and just. The merchant stomped off in frustration because he had lost money due to his uncontrolled greed.

I very much agreed with my friend on this matter as to what it meant. Greed is a very powerful force, but it is very negative and leads to negative consequences. More is lost than gained through being greedy, and so is often not worth it. In addition, the idea that justice is blind is very important as well. Living in America where everybody is entitled to a fair trial, this concept is very ingrained into the general population’s believes. Regardless of whether they are rich or a beggar should not have a bearing on whether they are being honest or not. Everybody is equalized under the law.

Folk speech
Narrative
Proverbs
Tales /märchen

Russian Proverb about a Broken Wash Basin

“Do you want to go back to your broken wash basin?”

This Russian proverb comes from a fairytale, which my informant recounted to me:

“This is a story about a golden fish. An old man, very poor, lives in a cottage next to the sea. He goes to fish, and he catches in his net a golden fish. And she talks to him in a human voice, and she says, ‘Old man, let me go, I’ll give you whatever wish you want.’ The old man is a kind person, and he says ‘Oh, go little fish, swim in the sea, I’ll find other fish to eat.’ He doesn’t ask for any wish. So he comes home, and he sees his wife, an old woman, sitting near their cottage, which is falling apart, and she’s trying to do a wash, but she washes the clothes in a wooden basin and it’s falling apart, there is a big hole in it, it’s broken. And he tells her the story about how he caught the golden fish, and how she said that she can do any wish he wants. And the old lady is furious; she says, ‘I can’t even wash the clothes, the basin is broken, and you let her go!’ So, he wants to make his wife happy, he goes to the ocean and calls for the fish, and he says, ‘Can you make my wife happy, can you give my old woman a new basin, which is not broken?’  He comes, and he thinks his wife will be very happy because she got a new wash basin. But she’s furious—she says, ‘You could ask anything you want, why do you ask for a basin? Ask for a new house, don’t you see the house is falling apart, there are holes in the roof?’ So he goes back, and he says, ‘I’m sorry, fish, can you please give us a new, nice house?’ The fish says, ‘Okay, you go to your wife.’ So he goes home, and instead of his old, falling-apart cottage, there is a beautiful new house. He thinks his wife would be happy, but she is furious. She says, ‘Why do you ask just for a regular house? Ask for a palace with servants! Nice clothes, nice dishes, everything. I want to be a noblewoman!’ So, as you can expect, he goes back, he gets her a palace with servants and all that, but even that is not enough. After some time, she wants to be a queen.  Okay, she became a queen, to cut the story short. The old man doesn’t recognize her. She doesn’t want to associate with him, she doesn’t want any of the servants and all of these people to know that he is her husband. So, he is some lowly worker in the yard, sweeping the yard, while she is the queen in the palace, with servants and all that. So, some time passes, and she calls him again, and she says, ‘I’m tired of being a queen. I want to be a Tsaritsa of all of the seas and I want the golden fish to be my servant.’ The old man goes, and he says, ‘There’s nothing I can do. That’s what she wants.’ Suddenly, there is a horrible storm, and the fish just went away. So he comes back, and here is his old house, falling apart, and his old woman is sitting with a broken wash basin.”

Q. When would somebody use this proverb?

A. Let’s say a person did something for you, or did you a favor, and you demand more and more and more—he could say it. It’s like saying, “Look. Stop it.” Instead of pointing out that a person demands too much, this is a nicer way to say it. Usually, people like their childhood memories and fairytales, so they won’t feel antagonistic.

Q. Do you feel that in Russian society, people use proverbs more than they do here?

A. Yes—Russia doesn’t have much mobility, and in a society that’s very stable, it’s easier to have proverbs that move from generation to generation. The culture is homogeneous, so people know what you mean.

Annotation: Russian writer Alexander Pushkin wrote a poem about the story of the golden fish, entitled “The Fisherman and the Golden Fish.”

Pushkin, Alexander. “The Fisherman and the Golden Fish.” Trans. Irina Zheleznova. Russian Crafts, 1998-2007. Web. 26 April 2012. <http://russian-crafts.com/tales/golden-fish.html>.

This tale has also been featured in multiple works of Russian art, including lacquer boxes:

http://russian-crafts.com/home-decor/lacquer-boxes/tale-about-golden-fish-939.html

Childhood
Legends
Narrative
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire
Tales /märchen

Northern Californian Campfire Story: The Ring Man

Interview Extraction:

Informant: “The story of the Ring Man goes to back when I was growing up, and my dad and his best friend Jim Kaddy who used to go camping in the woods, around where our cabin is in Lassen. And up there, there would be when we were little; there are these trees with these rings on them. There were painted white rings, around various parts of the forest. And so what they told us was that the Ring Man paints a white ring on these trees. And the reason he does that, is that at night various campers are camping out in the woods and he comes to their tents when they are sleeping. And for the girls, he leaves them candy. But for the boys he finds, he kills them. And when he kills them, he puts a ring around the tree for each boy he kills. So you should never go out at night when you are camping, or the Ring Man will get you.”

Interviewer: “So the Ring Man only kills boys? Why?”

Informant: “Because boys are noisy. But you only tell that story at night, when you are camping.”

Analysis:

“The Ring Man” is a campfire story that is unique to the informant’s family.  The story is intended to be told as a campfire story, specifically to younger children.  The reason why the story is intended for children is because only children would believe that the rings on the trees indicate the murder of little boys.  Adults know that the rings on the trees actually indicate the lumber has been marked to be cut down by local logging industry, which has a strong presence in Humboldt County culture of where this story originated.  The high number of trees marked with rings makes the story more believable to the children, because the proof of the Ring Man’s existence is something you can really see.

The violence present in the tale indicates that the authors of the story had a dark sense of humor, and created the tale to playfully tease their children.  This tale also serves as an educational warning to the young audience, in that it warns them of the evils and violence that are present in the world that they should be aware of.  In this sense, “The Ring Man” tale is very similar to other folk tales that warn children of the evils present in the world such as “Hansel and Gretel”.  Another interesting aspect of this story is the idea that the Ring Man only kills boys, because they are noisy.  This comes from the stereotypical belief that girls are sweet and quiet, which is why the girls get sweet candy, and boys are loud and obnoxious.  Therefore the performer of this tale also uses “The Ring Man” as a warning to little boys that they should be well behaved and quiet or the Ring Man will kill them.  The fact that the story puts an emphasis on the importance of being well behaved also indicates that the authors of the story put a high value on manners.

I have heard this tale many times when my family and I would go camping. When I first heard “The Ring Man”, I thought the tale was real, and I became extremely upset when I saw three trees marked with the white rings by an elementary school.  After expressing this to the informant, he explained that the tale was not real and my anxieties were soon forgotten.  There is a sense of pride that comes from the story because it is unique to the informant’s family and a part of their traditions.

My informant was born in 1957 Arcata, California to a high school basketball coach and his wife.  After earning his undergraduate degree in engineering from the University of California, Davis, he moved to southern California to obtain his MBA in business from the University of Southern California.  He now a partner at Ernst & Young. He lives in Manhattan Beach, CA with his wife and has two children.

Earth cycle
Legends
Narrative
Tales /märchen

Camp Stories

My informant told me about some of the camp stories that she used to hear at her summer camp, Camp Letts, in Edgewater, Maryland, which as my informant describes, is an offshoot of the Chesapeake Bay.

She said that the counselors were the ones who typically told these stories to the campers, and that there aws no particular time that they always told the stories. It was sometimes around a campfire, or sometimes just in the cabins or during mealtime.

There were two stories in particular that were mainly used as a means to scare campers away from wandering in the woods or near the pool late at night, thought this intention never occurred to my informant until she was older.

The first story was the girl with the red scarf. My informant doesn’t remember why she had a red scarf, but it was significant to the story. The story is that there were two counselors who were in love and they decide that in the middle of the night that they were going to go into the middle of the woods and meet up at this spot. The boy goes into the woods and he waits and waits for this girl but she never shows up. It’s really dark and the guy doesn’t have anything with him to light the way. He starts walking when suddenly he runs into a body, which turns out to the body of the girl, hanging from a tree by strangled by her red scarf. Her death was blamed on a strangling ghost, meant to scare the children at the camp.

The second story scared children away from the pool. There was a camp manager having a secret relationship with a counselor, and they would often meet at a certain spot that would later become a spot for the camp pool. One night, there was an accident and the girl counselor slipped and fell and died. The camp manager, afraid of getting caught in the relationship and blamed for her death, buried her under the spot where the pool was built and the campers were told that if you went to the pool at night, her ghost would try and grab you. They also warned campers of swimming to the bottom of the pool because of her ghost, to keep beginner swimmers from pushing themselves too far.

[geolocation]