Context/Background:The informant is Salvadoran and Mexican-American who grew up in a household surrounded by folk belief and customs. One in particular regarded magic in her grandmother’s hometown. In this circumstance, the informant’s grandmother has told her the stories of a local wizard and different legends about who he possibly is and is able to become.
[Face to Face]
“My Grandma- she talks about a lot of things- but like, she talks about this man from her pueblo- the area she was born, who was kinda like a wizard, you can kinda say. And apparently, he would like, help heal people. Like one time, he told her to put like a cross under um, I think my dad who was like… drunk and gonna die on his back under the hammock and he would get better. This was an experience she had… and it was a story that he- this wizard- was like, she actually knows as a person, um, turns into a dog and scares people.”
KA: And where was she from:
“El Salvador, and it’s um… San Marcos specifically”
Introduced: The informant was introduced to this story through her Grandmother.
Analysis/Interpretation: I think this is an interesting dynamic because this story refers to someone who is real, but there is a legendary element to him which is questioned amongst local people expanding into a greater mystery when examining contrasting alter-ego types. I think it would be interesting to find out more both regarding how the wizard has interacted with others and what exactly his dog form symbolizes and what is done at that state.
The informant’s family originated in Samoa, his parents were born and raised there before traveling and moving into the United States. He takes many visits to Samoa and is very in touch with his Samoan heritage and culture. He shared some common folklore with me that he could think of off of the top of his head.
“During a time of a huge famine and starvation spread across Samoa a blind grandma and granddaughter were put out of there family because they were seen as kind of a burden. They decided to jump into the ocean to cast their fates upon sea because it was giving and caring. Magic turned them into a turtle and a shark. The grandma and granddaughter wanted to find a new home. They traveled for a long time and were constantly turned away from potential homes until they found the shores of Vaitogi. Vertigo had high cliffs and a rough coastline, the shores were occupied by a compassionate and generous group of people. The old woman and her granddaughter turned back into their human form. They were welcomed by the people of Vaitogi. They fed them and offered that they make this village their new home. The old woman decided to make it her home, but she felt a connection to the sea as if it were her home too. She couldn’t stay on land, so she told the villagers that she and her granddaughter had to go back to the sea. She said that they would make village waters their permanent home. She gave the villagers a song to sing from the rocks and a promise that when they sang the song she and her granddaughter would come to visit. They returned to the sea and turned into their turtle and shark forms. To this day, the people of Vaitogi still sing the song and many villagers will tell you that they have personally seen the Turtle and Shark. To each of them the legend is as alive today as it has been.”
The informant also told me that there is a song that goes along with the legend, he said that he doesn’t know it and only certain people in the village of Vaitogi are able to know the song.
This legend of Samoa is different because it goes against the Samoan value of family by throwing the grandma and her granddaughter out of the house. However, this legend depicts that it is hard to be accepted into the different samoan communities but when you are accepted they treat you as family and give you the upmost respect. This legend helps to show the culture of the people of Samoa and how they do things. The grandmother wanted to be a part of the ocean so she left the village that accepted her but lived in the nearby shores and visited only when a song was sang. Also, this legend shows the importance of animals in this society. The grandmother and granddaughter were both transformed into two common sea creatures, and shark and a turtle. The informant wasn’t sure why but it is important to the story. The informant said that this story originated in Vaitogi by its natives, but he heard it from his grandma.
When my father was growing up, he was a very big fan of the classic monster and horror movies, among them Dracula (1931), and The Wolf Man (1941). Because his grandmother was born in Slovakia, he thought to ask her about other ‘eastern European’ legendary monsters that the movies portrayed such as vampires in Transylvania, etc. He was about 18 or 19 when he asked her about vampires and werewolves. He said that she told him that she did not know about vampires in Slovakia, but that she did believe in werewolves.
His grandmother was from the region near Bratislava, Slovakia. She told my father that while growing up, she had heard of a girl that had been attacked by what she claimed to be a wolf. His grandmother then said that people saw a man with a bit of the girl’s clothing caught between his teeth. The folklore of her region prompted her to believe the possibility of this man being a werewolf. She offered no charms to ward off werewolves to my father, however, just that she believed in them.
Because she believed that a human male could be a werewolf, my father’s grandmother obviously viewed werewolves as shape-shifters, which also has origins in Russia. It is also interesting to note that it was a girl who was attacked and that the significant clue to prove the existence of a werewolf was clothing in the man’s mouth. This to me sounds like a distant version of the tale of Red Riding Hood, which had an underlying lesson to teach girls the dangers of the male ‘appetite.’