USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘wisdom’
Customs
Tales /märchen

Chinese Pear Story

Context:  

The informant and I are sitting on my bed in my room. It is about 9:00 pm and she is describing to me some of the stories she heard growing up that impacted her life and viewpoint.

Body:

Informant: “So the story was that there was a huge bowl of pears in the dining room table and there’s a little girl and she was the middle child and there’s like an older brother and a younger brother, I don’t think the gender matters. Then a friend came up to the little girl and asked her which pear she was going to get. The little girl ended up grabbing the smallest pear possible in that bowl. Then when the friend asked the little girl why she picked the smallest pear, she replied saying she was going to give a pear bigger than hers to her younger brother. When asked why, she explained how he has yet to experience the good things in life and that in order to know the good things in life he has to at least experience them once. So that’s why he’s experiencing the big pear first so that he knows that’s a good thing. Then she’s going to give a larger pear to both her parents and her brother because they’re older than her out of respect. Then the elders are the most respected and the leaders of the family, and giving them a larger pear is also kind of signifying like they don’t have as much life left to live and so we should be giving the riches of life to them because they don’t have as much time left. Kind of morbid in all honesty.

A: “How did this story affect your life growing up?

Informant: “Oh yeah it had a huge impact on me! Growing up, it’s one of the only stories that I remember from my Chinese book. I actually just asked my mom if she remembered any stories and she said ‘no’ and then when I told her that I remembered the pear story, she still didn’t remember that one. Then I explained it to her and asked her again if she remembered and she said ‘no.’ But that’s always impacted me because I feel that I’ve always tried to prioritize my parents a little bit more in the sense where I did have to respect them because they are my parents. Also, because I wanted to give them things more so because I knew that they wouldn’t have the chance to experience them again like I may have or I will be able to

A: “Was there any significance with the pear and why the pear was the fruit given?”

Informant: I think often times a pear is a symbol of royalty. Ya know how apples are associated with knowledge and giving that to teachers? I think the pear is a symbol of royalty and nobility. Especially in Asian cultures because I feel like everything is a pear versus an apple in Asian cultures.  

TakeAways:

Within Chinese culture, respecting your elders is one of the most important things. I think what this story is trying to tell children is to always respect those who are older than you because they have more wisdom and also to cherish them. This story also teaches children the joys of sharing with others and giving more to others than yourself. This is therefore then instilling children not to be selfish and care for others since you should want them to experience the best in life as well. Children’s stories play a large role in shaping who they are to become as they learn through examples. This story clearly had a large impact on the informant and has reigned true to present day.

 

Folk speech

Mexican Elderly Idiom

“The second one is, umm… More knows the devil, because he’s old, than to be a devil. Do you want me to tell you in Spanish? ‘Mas el diablo por viejo que por diablo.’ ”

 

And in what context would you say that? Like, what would you say that in reference to?

 

“Umm, that, uhh, we need to pay attention to the old people. That the old people is, is they know the way and we need to listen to them.”

 

Analysis: Another short and sweet proverb, this one celebrates old age in a very tongue-in-cheek sort of way. The proverb proclaims that the Devil knows more about being the Devil from simply living into old age than by being the Devil in the first place. In other words, this proverb would seem to reveal that, in rural Mexican culture, learned wisdom gleaned through experience is superior to natural-born intellect. This would suggest a deference to rural elders and a suspicion of up-and-comer types in the informant’s culture.

Folk speech
Proverbs

“Locks don’t keep robbers from stealing. Locks keep honest men from making mistakes”

Title: “Locks don’t keep robbers from stealing. Locks keep honest men from making mistakes.”

Interviewee: Armando Vildosola

Ethnicity: Mexican-American

Age: 21

Situation (Location, ambience, gathering of people?): Just me and my older brother Armando, as I asked him to share his most important pieces of wisdom that our family has shared throughout the generations. We do this every so often as some way to strengthen the bonds that we have as brothers, something of a brother meeting or a brotherly bonding session. We are sitting in our home in San Diego around our dinner table, having just finished dinner. Out house is full of family walking about visiting from Mexico. We are both on spring break from school at USC.

Piece of Folklore:

Interviewee- “Our Grandpa used to say, “Locks don’t keep robbers from stealing. Locks keep honest men from making mistakes.””

Interviewer- “Do you really like that proverb?”

Interviewee- “Of course! That is why I told you it! That’s why I always tell you that. I think it’s really important to us and to our family. Plus, it wouldn’t hurt for other people to hear this too.”

Interviewer- “Do you remember when you first heard that proverb?”

Interviewee- “Not exactly the first time no. I kind-of just learned it cause grandpa said it so much.”

Analyzation: Everything about this made sense to me personally because I had heard this being said in our family many times. This proverb that was perhaps started by my Grandfather embodies my family’s views on people in the world. There are people that do evil things, and there is little that one can do to stop them from being evil. What one can do however, is make sure that an honest man stays honest. This saying is extremely important to my family, and that is mostly due to the hardships that my family has faced. That can be said for a lot of proverbs floating around. They are usually born from experience, and usually a painful one. They are born in the hopes that future generations will not have to feel the pain that past generations felt. In this case, do what you can to make sure people stay honest, but don’t expect a simple lock to keep robbers away. You need more, you need to expect them to be clever. One must always see ahead and ensure that bad things don’t happen to their family. My older brother obviously values this, and wants to make sure that I take it to heart and use it throughout my life. Because at the end of the day, the Vildosola family is the only real family we have.

Tags: Locks, Proverbs, Wisdom, Honesty

Folk speech
Proverbs

“Don’t Jump the Gun” in Norwegian

“Okay, so it’s this thing, and it’s literally translated, ‘Don’t sell the bear’s pelt.’ Is that what it is? Pelt is fur? Yeah, ‘Don’t sell the bear’s pelt before it’s shot.’ It literally means, like, don’t celebrate until it’s happened. Don’t, don’t, don’t jump the gun. But in Norwegian we say that about hunting and bears. *laughs*  So yeah, it literally, but yeah that’s one term.”

 

The source talked about this proverb with particular passion because he really likes it. He says he tries to live by this proverb so that he doesn’t get too far ahead of himself. The source is a filmmaker, so he has a lot of grand ideas, and he says that if he sells the bear’s pelt before it’s shot, there’s a chance it’ll bite him in the butt later because he may not always be able to come through with his projects. He says it’s better to celebrate step-by-step than assuming you’re going to be successful the entire way.

I very much like this proverb as well, particularly because we don’t have one like this in the US. Or at least, I’ve never heard one quite like it. I know I’ve heard the sentiment before from my parents, but I think the phrasing is pretty unique. The message is also great. What does it say about Norwegians? Perhaps that once, their egos were large, so they have to weigh down their pride using proverbs like this.

This proverbs speaks to patience and wisdom. Also, the fact that it phrases in terms of bears is interesting. It makes it even more uniquely Norwegian. You wouldn’t get this proverb in, say Cuba for example or Peru even. Because those countries don’t have bears. For Norway, though, bear hunting is huge. They need the pelts for making clothing and blankets to protect from the cold, which gets awful in Norway for half of the year.

Proverbs

The Old Goats Have the Hardest Horns

My informant is a friend and sophomore student at USC from Norway. She lived for the majority of her life in Norway before moving and living in Thailand, Dubai, and Namibia until she attended college. Having lived for over a decade in Norway, Norwegian is her primary language.

 

“De gamle bukkene har de stiveste hornene, which, this basically means eh…it directly translates into ‘the old goats have the hardest horns’. Meaning that eh…the older you get the wiser you get.”

 

Analysis: This proverb speaks to a relatively universal idea that age brings wisdom. It is widely accepted in many cultures that the older members of the community are the ones that are most respected and have the most knowledge. My informant told me that her parents used to tell her this when she was younger in instances where she was impatient, made poor decisions, or was acting “smart”.

 

Folk speech
Proverbs

Words of Wisdom

Everything in moderation.  Even moderation.

Essentially, the key to a happy life is not to over indulge, but even a lack of overindulgence must not be overindulged all the time.  My mother has given me this advice on multiple occasions.  I’m pretty sure she made it up, but I have told it to many people since I believe it to be good advice.  Primarily when I want to eat a large amount of unhealthy food.

The proverb itself is guarding against unhealthy behavior and provides insight onto the human psyche.  No one can be in control all the time.  When you try to moderate everything you do, your desires become uncontainable and will find a way of expressing themselves, often in unhealthy ways.  By making sure to moderate your moderation you are dealing with the issue of keeping your id at bay.

Folk speech
Proverbs

Wise Man Proverb

“Wise man seeks wisdom, mad man thinks he found it.”
The person who’s wise goes after something: they seek wisdom,  the mad man just talks and talks, he’s delusional, and he thinks he knows it all.  This is a very common idea that is shared by most cultures, it seeks to make people stay humble no matter the amount of knowledge they accrue.

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