USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘woman’
Legends
Narrative

La Llorona

Interviewer: You said you had a ghost story?

Informant: Yeah… so La Llorona is supposed to be this woman somewhere in Mexico who was married and had two kids. Her husband either cheated on her or did something similar to anger her. She was super angry at her husband, and, trying to figure out a way to get back at him, she started to think. One night she took her two children to the river, thinking she would play with them. When she got there, though, she thought of a way to get revenge on her husband – by taking their children. Since she had nowhere to go, she decided she would take the kids, to try to harm her husband in return. But, since she had nowhere to go, she instead took her kids and drowned them in the water. At first, she felt good about this, you know, her rage justified it, but after cooling off, she realized that she had killed her beloved children. Obviously, she was distraught, so she went back to the same river and drowns herself in it.

When she reaches the gates of Heaven, she’s stopped and asked by St.Peter about the location of her children. She doesn’t want to say she killed them, so she says she doesn’t know, and so St.Peter sends her back to Earth to look for her children. Until then, she’s trapped between reality and the afterlife, she’s a ghost.

Now, she patrols the streets of towns late at night looking for her kids, the ones she killed, crying out “Mis hijos, mis hijos” while weeping, which is how she got her name “La Llorona”, which translates to something like “the weeping woman”. If she finds kids out late at night, she’ll mistake them for her own kids at first. But, if they’re not her own children, she kills them to try to take the place of her own.

Context: My informant is a nineteen year old college student. Though he was raised in the United States, he was born in Chihuahua, Mexico, and his first language is Spanish. This legend was told  in a college dorm room, with the informant sitting across from me.

Background: My informant can’t remember where he heard La Llorona from – maybe his parents, maybe his friends, it’s a very common story in Latin America. He thinks La Llorona is used to keep kids and people in general from going out late at night. This is not, however, just to keep people from staying out late. According to him, la Llorona is used to keep people from staying out past 3 AM. This is because, in Latin America, three is a number associated with God. In the afternoon, 3 PM is considered lucky, but 3 AM, at night, is considered odd and unnatural. Even he  doesn’t feel comfortable going out that late, and told me a brief story of a friend of his who noticed a weird fog and distant cries when she was out at 3 AM.

Analysis: This account of La Llorona demonstrates not only how the legend helps keep people inside and orderly at night, but also a connection to the deep Catholic roots many communities within Mexico maintain. Though not part of the story, many people choose to mark 3 AM as the time when La Llorona begins to stalk the streets, a number commonly associated with God and the Holy Trinity. Interestingly, the use of the number three also reflects a common trend in many other pieces of folklore – namely, a propensity for things to crop up in threes or occur at times with threes in them. Personally, I’ve noticed weird things happening really late at night, whether they’re odd weather or sounds. I’m not sure whether or not I myself believe in la Llorona or similar ghostly apparitions, but I’m still inclined to spend my late nights inside rather than out.

Folk Beliefs

La Sihuanaba

The following story  is said to have occurred in Guatemala.

EO: “My aunt told me the story of the Sihuanaba and I’m not sure if it’s the wide one because like she told it to me very specifically, as if it were her that saw her. So it was like a first hand account sort of thing…I was terrified.”

What happened to your aunt?

EO: “She says she was riding a horse, and someone was ahead of her on a horse. And the person didn’t have a head or something. So they turned around, and it turns out the person’s hair was super messy, like a horse’s mane.” 

Did they interact?

EO: “No, she just looked at her, then went away. But that’s all I know about La Sihuanaba. She just looks at people and steals horses–so you can’t go alone.”


 

La Sihuanaba is a mythological creature of Guatemala and El Salvadoran folklore. Like many mythological creatures shared from parent-to-child, the story of La Sihuanaba is told by parents to convince their children not to roam alone away from the home.

general

La Llarona

INFORMANT: “So, La Llarona, sometimes in English it’s referred to as “the Woman in White,” and basically it’s a story about a woman who, um, was in love with a man but he didn’t love her back so it was unrequited love, so she drowned her two children in the river in order to be with the man that she loved, but he didn’t want to be with her. So after being refused by him, she then drowned herself in a river in Mexico City. And so, basically with the whole heaven and hell aspect of life, she’s kind of stuck in the in-between, and she kind of wanders around at night in Mexico City, so today a lot of parents use this story as a way to keep their kids from wandering out at night. Or else La Llarona will come and kidnap them. Basically she is said to appear at night around rivers in Mexico, and that’s it. I heard about it in Spanish class and then I went home and asked my mom about it, and she was like ‘oh, yeah.'”

COLLECTOR (myself): “How did your mom learn the story?”

INFORMANT: “I think growing up. It’s a traditional Mexican story that a lot of Mexican parents will tell their kids growing up.”

This legend appears to be a Mexican story within the widespread genre of ‘legends parents tell their children to keep them in line.’ This breed of legend seems to exist in almost every culture – I suppose childrens’ fear of the supernatural is culturally ubiquitous, because they’re more compelled to obey their parents if there’s a supernatural risk involved.

This story was also an interesting case because my friend Taylor is Mexican-American but not very in touch with Mexican culture. She told me that she felt her mother purposely tried to separate her from her Mexican heritage, so she was never told this story as a child, even though her grandmother told it to her mother. In fact, Taylor didn’t hear about the legend until she read about it in Spanish class. On a related note, Taylor did not know Spanish until she took classes in school, another point that makes her feel alienated from her heritage.

ANNOTATION: Several films have been made about the legend of La Llarona, including the Mexican movie La Llarona (1960) and Her Cry: La Llarona Investigation (2013).

Folk Beliefs
Legends
Narrative

“La Llorona”

The informant’s family had been a traditional Mexican family then they moved to America and expanded their culture here. His parents were born and raised in Mexico and learned many cultural forms of folklore with the informant who was born in America. He shared some of the folklore that he was told that stuck with him as he grew older and more wise and mature. 

Informant…

“There was a woman in Mexico named Maria. Maria was gorgeous, more beautiful than anyone else so she believed she was above everyone else. As Maria go older, she got more beautiful and prideful because of it.When she was old snout to have an interest in men she wouldn’t look at the men from her village. She believed they weren’t good enough for her and what she thought she deserved so she would say thing about how when she would be married it would be to the most handsome man in the world. And then one day, a man who fit her standard rode into her village. He was a handsome young ranchero as well as the son of a rich rancher from the south. He only rode wild horses, he thought it wasn’t manly to ride a horse if it wasn’t half wild. He was the most handsome man in the world, but he had various talents as well he sang beautifully and played the guitar. Maria decided that that was the man for her. Maria played mind games with the ranchero, if he would speak to her on the pathway she would ignore him and pretend he wasn’t there, he would go to her how at night to play the guitar and serenade her but Maria wouldn’t go to her window, she wouldn’t accept any gifts from him. This all made the ranchero want her even more and he knew he had to get her to love him. Everything went according to Maria’s plan and they were soon married. Things were great in the beginning of their marriage they had 2 kids. But the man became bored with Maria and wanted to live his crazy wild life again, he showed more affection to the children that he showed to her. As proud as Maria was, she became very angry with the him. She also began to feel anger toward her children. One night she drowned her kids in the river and when the man found out that she drowned her kids he basically rebuked her away. So she was cursed because she drowned her kids for all eternity to wander the earth crying for her kids, hence the name la llorona.”

Analysis…

“La Llorona” translated in english as the woman who cries

When asked about where he heard the story he said his mother and grandmother had told him but he wasn’t sure where the story originated or came from but he knew that it came from Mexico. The informant believes that La Llorona is real. He came into close contact with her when he was young around the ages of two or three. He said that his mother and his aunt were in Mexico cleaning his grandmother’s house when they heard her painful, creepy, whaling cries. He said that she was saying “oh my babies” and when his mother and aunt heard that they took all the children and threw them under the bed in the next room. He said they did this because it is believed that if she finds children she will take them as her own because she had lost hers. He believes that this story is also told to children as a scare tactic method to keep them in the house at night so that La Llorona doesn’t take them. He believes that because his mom used it as a scare tactic on him, his brothers, and his cousins.

Tales like this are told all over the world as a scare tactic to force kids into doing whatever their parents feel like they should be doing. Most Americans have heard of having monsters under their beds (to keep children in their beds at night) or the boogie man (forces kids to bah in fear of the boogie man coming after them. This tale reminds me of those and I initially make the connection between them. The crazy part of this tale is the informant swears that the came into close contact with the la llorona meaning that it is possible that she is real which would lead to ghosts and unwanted spirits being real.

Another version of this legend can be found in movie form and is called The Crying Woman (1993) directed by Ramón Peón.

Legends
Narrative
Tales /märchen

House of Tia Toña

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).

Gestation, birth, and infancy
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Pregnant Woman Ghost

Informant Background: The informant is a student in Los Angeles. His family is originally from Indonesia. His parents moved to the United States and they now live in New Orleans. He speaks only English but he said his family still practice many Indonesian traditions especially folk-beliefs. He travels back once in a while to Indonesia to visit his relatives.

 

Okay, so there is this woman who was pregnant but she wasn’t married…she doesn’t have family or relatives…then when she was giving birth to her baby she died ‘cause the baby somehow came out of her back. …And then she became a ghost who looks like a woman but she has this bleeding hole in her stomach. She would appear with long black hair over her face while holding her dead baby …you know like those Asians ghost you see in movies where it’s like a girl with super long drapy hair in front of their face.

The informant heard about this story through his relatives in Indonesia. He is not quite sure what situation the ghost would appear but he said that she is one of the well known characters in Indonesia traditions.

 

 

I think this ghost story shows the improper ritual for two of life’s most celebrated moment: birth and death. The spirits of the mother and child transform into ghosts because they did not get a proper burial. It is also similar to other ghost stories where the ghost is created because the person died too young, in this case both of them.

The hole is a reflection the improper birth and death of both mother and child: the mother who died trying to give birth and the child who died before even being born. Souls or spirits can become ghost because of improper death or death rituals. Similar to other origin of ghost instead of being released into heaven the spirit stays on earth looking for family and relative for closure. It was both unconventional birth and death that leads to the belief of this ghost.

The absence of a proper burial is evident to the lack of family. The woman was pregnant without a husband, which is deemed unconventional and unacceptable by many societies. With no family she had no one to give her a proper funeral. Her ghost, in my opinion, is then her spirit that lingers around looking for family to give her closure.

I think this story could also be an indirect way to teach girls the consequences of going against traditions. Since the woman in the story did not have a proper wedding, she then was not able to give birth properly: going against tradition in this case not only lead to her death but an unsatisfying afterlife.

Legends
Narrative

Always Check the Backseat

Click here for video.

“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

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