Author Archives: Alexandra Kyllingstad

Dodo, L’Enfant Do

Background:

My informant is a twenty-one year old student at USC; she’s studying neuroscience with an eye towards medical school. Her father is Laotian and French and her mother is French.

Performance:

“Dodo, l’enfant do

L’enfant dormira bien vite

Dodo, l’enfant do

L’enfant dormira bientôt

Une poule blanche

Est là dans la grange

Qui va faire un petit coco

Pour l’enfant qui va fair dodo

Dodo, l’enfant do

L’enfant dormira bien vite

Dodo, l’enfant do

L’enfant dormira bientôt

Tout le monde est sage

Dans le voisinage

Il est l’heure d’aller dormir

Le sommeil va bientôt venir.

My mom used to sing it to me. I think hers did too.”

ENGLISH: Sleep, baby, sleep/the baby falls asleep/sleep, baby, sleep/the baby will sleep soon; a white chicken/is in the barn/making a little egg/for the baby who goes to sleep; Sleep, baby, sleep/the baby falls asleep/sleep, baby, sleep/the baby will sleep soon; everyone is calm/all around/it’s time to sleep/sleep is coming soon.

Thoughts:

This is an adorable piece of folklore, and one that has understandably withstood the tests of time. The lyrics and tune are quite simple; simple enough that, years and years later, people can still remember the song as it was sung to them and pass it on to their children.

Force and Justice

Background:

My informant is a twenty-one year old USC student; she’s studying human biology and is currently applying to medical school. She was born in Macedonia, and immigrated to the Long Beach, CA with her mother and stepfather at the age of five. Her father still lives and works as a doctor in Macedonia, and she visits each summer. She speaks the language fluently.

Performance:

“‘Where force rules, justice does not exist.’ It’s not like, commonly used in conversation or anything, but like, I don’t think that’s what these things are for. I think it probably has something to do with all of the, you know, chaos (laughter) in the baltic region and whatnot. The soviets just kind of swooped in and screwed everything up, and so, yeah, where force rules, justice does not exist.”

Thoughts:

This is another politically salient proverb. As Tijana mentioned, it speaks to both the chaotic political situation in the post-war Baltic region as well as current tensions with Russia and the budding nationalist movement in the US. This proverb places a higher value on calm heads and diplomatic solutions than brute force.

Learning and Loving

Background:

My informant is a twenty-one year old student at USC; she’s studying neuroscience with an eye towards medical school. Her father is Laotian and French and her mother is French.

Performance:

“It goes: ‘learning means loving your country.’ I probably heard it from my Dad, since he’s a teacher, but I can’t really remember. It sort of reminds me of those bumper stickers that say ‘dissent is patriotic.’ Like, question everything, due your research, don’t just sit there and be complacent. Like, you’re only your best self and making your best contributions to, um, society, if you’re out there bettering yourself and asking questions and being aware of everything. Super important right now, with all of the fake news and stuff like that.”

Thoughts:

Like my informant said, this proverb seems to be of great significance in our current political climate. It speaks to the importance of education and knowledge in a political context; interestingly, it values the individual and the individual’s contribution over the state itself, which is unusual in the folklore we’ve studied. Generally the state and its glory, collective wellbeing and legacy are the focus of folklore.

The Ghost Around the Bend

Background:

My informant is a twenty-one-year-old college student in Boston, Massachusetts. She is studying to be a nurse and has worked in the emergency room at both Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Performance:

“I heard this from my boyfriend at the time…I was seventeen and he was twenty-one. He was a volunteer fireman when he wasn’t doing construction. Cops and firemen know each other, like, pretty well in Essex County. Uh…I can’t remember if he said that he like heard this from someone or if he was there or what it was, but I remember the story wicked well…so I guess there’s this one road in Essex with a really sharp bend or curve in the road and people get in accidents there all the time…every time the police show up they just get really quiet when people tell them how it happened because they all have the same story about seeing a little kid chase a ball into the road and like flipping their cars trying to like, uh, get out of the way or something….anyway, I guess that some kid was hit by a car there in the 70’s or something. I guess it’s some, uh, like, big open secret, you know? Like all of the cops know about it but normal people don’t until they get in the very same accident.”

Thoughts:

This is a classic ghost story with a clear causal narrative. The child was hit by a car, and now car accidents that happen on that same road are attributed to the child’s death. The added details about it being an “open secret” amongst first responders adds a layer of legitimacy that may otherwise be missing; the police are meant to be inherently trustworthy, thus if they insist the story is true, we must also believe it.

The Witches

Background:

My informant is 52 years old and has lived in Beverly Farms, Massachusetts for her entire life. Beverly is next to Salem and was part of the original settlement until 1668. She has remained close friends with many of the people she grew up with in town. Many of the children she grew up with still live in town as adults an have also chosen to raise their children there.

Performance:

“We didn’t really tell this story a lot because…well, it’s sad, I guess…but also because I knew Cory back then and I didn’t want to…I don’t know. You knew Mrs. Smith* (gestures to me), she was like the mother of the whole town, really. She did girl scouts, all of that. We’d always play in their stream. The Smiths were descended from Rebecca Nurse, who was one of the witches who was hanged during the trials and stuff. Anyway, you remember, Mrs. Smith had two different colored eyes: one blue, one brown…it might have been kind of scary if she weren’t so nice, but everyone always said that that was one of the signs that she was a witch…or maybe it wasn’t that she was a witch, but that she was descended from one…I’m not sure, but I can’t really imagine anyone thinking she was an actual witch…anyway she had six children, and her youngest was a daughter named Lucy* who was maybe three or four when all of this happened. Lucy had her mom’s eyes: one blue, one brown. I was in high school, so maybe fifteen? It was the winter, and Mrs. Smith was inside cooking while Lucy was watching TV in the other room. She heard a loud bang and when she ran in and saw that Lucy had pulled the TV onto herself and unfortunately she passed away. The very next day the blizzard of ’78 rolled in…it was…just brutal. The worst storm I’ve ever seen. Rumor was, it happened because Lucy died. Funny thing is, when Mrs. Smith died almost forty years later, a red tide rolled in the next day…couldn’t go in the water for almost two weeks. No fishing, nothing. People…well, I don’t think anyone had too many questions after that. Tell that story to anyone who didn’t grow up in Essex County and they’ll just laugh at you but to people here…I mean, how can you not believe it even just a little?”

*To protect the privacy of the family in the story, my informant chose to change the names during her performance. I respected her choice in this transcription.

Thoughts:

This story is interesting because it uses local history and folklore as a scapegoat for natural phenomena. The Smith’s were a direct link to the town’s heritage and their lives became a part of a greater mythology. From the tone of her story, I didn’t get the impression that the Smith’s were personally blamed for either the blizzard or the red tide; rather, the magic itself was to blame. It’s a much more holistic, “natural” magic than the powerful dark magic at the center of Salem Witch legends.