Author Archives: Daniel Rahmann

Proverb – German


“Aller guten Dinge Sind Drei”

My Translation

„All good things come in threes“

My informant said this quote to me in the form of encouragement, providing a non-literal interpretation, which is “Third time’s a charm”. This saying comes as a form of encouragement, and as it has double meaning, can also be used for reassurance when discussing about a good omen they would like to occur. I find this proverb very interesting because it corresponds with Axel Olrik’s Epic Law of common use of the number 3. I find it also interesting that there is never an explanation as to why the number 3 is so ominous but is used very frequently not only in jokes and myths and tales, but also in simple proverbs.

Proverb – Paris, France

French:                                                            Translation:

“Après la pluie le beau temps”                        “Beautiful weather comes after the rain”

Informant: “I learned this in primary school in Paris when I was very young. I do not remember the time that I learned it, I felt that I grew up with this phrase being used a lot. To me it is a proverb of encouragement, to remind someone that trying times will eventually pass. I use it a lot because it is not only meaningful to emotional strife but can be used casually, i.e. when someone has a bad day or is going through a stressful period with work or school.”

In my opinion, a similar non-literal English translation would be that “Every cloud has a silver lining”, not only does it include the reference to weather, but also that something bad is not permanent. I do feel however that the “Every cloud has a silver lining term” makes more reference to the fact that there is always something good in something bad, whereas the French proverb in this case uses “Après” (after), which is a direct reference to time and therefore speaks more literally to a less fortunate period of time, which does not last forever. My informant is unaware of how long this phrase is existed but believes that every French person has heard and used this phrase at least once in their lifetime. Although she stresses that it is still popular and current, she has as of 1996 been a US resident and although she visits her home country frequently is not exposed to the French citizens and residents very often. Within her francophone community in the USA however she claims that it is a popular saying.

Folk Belief – Hong Kong, China

“Never place your chopsticks in your bowl so that they stick out from the bottom. It brings bad luck; you should put them on top of your bowl lying horizontally or beside your bowl”

I had to be reminded by informant during many meal times. The bad luck that this action brings is death upon yourself or your family. This superstition is important to the informant as she had learned it from her parents and everyone in her culture knows not to do this and considers it common practice. Only people who are completely out of touch with any Asian culture would be unaware of this superstition. As I learned about this practice in Hong Kong, it must be emphasized that this practice is prevalent in all of Asia, or most likely, any country where chopsticks are used during mealtimes. My informant tells me that the placing of the chopsticks into a food bowl, resembles the Buddhist practice of placing incense sticks into sand pits at altars, shrines and graves. Therefore, in mimicking that tradition which is only to be carried out in a religious and spiritual context, i.e. when offerings are made, you are invoking evil spirits who would in turn bring harm to you. I find this very important because I have never been able to drop this practice ever since. Although I do not do it out of superstition, I have adopted this habit merely to be respectful to others around me. This thus would bring a new meaning as to why I carry out a certain practice compared with someone else.

Proverb – German


“Einem geschenkten Gaul, schaut man nicht ins Maul”

My Translation:

„You don’t look into the mouth of a horse which is given to you as a gift“

Description from Informant:

“A gaul is a horse and usually by looking a horse in the mouth you can tell how old/good he is. So basically if you get something for free, you don’t go around checking whether it’s good (quality). I like it!”

This proverb, to my informant is important in that it defines an aspect of her beliefs. She relates to takes to this proverb in that it is an encouragement of humility and therefore is used most likely on occasions where someone is complaining about the quality of the gift they have received. It therefore also has an educational purpose. My informant believes that you should be grateful for every gift you receive instead of being critical and trying to evaluate its quality. Although I am German, and attended a German school until the age of 12, I grew up in Asia and therefore have not heard this proverb before. However, I do relate to this quote in that the value that is being taught was very much emphasised to me during my childhood, as I was repetitively told by my parents, and German grandparents to be grateful for the gifts that I am getting. From my personal experience of what I have learned about German culture is that proverbs are used extremely often, and almost all the time come in rhyming couplets. I believe this is done to make the proverbs easier to remember.


“Once this baby came out premature and died, so they called it the tuyul. Really scary looking and looks like a deformed baby midget. Myth was that the dukuns – witch doctors – would have these tuyuls to steal money, they would keep them in a jar. They liked two things: money and blood. That’s how they would feed. They’d rummage through bins and stuff and look for blood remains. So women’s pads and etc. etc. SICK”

This legend is something that my informant believes as true. She does not like to tell these stories as recounting them makes her feel scared and uncomfortable, likely because she considers these to be true and what I know as another common South East Asian custom, (having grown up in Singapore) is that you are not supposed to speak of any mythical creatures/spirits/ghosts as they become aware of they’re mentioned name and will one day appear in front of you. As far as the gore of this legend, I would like to point out that this style of gore is extremely common throughout South East Asian myths and legends. I would also like to point out another version of this story, which I had heard in 2002 :

“These ghosts would be kept in jars and feed on babies. Whoever was greedy for wealth and prosperity would either offer their own child or kidnap someone else’s to feed their child with. In order to get this creature to serve you, one would had to go up to the top of a deserted hill, and promise to sacrifice a living baby” This was from a Malay woman in her 70’s and had grown up in Malaysia.

I would also like to add from another source, the following aspect regarding the legend of the tuyul:

“You keep them in a jar under your bed together with a bottle of blood, and you can ask for whatever you want. When you go to sleep at night, they go out and get whatever it is you want but because these are evil beings, they do it by mischievous ways, such as theft”

The many different versions of this story underlines the characteristics of a legend and how they vary not only geographically but from culture to culture.