Author Archives: Eryne Lagman

Jump Rope Rhyme – United States


Dressed in yella (“yellow”)

Went downstairs to kiss her fella,

Made a mistake,

Kissed a snake,

How many doctors did it take?

1, 2, 3, 4, etc…

Berna first heard this rhyme as a young girl on the playground at school.  She had become so familiar with the jump rope rhyme, that she recalls that she must have first heard the rhyme as a girl in her younger elementary years, probably around 2nd or even 1st grade.  Berna jumped to the beat of this chant while attending South San Francisco Elementary School sometime in the early 1990’s, in the Bay Area of California.  This rhyme occurs as such that the first six lines are chanted at the start of the jumproping.  The counting will then continue for as long as the jumproper can jump without messing up the rhythm of his/her jumping.

What I find interesting is that I, as a young girl, skipped and hopped to the same exact rhyme and used the same version, as a young elementary school girl in the early 1990’s, here in Southern California.  It is a marvel to see that such uniformity can be found in two such distinct areas as Northern and Southern California.  Though in the same state, these two geographical areas tend to appear as such different worlds: with different values, different lingo, and a different take on the “California lifestyle.”

To Berna, such a rhyme as this Cinderella one appeal to little girls because of its catchy nature.  The easy flow of the rhyme is extremely easy to memorize because it catches on so quickly.  In addition to that, I feel like the fact that the rhyme mentions Cinderella—a young girl’s role model; my personal heroine as a child—appeals to young girls worldwide.  To incorporate such a classic figure in literature and folkloric fairytales as Cinderella is sure to timelessly and universally grasp the attention of any audience.

Annotation: An original variation of this rhyme can be found in

Jump-Rope Rhymes

Natalie Park and Helen Park

California Folklore Quarterly, Vol. 1, No. 4 (Oct. 1942) p. 377

Published by: Western States Folklore Society

Märchen – Cameroon

Me papa me papa, Billy is dead

If you look in the pot, you see Billy’s flesh

Oh, me papa me papa, Billy is dead

Me papa me papa, Billy is dead

If you look in the cupboard, you’ll see Billy’s flesh

Oh, me papa me papa, Billy is dead

Me papa me papa, Billy is dead

As the father is coming from work in the morning,

He saw a bird that followed him

(Bird swallowed Billy’s heart)

And when he stopped the bird would sing to him, but he wouldn’t listen.

Then he stopped and listened to what the bird had said and decided to bring the bird home

On the way home father bought a fish and the butcher cut the fish and saw Billy’s ring in the fish’s mouth

When he got home he asked his wife (Billy’s step mom) where Billy went, his wife said Billy went to fetch water

Me papa me papa, Billy is dead

If you look in the pot, you see Billy’s flesh

Oh, me papa me papa, Billy is dead

Me papa me papa, Billy is dead

If you look in the cupboard, you’ll see Billy’s flesh

Oh, me papa me papa, Billy is dead

Me papa me papa, Billy is dead

Billy’s father knew she was lying and took a knife and cut the wife and took the wife’s blood and put it on the bird’s head and the bird became Billy.

The end.

My roommate Ayeetin, Ayee for short, first heard this Cameroonian song/story as a young child.  Her uncle, her father’s brother, originally sang the song and retold the story to her, when she was about four years old in San Jose, California.  She recalls sitting on her uncle’s lap as a young girl as he shared this morbid but educational tale to her.  The way this piece of folklore is performed is the following: the repeated verses are chanted, then the story of Billy’s father’s journey from work and his discovery is told, then the chant is repeated once more, and then the climactic ending is explained.

This story of Billy is a story designed for entertainment purposes to Cameroonian children.  It is part of the Cameroonian “Arabian Night” series, which is a collection of other pieces of Cameroonian folklore, similar in nature to this story of Billy.

As a young child growing up, Ayee was taught that this story is a testament as to how the truth can be revealed after death.  In that sense, this marchen tale also takes on the role of a proverb in that it essentially teaches a universal truth.  I feel as though this tale highly emphasizes the importance of being truthful by employing a bit of a “fear factor.”  By implementing such elements as death, and boiling flesh in a pot, this tale highlights the fact that in the end, the truth will prevail anyway.  Additionally, the tale employs some elements of Proppian’s functions: the journey that the father travels on from home to work; the trusty companion he gains—the bird who gives him the tip; and the conniving stepmother.

Annotation: This tale can be found in its original form in

The Crystal World

J.G. Ballard

New York: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux (1966)

Traces of elements in this marchen can also be found in

Papa’s Daughter

Dorothy Ahmad

The Drama Review: TDR, Vol. 12, No. 4, Black Theater (Summer 1968), pp. 139 – 145

Published by: The MIT Press

Myth – Hawaii

The story of Hawaii’s native volcano goddess, Pele, is a common tale, known to anyone native of the islands of Hawaii or anyone who is a frequent or even first-time visitor to the beautiful Aloha State.  Pele is the volcanic goddess who continues to find her home, to this day, in the Halema’uma’u crater on Mt. Kilauea, one of the world’s most continuously active volcanoes, which is located on the Big Island of Hawaii.  There are many tales surrounding the legend of Pele.  Essentially, Pele is the volcano goddess who is, in essence, the most revered mythological figure throughout all of Hawaii.

Izach shared a common rule with me, regarding the mystical Pele.  In Hawaii, whether you are on the laid-back and somewhat secluded Big Island or on the popular island of O’ahu, if you pass an old lady on a highway or on any given street, you must pick her up.  That old lady is Pele in human form.  The old lady will appear as though she is in need of help, and, as a rule, you must help her out in any way she requests.

My family and I are frequent visitors of the islands, and on one particular trip to the Big Island, we heard many stories of Pele while we were on our tours.  One in particular stood out to me.  There was a young couple who lived in an area near the foot of Mt. Kilauea.  One fateful day, they heard a knock at their door.  It was an elderly woman, asking to come in.  Seeing an old woman in need of help, they let her in and entertained her.  She sat with them, dined with them, and interacted and conversated with them.  The old woman then proceeded to ask if she could use the restroom.  They let her into their bathroom…. and the old lady never came out.  They came to the realization that there was no one in the restroom any longer.  It was then that they realized they welcomed the volcano goddess, Pele, into their home.

On a similar note, unrelated or related to Pele, Izach’s brother shared a story with him.  A friend of Izach’s brother, who reigns from the island of O’ahu, was in the restroom to take a shower.  He stepped out of the shower into his hot and steamy bathroom with a fogged-up mirror.  Looking through the haze in the mirror, he noticed a figure standing behind him: it was a man, who was clad as a native Hawaiian warrior, complete with tribal tattoos, and obviously not from the current time period.  Unable to believe the image reflected back to him, he looked behind him and saw no one standing there.

Izach, as a native of Hawaii grew up to naturally revere Pele in the deepest regard.  I feel like the Hawaiians’ view of Pele perfectly highlights the way in which they highly value their culture and respect the laws of their land.  They hold Pele in the highest regard, in the same way in which they revere other natural elements of their beautiful islands, such as the sacred ocean or the majestic mountains.

Annotation:  More about Pele and traditional rituals and beliefs regarding the volcano spirit, Pele, have been documented in

Behavior and Beliefs during the Recent Volcanic Eruption at Kapoho, Hawaii

Roy Lachman and William J. Bonk

Science, New Series, Vol. 131, No. 3407 (Apr. 15, 1960), pp. 1095 – 1096

Published by: American Association for the Advancement of Science

Legend – Philippines

The Filipino culture is chock full of folklore.  The legend of the Manananggal is, by far, one of the most widely known and one of the most frightening.  A good friend of mine from UC Irvine, Derrick Yanga, shared his personal interpretation of the Manananggal.  According to Derrick, he Manananggal are “monsters” that are disguised as beautiful women by day.  But at night, their upper torso separates from their lower body.  They fly through the night and go to people’s houses., in which pregnant women are living.  They have incredibly long tongues, so that they can eat the unborn children in the expecting mothers.  The only way to kill the Manananggal is to put salt on their lower bodies so that they can’t attach themselves again.  Also, according to Derrick, he believes that the Manananggal die during the day if they are exposed to sunlight.

Derrick first heard of the legend of the Manananggal as a young boy visiting the Philippines.  Derrick was about thirteen when he first heard this story on this particular visit to the Philippines.  His uncles were sharing the story to him and his cousins, in an effort to try to educate the young kids, and simultaneously scare them.  Derrick, as many other native Filipinos, believes firmly in the legend of the Manananggal.  Due to the heavy supernatural activity that occurs in the Philippines, things of such a nature do not come as much of a surprise to Filipinos.

According to official sources, the Manananggal are, in fact, beautiful women by day.  Men flock to them, and, in turn, these adoring men are then “recruited” and turned into their consorts who guard their queens fanatically, especially when the inanimate bodies of the beautiful Manananggal are most vulnerable: at night.  In Tagalog, the main dialect of the Philippines, the word Manananggal more or less means “self-remover.”  The reason for this is that, at night, the Mananggal, whose bodies are hour-glass shaped with incredibly narrow waists, twist their bodies around so much and so tightly that their upper halves detach themselves from the rest of their bodies and they then travel with their arms transformed into wings, and their internal organs hanging from their severed torsos.  A telltale sign that you are in the presence of a Manananggal is the smell of vinegar.  Vinegar is a fluid that preserves their ghastly parasitical cohabitation with their daytime body.  Like Derrick mentioned, the Manananggal prey on the unborn fetuses in pregnant women’s bodies, by overextending their incredibly long tongues.  Also, as Derrick mentioned, salt is the key in killing and defeating the Manananggal.  However, the only way to kill them is to first get past their adoring male companions, who guard and protect the separated lower halves of their bodies.  Moreover, if the Manananggal cannot reunite with the lower half of her body by sunrise, she dies.  The salt prevents the two halves from rejoining.  The Manananggal are subjects, in a way, or a different version of the Aswang, which are perhaps the strongest and most powerful supernatural, transformational, corpse-loving group of beings in Filipino folklore.

Annotation: More on the Manananggal can be found in

Ghostwise: A Book of Midnight Stories

Dan Yashinsky

august house 1997, pp. 34 – 39

Legend – Japan

The Japanese—similar to my people, Filipinos—employ a lot of folklore and supernatural myths in their culture.  My good friend, Amina, who was raised in Japan, though originally born in Kuwait, shared with me the story of the Kokeshi Dolls.  Kokeshi dolls resemble young girls in Japan from ancient times, who used to play with these very dolls.  Back in their time, the young girls would play with small dolls, keeping them as constant companions by their sides—the Kokeshi dolls.  These young girls from yesteryear are now the Shakiwarshi, which are little girl ghosts.  These Kokeshi dolls, being from ancient times, hold significant meaning to the Japanese people.  Essentially, the dolls inhabit the spirits of the young girls; they are possessed by the Shakiwarshi.

These dolls, being possessed by supernatural forces, have been observed to have such tendencies as cry with tears of blood, or even tear the regular salt-water tears.  The long black hair of the Kokeshi dolls has even been said to continue to grow on their own.  Since the Japanese value the sanctity of their ancestors, and believe that if they are to rid themselves of a Kokeshi doll that that doll would haunt them, are very careful in the ways in which they choose to disregard themselves of the Kokeshi.  Rather than just completely disregarding the dolls, they are usually given away to shrines so that they can still continue to serve some purpose.  If careful measures are not taken in ridding of a Kokeshi doll, the doll may very well curse and haunt the last possessor.

In Japan, in households that housea lot of children, there are normally several Kokeshi dolls who are just looking for a youthful companion.  Normally, they are harmless and merely just want someone with whom to play.  The Kokeshi play with mari, which are little bouncing balls.  As the Kokeshi bounce these balls, they even tend to sing little songs, chants of some sorts, all the while.  The sound of the bouncing ball and the echo of a small, distant chant are tell-tale signs that a Kokeshi is in your presence.  The Kokeshi appear in doorways of households, just looking for childhood companions.

Amina feels as though she had had an encounter with the Kokeshi when she were younger in Japan.  When she was about four years old, at her grandparents’ house—the house in which her mom grew up—in Japan, Amina recalls hearing the sound of bouncing balls as she climbed the stairs.  She saw a small person’s shadow, and heard the sound of a ball, but did not hear any of the accompanying chants or laughs that normally come with a Kokeshi doll.

It seems as though the Japanese people are not so much scared of the Kokeshi dolls, but that they highly recognize the supernatural beings in their culture, as well as respect the past and respect their elders—which is very characteristic of such cultures, specific to Asia, as the Chinese and Japanese culture.  The Kokeshi seem to be a friendly, if anything, aspect of their folkloric culture, and should not be seen as a frightening threat.