Text This story, The Empty Pot, takes place in a town in China where the emperor was seeking a successor. The emperor organized a competition where every kid in the village received flower seeds, and whoever grew the most beautiful flower would be named the next emperor. Everyone was watering their plants and making them grow and everyone’s flowers were blooming except one. On the day of the end of the competition, this boy’s flower hadn’t grown at all and everyone else had these beautiful blooming flowers. Even though his seed hadn’t bloomed, he brought it to the emperor anyway. It turned out that the seeds the emperor had given all the children had been burnt, so they weren’t supposed to grow. Everyone else had grown these beautiful flowers because they did not use the seeds that they were given and cheated by using their own seeds. This boy then became the next emperor because he had been honest.
Context This was a story my informant (JL) and her brother were told by their parents when they were growing up. She said her parents loved story time in general and it was a large part of her upbringing. This story in particular stuck with her the most, largely because the characters were Asian but also because the lesson stood out to her.
Interpretation There’s a clear lesson in this story about honesty, in a creative format that can clearly stick with people throughout their lives. My interpretation of this story is quite similar to that of my informant. I enjoy seeing diverse representations of culture in the media that I consume, especially when it relates to my identity. I think, like my informant’s experience, that this story is a very easily digestible and successful way to teach children a valuable lesson through an engaging story.
Text Tinikling is a Filipino folk dance. Originating during the Spanish occupation of the Philippines, farmers would use bamboo traps to keep animals away from their crops. However, the Philippine tikling bird was able to bypass the traps and reach the crops, which is what Tinikling is said to be named after. This dance itself mimics the movements of the tikling bird and was also created to deter birds from the land. There is also another legend associated with tinikling. When the Spaniards had colonized the Philippines, the native Filipinos were forced to work on plantations. As the story goes, those who didn’t comply with the orders from the Spanish leaders had to stand between two bamboo poles while they were clapped together and thus injured their feet. So, the Filipino people would jump to avoid this pain, and this form of punishment turned into a traditional folk dance in the Philippines.
Context My informant for this story is my dad (VG), who said he remembers hearing the story and seeing Tinikling performed for the first time when he was a kid. The Filipino dance of Tinikling involves two long bamboo rods, at least six feet in length. Two people play the role of clappers while the dancers stand between the bamboo poles. The apparel of the dancers is often traditional Filipino clothing, for example, a Barong Tagalog for men. The dancers will step and jump while the clappers continuously clap the bamboo poles together according to the rhythm. My dad’s mom told him something about birds dancing or flying from branch to branch, and someone else had told him that birds were hopping to avoid bird traps.
Interpretation I’m curious about the possible origins. While both could be just as likely, it makes me wonder if they were both true but different sides of the same story, one more appropriate for younger audiences. Or perhaps one or neither is perfectly accurate, and stories and embellishments were developed to accompany the dance. Either way, Tinikling is an extremely impressive folk dance that requires lots of skill while also bringing Filipino communities together.
Text For this narrative joke, my informant is my older brother (SF). The “Drop Bear” came up in conversation when talking about going on a hike or exploring nature in Australia. My parents had mentioned their plans for the following day on the trip to which my cousin interjected and said, “watch out for the drop bears.” “The what?” my father responded. “The drop bears.” my cousin repeated, dragging on the anticipation of not expanding and letting other cousins and Australian family back him up. My cousin then explained, “yea, big angry bears that live in the trees and they’ll drop on your head.” Drop bears are a species native to Australia that most outsiders have never heard of. The warnings continue to even suggest bringing a helmet into the Australian forests.
Context My family, being from the US, was unfamiliar with this concept that is widely known by Australians, and had fallen for the joke. We were visiting our relatives in Australia when I was younger, and my brother had remembered the story. Though fallacious, drop bears have an extensive amount of detailed history and classifications. According to the Australian Museum, Drop Bears are carnivorous marsupials, “around the size of a leopard or very large dog with coarse orange fur with some darker mottled patterning,” ranging from “120kg, 130cm long, 90 cm at the shoulder.” My informant’s interpretation revolved around this story being a funny joke but not much more. He enjoyed the idea that this fooled his parents and aligned with his humor of subjecting gullibility.
Interpretation My interpretation of this story/species is simply a way to prank tourists for entertainment. It’s a harmless joke that catches newcomers looking up constantly and watching the trees. It’s incredible that the legend has become so developed, so much so that the animal has basically all of the classifications any real species would, including appearance, diet, habitat, and regional distribution. I would say this legend brings Australians together, as they essentially have a nationwide inside joke.
Text The “Round Tuit” is a circular, coin sized disk often made out of wood, but could be other materials, with the word “TUIT” printed or engraved. Sometimes they’re accompanied by additional engravings that say something along the lines of “This is a Round Tuit. Guard it with your life, as Tuits are hard to come by, especially the round ones. This is an indispensable item. It will help you become a more efficient worker. For years we have heard people say, I’ll do it as soon as I get a Round Tuit. Now that you have one, you can accomplish all those things you put aside until you got a Round Tuit!”
Context I learned about Round Tuits when I was a child, perhaps around 6 or 7, and barely understanding the concept. I discovered one laying around at my grandma’s house and asked what it was. My mom explained the idea, and told me how my grandpa used to own them and pull one out whenever someone would say, “I’ll do it when I get around to it.” We used to have one wooden one and one red plastic one, and for a while as a kid I would hold on to them in case I had the opportunity to give one to somebody.
Interpretation My interpretation of this folk object is that it’s merely punny humor in the form of an item and right up the alley of my parents and grandparents. I can see how an object like this would be a funny interjection in a conversation and could also even fall into the category of dad jokes.
Text Little Sally Walker is an interactive song/game that involves a group of people. Everyone arranges into a circle with at least one person in the center. The person (or people, depending how large your group is) in the center starts walking/skipping around the circle while everyone sings: “Little Sally Walker, walking down the street. She didn’t know what to do so she stopped in front of me, she said, hey girl, do your thing, do your thing, do your thing. Hey girl, do your thing, do your thing, do your thing, now switch!” When the song reaches “stopped in front of me,” the person in the middle will stop in front of any member of the circle and face them. This center person will then do a dance move, and the person on the edge will mirror this move, all while the group continues to sing, “hey girl, do your thing, do your thing, do your thing. Hey girl, do your thing, do your thing, do your thing, now switch!” The person from the circle now switches positions with the person in the middle, and becomes the new “Little Sally Walker” and the cycle continues.
Context This song/activity was a tradition at my childhood summer camp that I encountered in my first summer there in 2008, and repeated every year until my most recent summer (now working as a counselor) in 2022. Little Sally Walker always occurred on the first day of camp, once all the campers had arrived and it was the first official “icebreaker” of the 2-week overnight session.
Interpretation While I’m sure this jingle has deeper historical origins than I’m aware of, it seems to express values around interaction and engagement with others. As it requires nothing more than a group of people, it is able to be done anywhere. In the context of my camp, it was also a successful way of passing time or distracting campers until an event or activity starts.