Author Archives: Juliette Kaplan


Children’s Play

Greased Pole Game:

This is a game in which a large pole of bamboo is erected, greased, and children take turns to attempt to climb this greased pole.

The informant described her experience playing this game on many different celebratory occasions.  This game requires a bit more preparation, and is not necessarily one that children could just go outside and play themselves.  The necessity of an adult presence to take all the necessary preparations made this a relatively special and much anticipated event.  The informant highlighted one particular festival where this game would be played, “every year in Abukay we would have this… sort of, 4th of July celebration, it was just an official fiesta to commemorate Abukay, there would be food and singing and dancing, a very catholic parade with all the nuns and accolades and everyone marching behind them with their veils over their heads and in there church dresses… but anyway, there was a  bunch of different activities for the kids to run around and do.”  The Greased pole was among these activities. The informant said that on the day of the festival the pole would be already set up usually by the people of the small town.  Once the pole is greased, it remains so for the entire day, allowing many groups and many children to have their turn throughout the day.  The informant said that yes, occasionally kids would go up themselves or with just a couple other friends, but usually it was done in a more organized fashion.  An adult would be there to chaperone, a group of kids would line up and take turns trying to get up the pole.  Those waiting, and others who would crowd around only to watch would yelp and cheer each other on throughout the process.

This game is a very simple, and resourceful.  It requires only a large bamboo pole and some kind of grease, typically animal lard, or now, the informant said that she thinks it is more common to use vegetable oil.  Like many games, this one uses materials that are always readily available, it requires no theatrics, no expensive gear, it is simply an innocent, village game that is very challenging and appeals to all children and people regardless of social class.  In the Philippines it is as universal as the children themselves,  for this I think it is particularly important to treasure such activities especially in a region like the Philippines and even in the Village of Abukay themselves, where there is such disconnect between  socio-economic class.  This is simple enough to where if is ripe for variation, rules may be added or taken away at any given point and in any given area, it includes anyone and everyone and serves as a mode to bring otherwise separated groups together.

Game – Philippines

Folk game- tradition

Greased Pig:

A live pig is covered in grease.  Children chase it around trying to catch it.

This is a variation on the Greased Pole.  It is played interchangeably with the greased pole on all occasions.  It too is a game that transcends the nation of the Philippines and can include children of all ages and regions.  I imagine it is a variation played in rural regions more frequently than the pole, simply because a pole is typically more accessible than a pig.  The informant described this as a very fun game, a chance to get dirty and, quite literally, act like a pig.  She described that this would be done right inside the pig’s pen, all the children would file in and flail about trying to grab and hold on to the pig.  She told me about this just after tell me about the greased pole, often both these greasy games were offered simultaneously, as was the case on the Abukay Commemorative celebration.

A slightly more aggressive variation, this game must have been very much a special treat.  It requires very few materials, simply pig, grease, and chaser.  It makes use of items readily available in a Filipino and shows a resourcefulness that we see in many games.  For example, throwing a ball through something is quite a simply concept that has led to fanatic industry and incomprehensible amounts of wealth.  Perhaps in the future, greased pig catching will evolve into something of a more sophisticated game.

Folk Belief – India

“ Cow, if you eat, hot will become of you”

In Hinduism, the cow is considered a very sacred and revered creature, so much so that those who follow this belief also tend to follow a strictly vegetarian diet.  Though in communities where those who follow this practice are mixed with those who do not, it is often useful to have a more simplified or at least practical justification for this practice.  Particularly in the case of providing a more explanation to and between naïve and curious children, a biological reason that reinforces the religious reason are two forces which combine to be very persuading.  The biological explanation is as follows:  because it is very humid in India, meat in general, which conveniently for this belief system includes that of cows, very often goes rancid.  Should one proceed to eat this bacteria infested meat, one will become sick with a fever.  Thus, this little superstition is a perfect compliment to the Hindu belief, simply a different means to the same end.

The informant did mention he began to hear this more frequently when he moved from India to the United States, where the eating of cow was much more prevalent.  In an environment where a child’s practices at home are very different from those he or she experiences elsewhere in his daily life, the fear of sickness evoked by this superstition would quickly eliminate much of the initial curiosity by the child to indulge in what the activities that surround him.

Tale – Korea

Gae ggol jang ee

“When we would go to sleep or something, my kmom would tell me a story and say, ‘do you want me to tell a story about a frog who is similar to you?’ and we would say,

‘yes!’ and then she would tell us this story.  Well this frog would never do what his mother told him to do.  He would never take out his trash when his mom would tell him do, when she told him to do his homework, he would just go outside and play… um, ya know, he had a couple siblings—which of course was my brother and they would always listen to their mom and grew up to be really successful but Gae ggol jang ee , the naughty one,  would never do what he was told.  Then one time, the mom was really sick.  So she like knew she was going to die and so she gave each sibling a task, like what to do, when she died.  To gae ggol jang ee, she knew he would not do what she wanted him to do so she told him to bury her by the river because she knew he would do the opposite .. instead of burying her on the hill or whatever…

so she died

and he finally decided to obey her.  and so the mud and the rain washed her a way and…

that’s why you should do what your mom says.  ISN’T THAT SAD!?”

This is the informant’s mother’s version of quite a common Korean tale.  For this informant, it was told only as a bedtime story, or upon request, for another informant it was read in school, for another she memorized and rehearsed this tale to recite for her extracurricular Korean classes.  After reading and hearing other versions of the tale, this variant is quite clearly pedagogically tailored by the informant’s mother to suit her particular purposes.  For example the specificity of the taking out the trash chore, and the running outside to play rather than doing his homework, and the model older sibling—these seem to be very particular to this family’s variation.  In hindsight, the informant is able to clearly recognize herself as the frog and her brother as the model older sibling, but in her youth admitted that she wrote them off as mere coincidences.

This tale quite mercilessly poignant.  The suggests the ultimatum, “obey your mother, or she will wash away in the river”—which seems a tad dramatic and deeply guilt-inducing, especially when compared to the fluffiness of American and western tales.  In addition to highlighting the value of obedience, a complientary element is the respect for elders.  The informant discussed the reality of these cultural values reflected in the tale by confirming that everything in her childhood for the honor and pride of her parents, to obey them, respect them and please them.  “Why do you think the Korean kids work so hard?  Because they’re worried that if they’re parents DIE or something they won’t be proud of them or they’ll die thinking about what a shame you were!”


I have attached a more formal version of the tale that can be found on this website:

Or in this book:

Suzanne Crowder Han, 1991, Korean Folk & Fairy Tales

And here is another, which I took from the PDF of what seems to be a standardized reading packet for elementary schools in a Washington State school district (I provided the text following the citation) :

Federal Way Public Schools, 2005, retrieved on April 24th, 2007,

Chung Kayguri, the Green Frog

A long long time ago in a small Korean village, there lived a little green frog

called Chung Kayguri with his old widowed Mother. Chung Kayguri loved his mother,

but was a troublemaker. He always did the opposite of what his old mother told him to

do. When his mother told him to go east, he went west. When she told him to do this, he

did that.

Momma Kayguri said, “Kaygul. Kaygul. (Ribbit. Ribbit.) It is very warm and

sunny today. Why don’t you go outside and play in the stream with your friends?

Kaygul. Kaygul.” So Chung Kayguri, instead of going with his friends to the stream,

went by himself to the hill.

The next day, Momma Kayguri said to her son, “Stay close to home today. I

heard there might be some snakes out there.” Instead of doing as his Momma asked,

Chung Kayguri went to his friends. “Kaygul. Kaygul. Let’s go for an adventure and

find some snakes.”

This kind of behavior went on and on. It was very frustrating for Momma

Kayguri. Eventually, she became ill. Even then, Chung Kayguri didn’t heed his mother.

She would ask him to speak softly, and do you know what he would do? That’s right, he

would yell loudly. Momma Kayguri’s health continued to decline. She became so ill

that she knew she would not recover.

Before she died, Momma Kayguri called her son to her bedside. “ When I die,”

she pleaded, “bury me by the stream. Please don’t bury me in the hill.” In fact, she


wanted to be buried in the hill. Knowing her son well, though, she requested the opposite

of her real wish.

“Kaygul. Kaygul. Momma, please don’t die. Kaygul. Kaygul. ” But it was too

late. Momma Kayguri passed away. Chung Kayguri was very sad and said to himself,

“Kaygul. Kaygul. My mother got ill and died because I never listened to her. I will grant

her last wish.” Chung Kayguri buried his mother by the stream, thinking he was finally

doing the right thing. Every day he came to her grave to pay his respects.

One summer day, a heavy rain called a monsoon arrived and continued for many

days. With all the rain, the stream began to flood and rose up to Momma Kayguri’s

grave. Chung Kayguri was worried that the rushing water would soon wash his mother

away. He cried aloud in a mournful call, “Kaygul. Kaygul. Mother is going to wash

away! Mother is going to wash away! Kaygul. Kaygul.”

Ever since then, that is why green frogs cry whenever it rains. That is why people

in Korea who do the opposite of what they are told are called Chung Kayguri.



Question: “what do lesbians bring on a second date?”

Answer: “a U-haul.”

The informant said she has both heard and told this joke on multiple occasions, by and among members of the Los Angeles gay and lesbian community.  She also noted that, “this is the kind of joke that’s reeeaaaallly funny when everyone’s drunk.”

The joke here is not a play on words.  The incongruity is appropriate not by logic, but by being such an exaggerated stereotype.  It is poking fun at the stereotype of women being over trusting, emotional and overly eager to commit, and therefore have a tendency to prematurely gauge the depth and seriousness of a relationship.  According to this joke, lesbians are ready to move in after just having met their partner just one date prior.

This joke could easily be varied by replacing “lesbians” with “women”, and would still have a similar effect, but because the lesbian relationship is stereotypically seen all the more wrought with drama, jealousy and bitchiness simply because there are only women involved, the female stereotype is more exaggerated with the use of the lesbian demographic, and thus the humor is more exaggerated as well.