Author Archives: Maisie Klompus

The Blood-Sucking Chicken

The informant tells the story of the Blood-Sucking Chicken from his hometown in Idaho Springs, CO.

Bloodsucking chicken

The story of the blood-sucking chicken seems to have been made up by neighborhood children/his brothers from when the informant was a child. There is always a fascination with the dangerous, the scary, and the unknown, all three of which seem to be embodied in the story of the blood-sucking chicken. The informant said that there were a lot of shanties in the mountains around where he grew up. These shanties,

dangerous, abandoned, and most likely forbidden by parents for exploration, are themselves a rich source for spooky/ominous folklore, particularly around children who love to create stories to fit the atmosphere of particular surroundings. The shanties also bring into play the differentiation in class between the informant and his childhood friends and the inhabitants of the shanties in that what their parents deemed unsafe because of socioeconomic standing could have been accepted as dangerous by the children for a completely different reason, seeing as class isn’t usually a big issue among children. So, the shanties themselves provide a backdrop of eeriness and danger, which is augmented by the ominous barn and its mysterious and monstrous contents.


I see the blood-sucking chicken itself as the children’s imaginative way to make sense of the dead animals that were found around the ominous barn: the appearance of dead animals around the barn was left unexplained by a voice of authority (that is to say, their parents), so the next logical and most exciting conclusion the children could come up with was that there was some kind of monster inside the barn. And, seeing as the children could easily hear the sounds of the chickens in the scary barn though they couldn’t see them, it fit that the monster was a blood-sucking chicken that would escape from its coop and terrorize the barn’s surroundings at night. And thus, the blood-sucking chicken was born.


Another great thing about the blood-sucking chicken and its barn is that going to the barn and hearing the blood-sucking chicken became its own type of legend quest practiced by that informant and his friends, because going to the barn would be a way to show their bravery and to defy the foe that they themselves had created.

The Canadian beer belly

‘He has a Molson muscle’

My informant, who is from Toronto, Canada, uses the term ‘Molson Muscle’ to describe someone with a beer belly. Molson is one of the most popular Canadian beers drunk in Canada, and so the idea is that in Canada, when someone has a beer belly, it’s the muscle that the man has grown from drinking so much Molson. My informant uses the term mostly around his family and other Canadians, because Molson isn’t a beer that is widely—if at all—distributed in the United States, so the joke would be lost on Americans.

Molson is also one of the cheaper beers you can buy—it is the Canadian Coors—so the folk metaphor is tied not just to Canadians on a whole, but also particularly to the more working class/lower socioeconomic citizens who would drink a lot of Molson, even though the metaphor is used for anyone with a beer belly. I see the folk metaphor as a way to show Canadian pride/nationalism because Molson is the quintessential Canadian beer, while also poking fun at the social class who drinks it most.

Arabic proverbs

Here’s a link to my informant saying the proverbs aloud in the original Arabic, then translating them into English: Arabic proverbs

il-‘ird fi 3ein ummu ġazaal

A monkey in the eye of his mother is a gazelle

Every child is beautiful in his mother’s eyes

This is a very old, and widely dispersed proverb with a terminus post quem of Aesop’s fables ( 620-564 BCE), with the story of Jupiter and the Monkey, in which Jupiter issued a proclamation to all the animals of the forest promising a reward to the one whose baby was judged the best-looking. The monkey came and presented her ugly little baby monkey as a contestant for the competition, and when the other animals started laughing at her, she said that she didn’t know if Jupiter would give her son the prize, but that, at least in her eyes, he was the most beautiful baby of them all.

The idea behind this proverb is that no matter how something seems or appears to an independent bystander, it will be cherished and appreciated/thought beautiful by those who love it. So, even if your child is ugly, you will think it the most beautiful because you love it, and it’s yours.


Ma illy jamal waleh hamel

I don’t have a horse or camel in this race

I don’t have an ulterior motive for trying to do this

This proverb also seen in English as ‘I don’t have a horse in this race’. The idea behind this proverb is that you don’t have vested interest in the competition—that is, you don’t stand to gain or lose anything by its outcome. For some, that may mean that you don’t really care or have an interest in it; for others, it may mean that you are able to be more impartial.

I can’t be sure if this is an Arabic appropriation of the English proverb, or if the proverb had its origins in Arabia, but the addition of the camel makes the proverb distinctly Arabic. Further, since Arabian horses are one of the oldest human-developed horse breeds in the world, possibly dating as far back as 2500 BC, and seeing as Arabia has been a horsing region for millennia, it’s quite possible that the proverb was actually Arabic in origin, and then adopted by other countries as they got horses and started racing.


Citation for the Jupiter and Monkey fable:




Jordanian Folk Remedy

During my informant’s year abroad in Jordan, her Jordanian host mother introduced her to a few herbal folk remedies including one with cinnamon. The informant had very bad cramps, and her host mother said that cinnamon would relieve her cramps and make her period come faster, which my informant found to be ‘completely true,’ and ever since then she’s used cinnamon for that very purpose.

Cinnamon has existed for centuries as an herbal remedy to various maladies, and is still in common use today. Often described as a ‘warming tonic,’ Cinnamon chases chills, dulls pain, and relaxes muscles, which are a few reasons for its soothing effect on menstrual cramps. Cinnamon has also been deemed a uterine stimulant, meaning that it stimulates the uterine muscles to contract, which can induce menstruation by causing the uterus to shed the uterine lining. This property of Cinnamon is also why it can be used in difficult deliveries due to inadequate contractions. Effectively a painkiller as well as a uterine stimulant, Cinnamon is essentially the herbal equivalent of many over-the-counter menstrual medications.


Thanksgiving song

So my extended family on my mom’s side, the Russian Jew side always gets together every thanksgiving, either in TX or Ca, depending on who’s turn it is to host. And I don’t remember this at all, but apparently when I was a little kid, about 4 years old, I have 5 cousins, and all of them are older than me, and we’re all adults now, but when I was 4 years old, my cousins goaded me into putting on this little musical for the family. And so I was acting as a Turkey, and my cousins would sing, ‘What you want for dinner?’ and I’d go, ‘Turkey!’ ‘Specially in November!’ ‘Turkey!’ and every year since then, my cousins ask me, ‘Hey, Misha, what you want for dinner?’ And if I’m in a good mood, I’ll say, ‘Turkey!’

Though the song is no longer practiced, the memory of the song has become folklore in its own right, making the song a family legend of sorts in the performance of the story about the song, though not the song itself. A bit of folklore that ties the family together in a unique way that other families can’t. a way to reflect upon the past and bring family together over past traditions and heritage. This call and response-type of interaction is their own way to celebrate thanksgiving in a unique, memorable way.