Author Archives: Tara Moreno-Goodwin

The Good Samaritan

JW:This is a story of the good Samaritan. So it goes, a Jewish man was riding to another town on a horse when a robber beat and robbed him. Two different men rode by him and did not help him and left him there to die. But, a Samaritan rode by him and helped. Jews and Samaritans do not get along but the Samaritan still helped the Jewish man. And that is the story of the good Samaritan.

Background:The informant is a 19 year-old Catholic woman who has been attending Catholic since she was five years old for eleven years. The informant appreciates this peace because it gives her a more positive outlook on life and inspired to continue to be a good person everyday. The informant learned it from her Catholic school teacher when she was a young child, approximately six years of age; to this day she continues to remember and share this story from her childhood. 

Context:The informant verbally performed the story to me at the The Ronald Tutor Center on the main USC campus. The context of the piece is the informants Catholic school performed by the informants teachers throughout the years. The informant provided this performance as the first piece of folklore that came to their mind when we began our conversation. 

My Reflection: This is a biblical myth as it relays lessons/creation stories and has sacred truth to the person that is introducing the story. stories from this genre act usually as a way to teach a lesson, fundamental truths or major themes of the religion through the biblical figures that are sometimes repeated throughout other biblical folklore. This example does align with the genre’s purpose as the story’s plot leaves the reader with a lesson of equality and kindness exemplified by the action of the Samaritan who despite the societal differences and conflict betweens the Jews and the Samaritans acted in compassion and humanity. The informant identifies as Catholic and is also African American and Japanese. The performance chosen and shared conveys their identity by highlighting how biblical lessons and stories stayed significant to them years after originally being told the story. It also shows how they apply these fundamental truths to their own life and what they value. The story also communicated the shared values and  viewpoints of the folklore group as a whole, although others in the group may apply the lesson to different aspects of their life the main message remains consistent. For those who may have attended Catholic school and no longer identify with the religion and/or had negative experiences with the religion the story may not reflect the more positive lesson of the plot but may highlight the hypocrisy that tends to come with religious rhetoric. Although the lesson in the story is rooted in religion I think that one of the reasons that the story continues to be passed down aside from shared religious beliefs is the universality of the lesson as most will agree that kindness, compassion and equality should be taught and valued.

With laughter and tears come horns

NR:My parents would always tell me that if you laugh after your cry you would grow horns on your butt. So, growing up this motivated me to try and not cry and be sad because I had a fear of growing horns.

Me: interesting I’ve never heard this story do you know where they heard it from?

NR: They heard it from their parents back home in Korea when they were kids.

  1. Background: The informant talked about how it’s comedic because as a child you really believe it’s possible because you believe anything your parents tell you. Now grown up you remember being told that and all you can do is laugh. The informant also said they first heard it from their parents when they were four and reminded of it throughout their childhood. It’s something the informant will always remember because it did make them scared of growing horns but it’s funny now that it’s something they would joke about with future children. 
  2. Context: The informant verbally performed the story to me at Leavey Library.

The informant was told this story by their Korean parents as a child. The informant was specifically told it when they cried. 

  1. This performance is a folk belief/superstition which acts as a way to teach a lesson or sway the audience’s behavior. This particular example is trying to promote not crying and in a sense not being sad by presenting a scary outcome of growing horns out of your body as the folklore belief and story. The informant is a part of the folk group of Korean children who tend to hear this story (Another person who is Korean was present during the performance and also remembered the story from childhood). This performance being remembered and now passed forward reflects the informant’s identity by highlighting the unique Korean folklore that came from their parents, which came from their parents and so on. Also, the lessons taught in the text reflects the cultural beliefs and values surrounding emotion as well as storytelling which exemplifies the informants identity in how they were raised and how they continue to remember what was taught to them. I think other people in the same folk group could have interpreted this text in different ways. For example this informant found it scary growing up but now looks back at it with a sense of comedy but someone else may have never believed it and so never felt fearful when originally told it. I think the meaning of the folklore is impacted by the age of the audience and who the informant is for example I did not feel fearful of the story when I first heard it likely because of my age but would see how if the informant were my parent and I was a child it could cause genuine fear and belief in the lesson being taught. 

The rats and nails

CK: When I was younger my uncle would tell me a story that if rats ate your toenails or fingernails they would then transform into human clones of me.

Me: Wow, that’s really interesting. Do you know the meaning behind it or the message?

CK: It means no matter how insignificant the part of your body is you should take care of it, every part of your body matters.

  1. Background: The informant always thought it was a scary story so it stuck with them. They learned it from their uncle at a young age and continuously heard it throughout their childhood. It reminds the informant to take care of themselves and value their body.
  2. Context: Informants performed the folktale at the Ronald Tutor Center at the USC main campus. Korean folktale told by the informant’s uncle in their childhood while in Korea. 
  3. The performance is an example of a folk fable as it is a short story that teaches a lesson involving animals possessing human characteristics in the plot. The teller is a part of the Korean folk group as well as their personal family folk group which is reflected in this story as it was told while growing up in Korea by the informant’s uncle. I think because of the context of the story being usually told to children by adult figures in their life in order to teach a lesson of cleanliness and the care of one’s body that its impact and meaning both within the folk group and outside of the folk group would remain fairly consistent. The main message is conveyed clearly and concisely through the short description and also does so by employing some scare tactics with the use of rodents becoming your clone. It’s interesting to me that the use of a scary fable was used to teach a lesson of self care and I can see how this would be impactful to especially children folk groups who are told this at a young age. The performance highlights cultural values as well such as the way we present ourselves to society especially in physical appearance. 

The murder and blue eyes

1. AG:Okay, So this is like a ghost story. In A small town in Michigan it’s called Marcellus Michigan. My family has had a house there for like several decades, And so, basically when my grandfather was living at our cabin on a lake in Michigan. It was winter, and the lake froze over, and some of the people who lived on the lake would build ice fishing huts on the lake when it froze over. During the winter, and one of the man who did was found shot in the head, and he murdered his wife and shoved her in the ice fishing hole and her body was never recovered.  So my grandfather was sitting at the local bar, and one of his friends came in and said, John, you need to see this. And so he takes him to the carpet store in this tiny town where the back of the carpet store was also the morgue, because the carpet store owner was also the mortuary.

 And This man was out on the table, and my grandfather was like, yeah, like what is this?

 It’s just a dead body and the other man grabs the match box from his pocket, and my grandfather grabs it, opens up the match box, and 2 blue eyes are staring back at him because the man loved his wife’s eyes more than anything else, and before he shoved her in the ice fishing hole ripped them from his her skull.

ME: Oh, my God! 

AG:So the lesson is that if you go on the lake in the middle of the night, and you have blue eyes

you’re endangered of being pulled under by the woman missing her blue eyes because she wants to replace them.

ME: Oh, my gosh, Okay, Yeah, that’s a good one and Okay so, Why does it remain significant to you like where you always told it from your childhood? 

AG:Yeah, I was told this from my childhood. like, several times. Throughout my life. My dad, whose dad was the one involved in the story, would always like to tell it at night. When we were at our cabin, in Michigan, like sitting outside in front of the campfire, like right against the lake, and My brother and I both have like bluish green eyes, so he would always joke with us when we were younger that like Oh, like don’t go out on the lake in the middle of the night, because, like she’ll try to get you or something. And then it became a thing where, like my brother and I, we would have friends up there like we would tell them the story, and that was kind of fun.

ME: So do other people in your town know it?

AG: So it was pretty widely told, especially like right after, like the murder suicide happened.

Yeah like in the seventies. No, the sixties. And I don’t really know how widely said it is any more, because like a lot of people from that generation no longer like living. I know my 2 next door neighbors in Michigan know the story. Yeah. and like their families, know it. And anyone like that they have told. 

2. The informant verbally performed this piece over zoom. They specified its origins in Michigan specifically a small town there, the informant explained it to be a story within the family specifically shared by their grandfather and father growing up. The folk tale serves as a ghost story with both entertainment factor and also a lesson to children to be careful on the frozen lake because of this legend. 

3.The informant was told this Michigan specific folk ghost story/legend that incites fear of the frozen lake because of the haunting of the woman character. They talked about how it was passed on throughout the town for awhile but now since a lot of that generation has passed away it’s not as commonly shared although other family friends know and share it as well as their own family. 

4. My reflection: This is a regional specific Legend that acts to entertain and also warn/ teach of the dangers of the ice through the use of ghostly characters with bad intentions. I found this piece intriguing because of how specific it is to the small town in Michigan and to the tellers family. I would have never heard it if I had not known the teller personally as it seems confined to their town but still just as impactful to their folk group especially children in the town. I drew connections of this story to my own stories that were used to keep me away from specific lakes in my hometown in order to avoid a creature that lived at the bottom of it. Across folk groups stories, specifically legends and ghost stories, are used to teach children to be careful and weary of certain places that may be dangerous by causing fear through storytelling.

The Sailor Children game

 “Marinero que se fue a la mari mari mar, 

para ver que podia veri veri ver 

Y lo único que pudo veri veri ver

fue el fondo de la mari mari mar”

             Me:okay, if you’re ready for your second one

HV:Okay, So this one’s a little bit it’s a children’s game and it’s called Marinero que se fue a la mar, And okay, this one might be harder for you to like get written down, but i’ll try my best to explain it. i’ll give you the context first again, I don’t know if it’s specifically from Mexico but its in Spanish, so maybe some Hispanic country is the place of origin.  It’s played by children and then my mom taught it to me actually like I was a little bit older, so maybe like end of elementary school. middle school.  I didn’t play with my friends or anything but it was something that she played with her friends, and then once she taught it to my siblings, and I we would play with each other. But it wasn’t really something that like was passed down and so it’s… what is it called like hand games, like you remember, like Patty cake type of stuff. So maybe Paddy cake would be a good  American version of it. but I will type the lyrics in basically or actually, let me do the translation. So marinero is sailor who went to the sea that’s the literal translation. The song it goes “Marinero que se fue a la mari mari mar, para ver que podía veri veri ver Y lo único que pudo veri veri ver fue el fondo de la mari mari mar” Okay I will try my best to translate this. So the first part is the sailor that went to the sea, sea, sea to see what he could see. Okay so this is what’s interesting is mar in spanish and ver both mean sea. So its like sailor that went to the sea went to see what he could see and the only thing he could see was the end of the sea. So its a play on words when its translated. I hope that was a good explanation and I can show you how its done..

(Informant shows the hand motions that are done with the game including a series of claps and sailor saluting motion)

HV: Its usually played with two people and usually played by elementary schoolers.

Me: What do you think the significance is of it? Does that make sense?

HV: Yes! I honestly think, my mom and I were talking about this, I was interviewing her and she was telling me about a different game I actually did play growing up and I was asking her because I have a younger brother, “do you think that your youngest child knows this game or will know this game” and she was like “No” because children now just play on computers and watch television and so I think to me it just kind of shows people, older generations in my gamily they played outside and they played those kind of games. I’m grateful that like we were the generation that liek we were probably the last  kids that played outside adn that was the end and that’s so sad.

Me: Yeah its all IPad kids now…

HV: Exactly yeah and I feel like thats so valuable and something lost, and im not anti tenchonoly in schools but there is something lost in the physicality in children playing together. Also its a tongue twister, it rhymes and just goes to show how play, music and contact are really important when you are a little kid.

Me: Do you think you will pass it down?

HV: I hope my siblings if they do have kids they do and I would encourage it with future generations. Its also a language thing because like my brother struggles with Spanish a lot and I just think if kids knew a little more like the games and music it would be easier to keep the language.

  1.  Marinero que se fue a la mar is played by children. The informant was taught it at the end of elementary middle school by her Hispanic mother who played it as a child.The informant described it, and perfomaned it as a  hand game. They drew similarities to the game “patty cake”. The informant discussed how it shows older generations played outside and with one another compared to the way our current generations interact and play via technology. 
  2.  Informants performed the proverb over a video zoom call. The informant was taught this game verbally by her hispanic mother. Although the informant is unsure if its specifically from Mexico it was performed to them in Spanish and then performed to me in Spanish followed by translation. 
  3. My Reflection: This is a genre of folklore games which usually serves as a practice of entertainment, this example does that specifically for children. The teller belongs to the Mexican folk group which is highlighted in the sharing of this piece as it was taught and continues to be passed down in the Spanish language. For other children that learned it as a child who are in the same folklore group I think this piece would also be a reminder of their childhood and something that reflects their family and language similar to the informant who shared this piece with me. To others outside the folklore group I think once translated and given the context of where the game was taught they would be able to relate to it and find meaning by drawing connections of this game to other popular children’s games in their own folk group culture. For example, once the informant drew a connection between what was being taught and patty cake I further understood the purpose of the game because of my familiarity with patty cake (the purpose being an interactive, entertaining and language/movement based activity for children).