Derek: Whats the most confusing day in Harlem?
Me: I dont know, what day?
Derek: Fathers Day
Derek told me this joke but before doing so he gave a disclaimer warning me it was racist and that he learned the joke from a friend here at USC. Folklore in the form of jokes can reveal a great deal about a culture because knowing what a culture thinks is funny helps one better understand a particular culture. In a way jokes are a significant window into a specific culture. If you look at jokes in a Freudian way it can be said that jokes offer an outlet for people to express or explore things that are not normally or socially acceptable to talk about such as aggression, sexuality, stereotypes, etc. This joke in particular is a racist joke based on stereotypes. It is implying that black people have many illegitimate children, or children out of wedlock. This is implied through the joke, because having an illegitimate child or being one could make a holiday like Fathers Day confusing if you did not know who your father because he is not married to your mother. Also, the joke set in Harlem, which is a predominantly black neighborhood. The telling of these types of jokes are pretty common and popular which could be because it does express something that is in a way forbidden or at least not acceptable to talk casually about in the real world such as racial stereotypes. But like Derek, most people give a disclaimer before or after the telling of the joke saying that the joke is not theirs, but they heard it from a friend or a friend of a friend (FOAF). This is suppose to excuse them from the fact that they are telling an offensive joke but they should not be held accountable for it because it is not their joke and they are therefore not racist. In a way these types of jokes could be seen as an anti-authority lash back because we are constantly being taught and told that you cannot judge people based on their race or assume something about a person based on racial stereotypes.
Derek: What do you call a wave that crashes on a really tiny beach?
Me: I dont know, what?
Derek: A microwave
Derek told me this riddle that he said he learned from a friend. The riddle makes use of a pun, or play on words ad double meanings of words. Derek said that this riddle was sort of lame but he still smiled when we told me the riddle and it made me smile. I think that riddles and jokes no matter if others label them as lame or not are worth telling especially if it can put a smile on someones face or make them laugh even just a little bit. I believe others must feel this way as well, or at least agree that even lame riddles and jokes are worth telling otherwise one would never hear or tell these lame riddles and jokes.
Riddles and jokes are also important in folklore because they offer significant insight and understanding into the culture from which they were taken. This is so because if you understand the joke or riddle you probably understand the culture as well. In this case, one would have to understand the English language because it involves a pun, or play on the double meaning words.
My friend Alex told me this Chinese tale that he learned from his grandmother. Alex said there was this couple who lived in a house and a mother who lived with them. The mother loved eating carp, but the nearest stream was 5 miles away. The water from the stream was so fresh the children always brought this water for their grandma to drink and for her to cook the carp in. Every morning at 5AM, they would go catch four or five carp and bring back buckets of water to cook for their mother and grandmother. They did this every day for two or three years. Then one day, one of the rocks cracked in their yard and out came a stream of water and carp. Alex said that the stream with the water and carp appeared in their yard because God was saying thank you for taking care of their elders and now they didnt have to go far for the carp or forther water that was as sweet as that from the river.
Alex said that he heard this folktale from his grandmother who used to tell it to him when he was younger. According to Alex the Chinese culture is very family oriented and that is illustrated in the folktale as the children go to great lengths to do something kind for their parents and to take care of them. In the story the children are rewarded for the kindness and care towards their parents. But Alex emphasized the point that the children did not know they would be rewarded for this, so they did it of their own accord, not because they had incentive behind it.
I think like many cultural folklore, the meaning and understanding of it reveals much about the morals, values, and beliefs of a the culture. Like Alex said, this folktale exemplifies the dutifulness of the children to their parents which could be indicative of the great respect honor that is paid to elders in the Chinese culture. It also demonstrates the religious side of the culture that obviously feels that God will reward those who are deserving accordingly.
Issun Boshi – Little One Inch
My friend Mikey told me this Japanese fairytale and said his mom used to tell it to him sometimes as a bed time story when he was a little kid. The story is called Little One Inch, which translated into Japanese is Issun Boshi. I asked Mikey to tell me the story and he said that there was a married couple with no children so one day they went to a shrine and prayed for a child of their own. Then on their way home they heard a baby crying in the grass and found a small baby boy wrapped in a blanket. They were so happy that their prayers had been answered they took the boy home and raised him as their son. But the boy was very tiny, he was bout the size of a persons thumb so they named him Little One Inch. When Little One Inch grew older he told his parents he was very thankful for them but he wanted to go out in the world and make his own fortune. His parents tried to tell him he was too little but Little One Inch eventually convinced them to let him go out into the world on his own. To prepare him for his journey they gave him a rice bowl to use as a boat, a chopstick to use as a paddle and a needle to use as a sword. So Little One Inch set off on his journey down the river in his rice bowl. But his bowl was soon overturned by a frog in the river that hit it. But Little One Inch was able to swim to shore and found himself in front a great castle. Little One Inch went to the front of the castle and called out for someone. A man servant came at first could not even see Little One Inch standing in front of him. He was so surprised when he saw the boy he went to go get hid lord. Little One Inch told the lord he came to seek his fortune and asked that he let him be a guard in his castle. he said that he maybe little but he could fight fiercely with his sword. The lord was very amused so he let Little One Inch stay in the castle and play with his daughter the princess. Little One Inch and the Princess played everyday and became very good friends. Then one day when they went to visit a nearby temple a demon appeared and tried to get the princess. Little One Inch tried to attack the demon with his sword but the needle did not even penetrate the demons toes. So Little One Inch climbed up the demons body onto his arm and waved his sword. This made the demon angry so he opened his mouth and roared. When the demon did this Little One Inch umped into the demons mouth and began to cut is tongue with his sword. This hurt the demon so much he spit Little One Inch out and ran away also dropping his magic hammer in the process. The princess picked up the hammer and said now we can make a wish, and she wished that Little One Inch would grow taller. She shook the magic hammer and Little One Inch began to grow until they were both the same height. They were both very happy and so was the lord when her heard what happened. The Princess and Little One Inch then got married and lived happily ever after.
Mikey said his mother and his grandmother used to tell him this fairytale sometimes when he was younger. He says hes not sure why he remembers this particular story, he just does. I think he was probably told this story as a way of creating somewhat of a cultural identity and creating some ties to his Japanese heritage/descent. Because is Japanese, Issei means first generation and usually means the generation of Japanese people born in Japan that perhaps immigrated to another country such as the United States. The second generation is called Nissei, the third generation is Sansei, and the fourth generation is Yonsei. Mikey is fourth generation in his family, as am I. I know that because my parents are Sansei and I am Yonsei we partake in much less traditional Japanese customs compared to my grandmother and compared to how my grandmothers raised my parents. Therefore, as the traditional Japanese customs and culture seems to be less and less with each generation I think these little pieces of Japanese folklore help create a sense of cultural identity and become increasingly significant and important. This could explain why Mikeys mom and grandma told him this fairytale and could also explain why he remembers this specific story; the strong cultural ties and meaning behind it. This fairytale can be found among many other popular Japanese folktales in Florence Sadakes book Japanese Childrens Favorite Stories on page 60. These folktales are all translated and written in English.
Little One Inch fits Propps 31 Funtions very nicely. The story starts with a lack, as the married couple is without children or a child that they so desperately want. Then the lack is fulfilled and the audience is introduced in the storys hero, Little One Inch. Little One Inch grows up and eventually decides he must go on a journey and venture out into the world, which is the departure from home in Propps functions. Then of course the hero must meet obstacles along his journey, such as having is ice bowl boat over turned by the frog in the river and having to swim to shore. Next in sequence is the meeting of the villain, which is the demon that Little One Inch and the Princess encounter in the nearby temple. There is a struggle, which is the fight between Little One Inch and the demon. Little One Inch had to be clever about in defeating a demon so much larger than himself in size. Finally victory over the villain by the hero, who returns home or in this case to the castle and marries the girl or princess of the story. It is very interesting to see how Propps functions can be followed by many folktales from many different cultures.
Annotation: Sadake, Florence. Japanese Childrens Favorite Stories. Vermont: Tuttle Publishing:2003.
Derek: What do you do when your dishwasher stops cleaning?
Me: I dont know, what?
Derek: Hit her
Derek told me this joke but before doing so he gave a disclaimer warning me it was sexist and that he learned the joke from a friend. Folklore in the form of jokes can reveal a great deal about a culture because knowing what a culture thinks is funny helps one better understand a particular culture. In a way, jokes are a significant window into a specific culture. If you look at jokes in a Freudian way it can be said that jokes offer an outlet for people to express or explore things that are not normally or socially acceptable to talk about such as aggression, sexuality, stereotypes, etc. This joke in particular is a sexist joke based on older gender stereotypes in which women were strictly confined to domestic chores. In this particular joke when Derek said dishwasher what came to my mind was dishwasher in the sense of the actual electric appliance that you would purchase at a store. However the punch-line implies that women are dishwashers and if they dont stick to their domestic duties it is okay to physically abuse them. The telling of these types of jokes are pretty common and popular which could be because it does express something that is in a way forbidden or at least no longer social acceptable viewpoints about gender and gender roles in society. But like Derek, most people give a disclaimer before or after the telling of the joke saying that the joke is not theirs, but rather that they heard it from a friend or even a friend of a friend (FOAF). This is suppose to excuse them from the fact that they are telling an offensive joke but they should not be held accountable for it because it is not their joke and they are therefore, in this case not sexist.