Author Archives:

Tough Love

Main Piece: “I brought you into this world and I can take you out”

Background Information: The informant said he constantly heard this from his mother when he was growing up as a middle schooler. The informant is African American and grew up in a rougher area of New York. The informant said this saying is typical in his community, and the main lesson is that you need to treat your mother with respect because she is the one that has given you the opportunity to be in this world. The informant describes this saying as comical but also an important saying in his life and community.

Context: In a gas station in Los Angeles

Thoughts: This saying may seem harsh for a young kid to hear from his mother, but after talking with the informant it seems to fit the informants culture and community. The informant lived in a predominately African American community in New York that was very rough; there were constantly robberies and murders and it was not typical for people to go to school. It seems that mothers try to get their kids attention and control in order that their kids would not fall into a bad path. This proverb seems to be a warning to kids to not misbehave or disrespect their mothers which in turn will help them in the long run. 



The Clown in the Kitchen

Main Piece: “ I had a weird experience like two years ago that really scared me. Two years ago my friend and I were in his house playing video games in his living room. It was like almost midnight and we were both getting kinda tired so I wanted to leave. As I was grabbing my stuff from his room I saw a shape of a clown in his window, and it just looked like it was just staring at me. Usually I don’t get freaked out by this stuff so I didn’t care. I went back downstairs and I noticed something was wrong with my friend. He looked white and like he was sick. When I asked him what was wrong he said he saw a figure that looked like a clown in his window in his kitchen and that it stared at him for like three minutes. After that I told him what happened and we both got so worried we each got kitchen knives to defend ourselves in his kitchen (informant starts laughing). I think since I started to believe there actually was a clown I started to hear things too, like girls laughing and stuff. I don’t know if there were actually girls laughing or if that was in my imagination. But after we had our knives we realized we were probably overthinking it and that it was a weird experience. I can’t lie though ever since then I have been scared of clowns.”

Background Information: The informant had this experience when he was nineteen at his friends house in San Diego. He said that this contributed to his fear of clowns and that his friend is also scared of clowns as well.

Context: During a walk with the informant in San Diego

Thoughts: This is different than a typical “ghost story” than I expected the informant to tell. This is because instead of a ghost, there is a clown. There has been a surge in the fear of clowns in the last couple of years, especially with movies like the IT, Clown, and 31. The fear of clowns seems irrational since they are usually linked with happiness and entertainment. It is interesting how clowns are becoming as scary as ghosts and why that is; maybe it is because clowns invoke a sense of uncertainty within us or because their facial expressions don’t make us happy or entertained. It will be interesting to see if there is a increase in clown folklore replacing traditional ghost stories.


Chinese Autumn Story

Main Piece: “ So there’s a story that’s called the Chinese Autumn Story. Basically, a really long time ago in China there were about ten suns in the sky. So, obviously because there were ten suns it was pretty hot and there was a drought. People were running out of water to drink and the crops in the rice fields were withering and in China rice is pretty important. But, a famous archer, his name was Hòu yì, was asked to shoot down 9 of the suns in the sky.  He did it successfully and was rewarded a “pill of the immortality.” Hòu yì went home and gave this pill to his wife, Cháng’é to keep safe. But, a visitor of the archer’s heard about this pill and wanted to steal it from his wife. As the visitor was about to steal the pill from her, the archer’s wife Cháng é swallowed it. After she took the pill she felt super light. Then she started to float and she flew all the way to the moon. When Cháng é got to the moon she coughed up the pill and the pill became a rabbit.  The rabbit was the only companion Cháng é (the Moon Fairy) had on the moon and is named the “Jade Rabbit.””

Background Information: The informant learned this story from his parents who were born and raised in Hong Kong, China. This story talks about how the Autumn festival is what it is today. The festival is time to enjoy rice and wheat with food offerings made in honor of the moon. It is still an occasion for outdoor reunions among friends and relatives to eat mooncakes and watch the moon, a symbol of harmony and unity. The informant describes the event as a massive gathering of friends and family.

Context: In a coffee shop in Los Angeles

Thoughts: The moon in this story seems to be symbolic for women as well. Moons are usually telling in that they correlate with a menstration cycle, so this moon story/goddess might be symbolic of that. It is also interesting that during the festival people eat mooncakes, which again is related to the idea of the moon and how this is important for females. In this story, the wife does not get punished for swallowing the pill which is different from other stories like Adam and Eve where Eve gets into a lot of trouble for trying the apple. This might suggest a difference in culture and also more high regards for women in Chinese culture.

For another version of this story see the book “Mooncakes” by Loretta Seto

Heungbu and Nolbu

Main Piece: “ This is one of the most well known stories in Korea it is about two brothers. Heungbu and Nolbu were brothers. Nolbu, the older brother was super greedy and annoying but his younger brother Heungbu was kind and the opposite. The day that their father died, they learned that he was ordered to split his fortune in half for each of them. Nolbu tricked Heungbu’s family and threw them out in order to keep the entire fortune to himself.  But Heungbu didn’t complain. One day Hengbu helped a bird get away from a snake. The next year the bird  came back and gave Heungbu a seed as a thank you present. Heungbu planted the seed in his backyard and found gold inside. Since gold basically means that you are rich they bought a new house and became very wealthy. Nolbu ended up finding out about this and met Heungbu and asked him how he became so rich so quickly because he was jealous. Nolbu heard the secret and did the same with the bird. The bird brought Nolbu a seed the next spring, and Nolbu planted it. But there were no gold and instead his life sucked because there were only elements of destruction, like no wealth and stuff like that so Nolbu and his wife lost all of their wealth. But they finally realized their mistake and asked Heungbu to forgive them and they all lived together happily ever after.”

Background Information: The informant learned this Korean folktale from her parents and she was also born and raised in South Korea. This story is important to her because it taught her that what goes around comes back around and that people who treat others with kindness will always win.

Context: In the informant’s apartment

Thoughts: This story is interesting because of the dynamic of the two brothers, and that this story is about family compared to other folk stories that I have collected that are about individuals. This might suggest that family is very important in the Korean culture, and values like kindness and being humble are important as well.


The River God

Main Piece: “My grandparents always use to tell me a story about Nyami a River God in Africa. Nyami was a God who usually was depicted as a snake like creature thing but no one actually knew his length.Legends has it that the water stains red when he swims past and that he can smell blood. A well known African chief saw him once but the river god has been in hiding since the white people arrived in the country. According to my grandparents he lived under a large rock close to the present day Kariba dam wall. No one would go near it because those who would were sucked down with their canoes in the whirlpools and never seen again. The lake that he lives in is said to be to separate him and his wife. However, my grandparents say that this has threatened the peace of the valley and this angers him.”

Background Information: The informant learned this story from his grandparents who are from Zimbabwe, Africa. The informant says this story affected the way his grandparents relatives lived in Zimbabwe, and this story has an effect on the way he sees nature. Because of this story, the informant says he has a deep appreciation for nature because everything has a spirit.

Context: In the informat’s house

Thoughts: This story displays the importance of nature and earth in the African culture, and this story seems to be a warning sign to those who try to cross the river. It is interesting to see how this story has affected those across generations like Justin’s grandparents and now him. It is also interesting that Nyami is feared rather than loved, and that people still respect him as a God even though he killed people who tried to find him which makes Nyami more of a powerful figure in African mythology and life.