Author Archives: Kaitlyn Prado-Barker

Brian O’Donnell

The following is a story about an Irish legend.  The informant is represented by the letter S, and I am represented by the letter K.

Piece:

K: Tell me more of the Irish folklore you know about.

S: So, uhm, another story I’ve heard is – uh – about a man named Brian O’Donnell and uh, it was Halloween night, which is called Samhain, and that’s when the fairies uhm, move from their winter homes to their summer homes – or uh, their summer homes to their winter homes, sorry.  And uhm, when- when they do this- the trouping fairies- when they do this, they’ll usually take somebody into their fairy fort, so that they can make them dance for them, basically.  They dance and dance until the kind of, fall over and die, I don’t know. So, uh, the story goes that- uhm, Brian O’Donnell was wanting to see the fairies or something and uh- uhm he sees them – No!- he sees the fairy fort and he hears them and he goes in and he sees fairies talking about the night of drinking and dancing they’re gonna have, uhm, after they- they bring this girl back. Uhm, so he knows that he can’t just sit around and wait, so he goes and he waits outside the fairy fort for the fairies to come with the girl and when he does, he grabs- he grabs the girl from the fairies and he holds her and he’s saying, “God bless you! God bless you!” ’cause the fairies won’t come near you if you say “God bless you.” Uhm, but one of the fairies turns and slaps the girl, and uhm, gives her the fairy stroke, so from that point on she couldn’t talk. So she couldn’t tell Brian where she lived or where she came from. So, he took care of her for a year, and then, uhm, he knew that the next Halloween, he would have to do something. So he went back to the fairy fort, and he hears, uhm, the fairies talking and saying, remember that night of drinking and dancing we were gonna have, but that Brian O’Donnell, took that fun away from us. Uhm, but we gave her the old fairy stroke, so she can’t tell him anything anyway. But then, he hears them say, “if she only had three mouthfuls of that food on the table right there, she’d be- she’d be telling him everything.” So, he doesn’t hesitate and he runs, and he grabs the food, and he gets out of there and he takes the food back to his house and uhm, the girl takes a mouthful and she starts laughing. She takes another mouthful, and she’s laughing more.  By the third mouthful, she’s able to fully talk and so, uhm, she starts telling him where she lives and how to get there and so, they set out on foot, they didn’t have any horses. And it was about a 2 day walk to where she lived, and uhm, they knock on the door and her dad answers the door, and he passes out from shock because they thought they lost her, but eventually after, he hears the story, and he says, “Brian O’Donnell, you obviously love my daughter very much and uh, I would like to give your blessing for marriage.” So, they end up getting married and there we go.  The end.

Context:

We were sitting at a dining room table on Easter Sunday.  We had just eaten dinner and celebrated the holiday.  We were sitting around and just talking and sharing stories and folklore that we knew about.  The informant is my friend’s younger sister, so she lives at the home we were at and she was sitting with her friend, with me, her brother, and our other friend sat across from them.

My Thoughts:

This legend acts as a kind of heroic model for children, in my opinion.  In a lot of tales, we see characters being brave and heroic which is meant to inspire kids to grow up as courageous young adults.  I think this legend is similar in idea.  One thing I thought was really interesting, in terms of context, is that when the informant was telling me this story, her brother was sitting nearby and before she told me the legend, he said he didn’t think she should tell me because he thinks it’s a real story.  This made me think of the discussion about how different legends are so much more believable depending on where you come from.  I remember discussing that to a lot of Americans, aliens are 100% real, but in other cultures, they’re a complete myth.  In Irish culture, fairies and leprechauns have a large number of believers, but in America, fairies and leprechauns are mythological creatures.  I thought this was so interesting to witness first hand.  Regardless of whether this legend is real or not, though, I thought it was super interesting and definitely serves to act as a model of bravery with hidden religious undertones, which we see with the “God bless you” acting as a safety technique against fairies.  Another piece of context that actually kind of freaked me out a bit was right before the informant got to the part where she said, “God bless you,” one of the other people sitting at the dining room table sneezed, which was super coincidental, but kind of weird in terms of the context.

Anansi Tales

The following is a tale from Jamaica.  The informant is represented by the letter T and I am represented by the letter K.

Piece:

K: Tell me about some of the folklore you learned growing up.

T: Growing up in Jamaica, my mom used to tell us stories about Anansi, who was a spider.  He was a pretty popular character in a lot of stories.  One of them was about Anansi and a snake.  In that story, there was Tiger, who was king of the forest and had a bunch of stuff named after him, and… Anansi, on the other hand, was a nothing and nobody.  All- all the other animals would make fun of Anansi while they called Tiger the bravest and the strongest… So, one day, Anansi got sick and tired of it all and he… met Tiger in the forest, and he said to Tiger, “Hey Tiger, you have it all. Can you just let me have one thing named after me?” The Tiger wanted to ignore Anansi, but he said to him- because he was curious- so, he asked him, “what is it that you want to have your name, Anansi?” And so, Anansi answered him that he wanted the stories to be called, “The Anansi stories,” instead of the Tiger stories.  So… Tiger didn’t want to give up the name of the stories because he loved the stories, but he wanted to have a good laugh, so he told Anansi that if he could do one small thing for him, then he would let Anansi call the stories the Anansi stories or anything else that he wanted to call them.  So… Anansi didn’t like the sound of it, but he asked Tiger what he would have to do.  Tiger said he wouldn’t have to do anything hard, all he had to do capture Snake by the end of the week. So, of course, Anansi was scared because Snake was very very big, while Anansi, being a spider, was very very small.  So, but- Anansi really wanted to have the stories named after him, so he said that he would do it. So, all the other animals were listening into the conversation and they started laughing. So, Anansi went home worried, but he was thinking about what he could do to capture Snake. So Tiger and Anansi had reached the agreement on Monday and the next day Anansi went down the trail, where he knew Snake always went down, and he cut down a large noose from a strong line and put some of Snake’s favorite berries in it. And, he hid in the bushes, holding the other part of the vine, so that when Snake came along, he would be able to tighten the noose and capture Snake. But when Snake came along, he saw the noose around the berries, so he put his weight on the vine and reached in and grabbed the berries quickly, and Anansi tried and tried, but he couldn’t pull the vines to close the noose because the snake’s body was too heavy.  So the next day, Anansi went further down the trail and… he dug a pit in the ground.  And inside the pit, he put some bananas, but then he also put some grease around the pit, so that when Snake went to get the bananas, he would fall into the pit.  So, when Snake came along the path, he saw the bananas and he wanted to eat them, but he also saw the grease in the pit, so he wrapped his tail around a tree trunk and then reached into the hole with his head and ate the bananas, and then when he was done, he unwrapped his tail and went away.  So, the NEXT day, Anansi made a trap out of some sticks and he put some mangoes inside and when a piglet came along, he went in for the mangoes and Anansi closed the trap behind him.  So… he had figured that… Snake would see the piglet and that he would be able to get into the trap through the spaces he had left in the trap, but he wouldn’t be able to get back out once he had eaten the piglet.  However, when Snake came along… and the piglet saw him, the piglet got so scared that he went crazy and he started squealing and he went berzerk and then he started smashing the trap into pieces and then he ran away as quickly as he could so that Snake didn’t even get a chance to eat him. Sooo, the next day, it was the end of the week, and Anansi was out of time, so he went directly to Snake’s house and sat outside looking all dejected, and Snake came out and he said to Anansi, “boy, you’re bright.  You’ve been trying to catch me all week and now you show up in my yard?” So Anansi looked at Snake and was like, “yeah, it’s true, but I’ve been trying to catch you for a worthy cause. All of the other animals are talking behind your back.” So, of course, Snake was curious and he said, “well what are they talking about? what are they saying?” and Anansi said, “well, I shouldn’t really be telling you, but they say that you believe that you’re the longest thing around and that you’re the mightiest and… and.. God’s gift to longness, when even the shortest bamboo is longer than you.” So Snake was MAD. So he said, “measure me Anansi! Get the longest bamboo you can find and show those animals that I am the longest thing around here.” So… Anansi said to Snake, “well Snake, there’s a problem.  You look longer than the bamboo, but how do I know that when I go up by your head, you’re not stretching to look longer and then when I go down by your tail, you’re not shifting down on that end.” So… Snake said to Anansi to tie him up if he didn’t believe him. So now all the animals were gathering around in curiosity to watch what was gonna happen. So, Anansi ties Snake’s tail to the bamboo with some lines and then told Snake to stretch and so… Snake stretched and then Anansi quickly tied his head to the pile and tied his middle up.  Now all the animals that were watching went silent because Anansi said that he would capture Snake and he did, so now all the animals were no longer laughing at him.  And then from that day on, all of the stories were called Anansi stories.  The end.

Context:

This took place in a hotel room at the Ritz-Carlton in Downtown Los Angeles.  The informant was sitting on the bed, watching TV while playing games on her iPad.  Her husband was walking around the room getting ready to go to sleep.  I was sitting next to the informant and asked her if she had any folklore she learned growing up.

My Thoughts:

This tale clearly has a few “lessons” or “teachings” and is intended for children.  The informant learned this when she was quite young from her mother.  From this tale, we can see that one of the large meanings, depending on perspective, is either to never judge someone’s capabilities based on appearance or to never give up just because something seems too hard to handle.  With all of the animals assuming that Anansi can’t capture Snake, just because he’s little, it’s clear that there’s this idea of great power within something so small. Hearing this as a child, you’re prompted to believe that you have great capabilities within you, despite being so young.  The story also has some undertones of not being too cocky because if Snake hadn’t felt the need to show off his longness, then he never would have been captured, and if Tiger had never assumed he was putting Anansi up to a task he could never complete, then he wouldn’t have lost the title of the stories.  I think this tale is really adorable and there’s a lot more like it that come from Jamaican culture.

French New Year Traditions

The following is a piece from a friend whose parents are French immigrants.  I am represented by K and the informant is represented by I.

Piece:

K: Go ahead and tell me about your tradition.

I: So, in January, the start of the new year, there’s a tradition called Gallete du Roi, which translates to… uh, King’s Cake… and… one person will start by hosting a party in which… uhm, we make dinner, and you invite your group of friends over, and then you make the King’s Cake, which is usually almond paste and phyllo dough on top, with a little ceramic baby Jesus or baby Mary or baby lamb or something inside, and then… uhm… you cut the- you cut the pie, and the youngest person at the party like goes under the table or hides or something, and they dictate who each piece goes to.  So it’s … non…biased.  And then… uhm.. and then you eat the cake and whoever gets the baby is the King or the Queen and they choose their King or their Queen to host the next party with them and the guy brings the wine, the woman makes the food- bakes the cake- which is just really.. not… gender… equality… if you ask me, but uhm, and then the party keeps going all throughout January, and there’s another tradition we do!- Well, it’s not really a tradition, it’s like uhm, on the first day of January, so it’s like the first day of the new year, uhm, you hold a piece of like- like a gold coin in your hand. Uhm, or anything that has gold in it, like real gold… uhm, and you make crepes and you flip the crepe with the gold in your hand, and if it lands well and doesn’t break, you’ll have prosperity in the new year, and if it breaks or it doesn’t happen… you’re… gonna be poor.

K: And where’d you learn this from?

I: My momma.

Context:

We were sitting outdoors in a shaded area by a couch, working on a group project, but only the informant, one other member of our project, and I were there.  I asked the informant if she had any traditions or interesting pieces of folklore she would want to share and she readily agreed.  It was a really nice day out and the conversation felt very natural.

My Thoughts:

 

Her family is from France and she very strongly identifies with her French roots.  I thought this tradition was pretty interesting because it’s very religious, and my friend isn’t that religious, really, but she considers it more of a cultural tradition.  I know that this tradition is also very cultural, as well.  My family calls it Three Kings Day, but we don’t really celebrate it.  I went to Catholic school growing up, though, and I know we always had the cake in our of our classes, but the cake we ate was different than the one the informant described.  In Latin culture, this holiday also involved leaving shoes out, which my dad has told me about.  I think it’s cool to see the evolution of this holiday based on ethnicity.  It’s interesting to watch how it changes from place to place and how there are little cultural differences.

Origin of Leprechauns and Fairies

The following is a story about the origin of leprechauns and fairies.  The informant is represented by P and I am represented by K.

Piece: 

P: Have you ever heard about how Leprechauns were born?

K: No.

P: So, many, many, many years ago, there was a great battle in Heaven.  There was the Devil and Michael the Archangel, and it was like at a time, and they were like “you’ve gotta make a choice, you’ve gotta either go with God or you go with the Devil.” So, the Devil, Satan, Beelzebub, whatever you call him, had gathered in his army and Michael the Archangel had gathered his army.  God was sitting in the middle, he was up on the throne, just watching the battle unfold. So… people had to take a choice, what were you gonna do? Were you gonna go fight with Satan? And on a battle against God in Heaven. Or were you gonna go with Michael… the Archangel and fight against Satan, and protect what they had.  So there was a group of people who didn’t go one way or the other.  So, the battle was over, we all know that Michael the Archangel won.  Satan was banished from Heaven forever to go to… the fiery pits of Hell and live a life of gnashing of teeth and gnawing and stuff. Then, there was these people in the middle that were left.  So God said, “heh, you need to get rid of ’em. They’re gone.” Michael the Archangel pleaded for them.  He said, “Look, we know that they didn’t fight for us, but they’re not bad enough to put with Him and leave ’em down in Hell.” And God said, “Okay, just get rid of them and let them fall where they are.” So, the Heavens opened, all of them “angels” that didn’t take a side, all fell and they kept falling and kept falling, they landed in Ireland.  They landed in Ireland and they became the leprechauns, they became the fairies, the sheep people… of Ireland. And… they say they have a face, the leprechaun have the face of a shriveled apple.  You know? They’re- they’re one… of the… there’s different types of fairies and leprechauns.. and.. and.. sheep people, but the leprechauns are ones that spend time on their own.  So they like to be on their own. You hear the tap tap tap when they’re making their shoes, they’re supposed to be the shoemakers of the fairy people, so the fairies come and need new shoes and the leprechaun, but you’d never see two leprechauns together.  The fairies, on the other hand, they like to hang out with each other.  They like to play, they like to party.  They’re really good with the music and the singing and the dancing and the- that whole lot. And… you know, years ago, you’d see a will-o-the-wisp or a speck of dust coming across the street, and you’d be like oh, that’s the fairy people, you know. And then, before we had toilets and running water, we used to just open the window and just… throw our… bits… out onto the street.  But the women of the house would always look- they’d always look, in case there was a will-o gone by, and if there was, they’d wait, and if there wasn’t, then they’d just… throw it out, ’cause the chances were if there was a will-o gone by, they’d throw it on the fairies or the leprechauns or the sheep people and you’d be ending up with bad luck because of that.

K: Where’d you hear all this from?

P: These are, you know, they’re all, most of them- most of what we hear are, uh, uh, vocal- oral stories, you know? I mean, there’s a lot written down about it, but you know, you just never know. You’ll just be sitting in the house when we were kids and there’d be, you know, a party going on or there’d just be some neighbors over and somebody would just start talking about that kind of  stuff, and then we- we were taught about it in school, and then we’d go to- you know, when I was a teenager, I didn’t live the typical teenage life, you know.  I wasn’t out, you know… drinking and chasing girls and going to the discos and stuff like that, I was out traveling around the country with a friend of mine and we’d go into these bars and people would tell us stories and- but it was all handed down by story-telling and oral.  But there are a lot of books out there and now with YouTube, there’s a lot of fairy channels and stuff like that, and of course, none of them really tell it the way that I heard it when I was a kid.

Context:

I was at the informant’s house, celebrating Easter.  We had finished all of the Easter festivities and the informant was walking around doing housework.  A group of us had been sitting around talking about folklore and the informant walked by, so I asked him if he knew any Irish legends, tales, or myths.  He told me a lot of those stories are real and then asked if I had heard about where leprechauns came from.  I told him I hadn’t, and he leaned against the kitchen counter and proceeded to tell me the story.

My Thoughts:

I actually thought this piece of folklore was one of the most, if not the most, interesting piece of folklore I collected.  I thought it was a super interesting story that I hadn’t heard before, but I really enjoyed hearing.   I had never heard of the creation of leprechauns or fairies before because that wasn’t ever part of the culture I was brought up in.  This piece, like others, reminded me of the idea that some things that people believe in in our society, other societies don’t believe in at all and vice versa. I also thought the idea that these stories are just constantly told around the country at bars and stuff was super interesting.  I feel like here, these stories aren’t really just told all the time, so it seems really cool that this is a natural part of Irish culture.  I think one of the interesting parts of this story is how it really incorporates religion and how these creatures just weren’t good enough but also weren’t bad enough.  The leprechauns having a shriveled face almost seems like a punishment for not choosing a side during the battle.  Overall, I thought this piece of folklore was super interesting.

La Llorona

The following is a Hispanic/Latin legend.  The informant is represented by L and I am represented by K.

Piece:

K: Tell me about La Llorona.

L: Okay, so… I feel like it’s the first myth that EVERY little kid lear- every little Mexican hears about is La Llorona, and it’s usually, well, she’s active during the night, and near water, is what I’ve heard.  And that what happened is that she drowned her children…. it like evolves over time because it’s from.. drowning her children to like a river and to her bathtub, but I’m… pretty sure originally, it’s that she drowns her children in a lake… no! she doesn’t drown her children, she… doesn’t watch over them and they drown by themselves, and so.. she started… so… she kills herself, and so she’s just wandering around and looking for children to take as her own.  And so, she’s like dressed in white, really long black hair, that just covers her face… and, she’s just wailing, wailing during the night… and… she won’t.. come, near like large groups of children, is what I’ve learned.  It’s like one or two.. and that’s when she’ll strike and snatch you up, but I guess what it means to me is just… I don’t like being alone at night, it scares me ’cause…. and, I think it’s something that parents tell their kids to keep them in check.

Context:

The informant was sitting at a dining room table.  There was a group of 5 of us and we had all just celebrated Easter together.  We were sitting at the dining room table sharing folklore and she had a lot of Mexican folklore that she wanted to share with us.

My Thoughts:

La Llorona seems to be a legend meant to scare kids into not wandering alone at night.  This story is very popular in a lot of Latin American cultures, as my dad heard a version of it himself growing up in Nicaragua, and I have many Mexican friends who heard this story growing up.  I think the story is meant to remind kids that they should listen to their children and be cautious with whether they decide to wander alone at night or not.  I think it’s a super interesting story because there are a lot of different variations of La Llorona and slight details that change every time I hear it.  There’s a clear progression of the way the folklore has been passed down from different years.

 

For another version of this legend, please see “La Llorona” in Colo Arvada’s 1997 La Llorona: 43 Lloronas de Abelardo (Barrio Publications).