Category Archives: Tales /märchen

Stories which are not regarded as possibly true.

Bear Grandma (熊家婆), A Chinese Little Red Riding Hood


Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Jinhua (金花, meaning “Golden Flower”), who lived in the mountains with her mother and younger brother. One day, the mom set off to visit the children’s aunt. Before she went, she entrusted Jinhua with the responsibility of taking care of her younger brother and said that she had asked her mom, the children’s grandma, to stay for the night. 

At sunset, Jinhua finished a day’s labor. She raised her voice to call for grandma, who lived in the neighboring mountain and would normally respond quickly. To her surprise, no matter how many times and how loud she called for grandma, grandma did not answer. Jinhua had to return home alone, locked the door, and told her brother that they would spend the night alone. Fortunately, Jinhua had always been a brave and bright young girl, so she ensured her brother that nothing would happen to them.

As Jinhua comforted her brother with bedtime stories, she heard someone knocking on their door, then a low voice murmured: “Grandma is here!” 

Her brother was so excited that grandma finally arrived and urged Jinhua to open the door. The low voice told Jinhua: “Grandma’s eyes are sensitive to light, blow off the candles then let me in.” 

Jinhua then blew off the candles and welcomed grandma in. It was so dark inside that she couldn’t see grandma’s face. Grandma sat on a wooden stool, but the stool broke, so Jinhua had to ask grandma to sit on their pottery jar. However, when Jinhua kneeled down to tend to the fire, she saw a pair of furry feet. She realized that this was not their grandma, but Bear Grandma in disguise, a bear known to the local people for sneaking into local households and eating their children. Jinhua tried to calm herself down and started to plot. 

Jinhua first took her brother to a different room, patted him to sleep and locked the room up. Then she asked if she can sleep with grandma, and Bear Grandma happily agreed. As Bear Grandma salivated, Jinhua said she had to defecate and went outside. To prevent Jinhua from running away, Bear Grandma tied Jinhua’s wrist with its own with a twisted manila rope. Bear Grandma pulled the rope gently every once in a while to make sure Jinhua hadn’t run away, but Jinhua did not return. Bear Grandma then pulled harder and only heard the sound of jars breaking.

Bear Grandma angrily chased outside and saw a broken pottery jar on the ground, certainly no sign of Jinhua. Bear Grandma exited the house and saw Jinhua in the pond. However, every time Bear Grandma lowered itself to grab in the water, Jinhua disappeared. Jinhua burst out in laughter. Bear Grandma looked up and found Jinhua hiding high up in a pear tree near the pond, and it was only her reflection in the water. Bear Grandma tried to climb up the tree, but the trunk had became slippery because Jinhua had poured tung oil on the trunk earlier. No matter how angry it was, Bear Grandma had no way but to wait on the ground.

Jinhua asked: “Grandma, would you like to eat some pears instead? Bring me the darts stored inside the house and I can shoot down some pears.”

Having already lost its mind, Bear Grandma happily obeyed and passed the darts up to Jinhua. Bear Grandma opened its mouth and waited for the pears Jinhua shot down to fall in its mouth.

Jinhua said: “Grandma, open your mouth wider because this one’s big!”

Bear Grandma opened its mouth wide, but instead of pears, a dart fell into its mouth. After a painful moan, Bear Grandma collapsed.

When the sun came up again, Jinhua’s brother woke up after a long night’s sleep and was not aware of what happened last night. Their mom arrived home and rewarded Jinhua for guarding their household heroically.


The story of Jinhua and the Bear Grandma was first known to me as one of the bedtime stories my maternal grandmother told me when I was a toddler. When collecting folk narratives for this project, I asked her again for details. My grandmother was from Sichuan, and correspondingly the story of Bear Grandma is a Sichuan local story and was originally told in Sichuan dialect.


Personally, I have always considered Bear Grandma as the Chinese version of Little Red Riding Hood as a coming-of-age story that involves a girl as the protagonist, a beast as the villain, and the plot of having the villain disguised as grandma. However, instead of venturing out into the woods, Bear Grandma is about guarding the girl’s household. Therefore, unlike Little Red Riding Hood which touches on the theme of lost innocence, Bear Grandma highlights the girl’s wit and taking up adult responsibility to defend herself and her younger brother. In addition, Bear Grandma shares another similarity with a version of Little Red Riding Hood shown in class, which involves the villain tying itself with the girl to stop her from escaping. Despite all these structural similarities, the two stories deliver different coming-of-age messages.

As it appears to me, the story of Bear Grandma is notably local besides it being told in Sichuan dialect. The story being set in the mountains matches Sichuan’s geography in reality, and Bear Grandma symbolizing dangers from the wild was once indeed a daily theme of life in Sichuan before industrialization. In addition, local folk objects can be found in the narrative, including the pottery jar which is used to store Sichuan pickles, twisted manila rope which used to be a common handcraft, and the darts local people used to hunt and fish. Active and passive bearers of the story, like my grandmother, would likely be reminded of their Sichuan origin and even become nostalgic every time they tell or hear about Bear Grandma.

Hawaiian Legend – Night Marchers

The legend of the Night Marchers is known by the informant due to their ethnic background. They grew up with a Pacific Islander cultural background in Hawaii where there is a lot of folklore. This legend in particular was about the Night Marchers who were often seen and heard at night throughout Oahu, and it was said to be the ghosts/spirits of the royal army. They were often unseen but heard until very close and were said to take the spirit of those who disrupted their path or did not pay their respects. There were many stories told to the informant about said Marchers, but the one specific story remembered was from the informant’s father who said he had fallen asleep on the beach in the path of the marchers and he woke up to the sound of them getting closer and closer, he quickly got his story together and moved before it was too late, and he paid his respects as they passed by, but he could hear their calls and drums the entire time although they could not be fully seen in front of him.

Context – the Night Marchers are said to appear at night on the islands as they travel through the island, stories include seeing the marchers, seeing their torches travel up mountains, hearing them march, and their drums. Hawaii is filled with many legends and tales as the culture is very tradition and folklore based, and the Night Marchers are just one legend of the many. For many islanders, these legends are very real and not just tales or stories.

Analysis – this legend gives place to spirits of those who have passed and are said to have served to protect those of the Hawaiian royal family as well as the islanders themselves. This legend gives respect to the spirits of those who follow the tradition and who want to pay respect to the royal army themselves, it teaches younger islanders about the history of their culture as well as lays grounding for respect of the culture. Like the informant, for many within this culture, these legends are a big part of the culture which not only shows respect but also has fun, interesting stories about interactions with these marchers.

Folk Narrative – Dog Chase Story

The informant remembers a story saying there was a young woman in her twenties that took a bad road in her life (she started doing drugs, drinking excessively, and hanging around with bad people). She was very well known in town as she had grown up there and it was not the biggest town. One night after being out and partying heavily, she was walking home and noticed a big dark colored doberman type dog following her, which she assumed to just be someone’s pet or a stray. After the dog kept following her and getting closer, the girl started getting nervous as it was an intimidating dog, so she began to try and get away from it. As she began to run, the dog started to chase her and she was really scared, she did not know where else to go except possibly the church, as the dog began to nip at her heels, the young woman got to the church grounds and barely made it to their lawn before falling. When she looked back, the large dog had stopped at the border of the church grounds, and according to the young woman, it stood up on its hind legs and spoke in a very deep voice, telling her she had gotten lucky this time, and if she did not fix her ways, she would not be as lucky the next time.

Context – This tale was said to have occurred somewhere in a more rural, small area of New Mexico, not far from Albuquerque, and the informant had heard this from friends and from their mother. The informant had passed the story on to their kids as well. Those who had heard the story were often creeped out, and many times also decently religious as in the smaller community, many people went to church. The story was also said to have been passed around by older figures in the church, especially to younger members. Many people, including the informant, often question whether the young woman in the story was so intoxicated that she hallucinated the whole interaction, whether it was actually a demon warning her, or if the whole thing was fake. Either way, people were nervous to find out.

Analysis – As this often was told by older figures, especially around the church, it is possible this tale was told as a way to convince younger individuals to behave and stick to good religious tendencies rather than the hardcore partying described in the young woman’s attributes. This is not an uncommon form of getting younger individuals to behave, and follows the outline of other stories following individuals cleaning up their act. Usually tales such as these persuade and scare those being told the story into behaving and keeping on a straight path. This story seems and ultimately fits to the area it was being told due to the religious background of the smaller, rural area.


JC is a student who grew up in Topanga Canyon, a town in the mountains of LA. The area is surrounded by dense woods and tons of wildlife.

JC- In like 2020 in COVID when my friends and I wanted to hang out but we couldn’t hang out inside together, we would camp in my backyard and set up tents and all sleep in the tents overnight. I live in kinda a rural area and my backyard backs up to a hill that’s pretty wild, a type of woods. My friends and I developed this legend about this creature called the DeerMan, that comes out at night and terrorizes us while we’re sleeping. He’s half man half deer. I would mess with my friends by going out at night and tapping on their tents and stuff and then in the morning when we all woke up I’d be like ‘guys, did you hear the DeerMan last night?”. The lore extended and eventually, there became this second character. There used to be this owl that would hang out in a tree by my house and we all started calling him Skeekee the Wise and we built up this lore that Skeekee the Wise and DeerMan were mortal enemies and Skeekee the Wise is the defender of all things good and DeerMan is the perpetrator of evil, and the two of them are at a constant clash for power. Skeekee the wise was our protector.


2020 has already been historically categorized as a very crazy and strenuous year. For the groups of graduating high schoolers across the country, it posed an even harder challenge. All of the things people had worked their whole lives to achieve suddenly didn’t matter in the blink of an eye. COVID was a mass trauma event, almost everyone alive was affected by it and is still dealing with the effects. It was a time that taught people the importance of having a support system and community, especially once those moments of connection are taken away. JC and his friends were lucky to have a way to still see and support each other through this hard time. DeerMan was a completely fictionalized character that existed only within the confines of this group of friends. Creating this character and having an evil figure to jokingly mess around with was a good way for the group to distract themselves from the problems they were facing. When they were hanging out, the only thing they had to worry about was DeerMan, all of the other things going on around them didn’t matter as much. This creature helped them release tension by pranking one another and distracting themsleves with its lore and details. Furthermore, Skeekee the Wise also served a similar, but opposite role, being the character that represented their hope and the promise that one is always protected and that good will always prevail. Having these characters with these themes to connect with was a healthy way for the friends to process what they were going through. From just being an owl that lives in a nearby tree to suddenly transforming into a figure of all that is good in the universe, Skeekee the Wise also perfectly shows the way that myths and cryptids are created all the time by everyone around us. Everything imagined has truth and reality instilled within it. 


‘Every year for 9 days my family celebrates a festival called Navaratri. My mom (especially where she’s from in South India, a town called Chennai) has a ton of dolls that she puts on steps in our house called ‘Golu’ to tell stories. The steps are basically a showcase of stories of all the Hindu gods. Some people have really small steps and not many Golus, but my mom loves to go all out… The festival involves Pujas to celebrate the goddess Durga who is practically the mother goddess Mahadevi. She is known for protection and motherhood. Durga is celebrated for 9 days and nights because we’re told she killed the demon Mahishasura.’ – HP

HP has grown up celebrating Navaratri ever since she can remember. She enjoys celebrating this festival, as it’s a time where her friends and family come over to eat and talk, celebrate and do a puja. They gather around to see all the dolls. When she was younger she loved to see the different stories her mom would create with the dolls and put on the steps. Every time she visits India, her mom always buys a new doll for the Golu, so throughout her life, she has accumulated many. She wants to carry out this tradition for the rest of her life and share it with her own loved ones and future family. Its a way to show creativity with faith.

A photo captured in HP’s home of the Golu and dolls during Navaratri

Navaratri is a festival full of culture, heritage, and faith. The festival encompasses many prayers, customs, rituals, and incorporates countless folk beliefs, gestures, and storytelling. This festival includes many folkloristic properties. The stories told from the Golu and to the family and friends who gather around spread and share the heritage and ancestry important in the Hindu religion. Furthermore, many storytellings of Hindu faith, such as about the Gods and Goddesses, are shared, allowing for the audiences to continue to spread these tales, just as HP has done with me. This festival allows for Hindu creativity to bloom and be on display for any and all visitors. HP reminiscing on her past Navaratri holidays show that importance and especially the endurance of this ritual in her life. Additionally, her desire to continue these festivities with her future family encapsulates folklore and its inevitable spread of culture and heritage.