La Llorona

Informant: I don’t actually know that much about La Llorona, but I heard that she drowns her two children in the river to get back at her husband who left her, and now she regrets it so much that she lurks in the night – well, she wanders in the night, calling out for her children. I don’t remember how she gets you, but I think you just run into her? And she thinks you’re her children? 

Me: Do you think there’s any reason this was less scary to you than the Skinwalkers?

Informant: I don’t feel in active danger from La Llorona like I do the SW’s. They’re supposed to be pure evil, and she’s just not as powerful, ya know?

Me: We read an article for class on La Llorona that had multiple different versions of the story, and, it painted her in various shades of evil, of like, whether she was a tragically misunderstood feminist icon, or if she was – 

Informant: The way I learned it, she was definitely tragic. She wasn’t evil, she’s just – I don’t know, she was angry, and now she regrets what she did and is looking for her children, and when she finds you, it’s… over? I guess? I don’t know. 

My informant is a 19-year-old college student at USC, who grew up in a small town in Arizona. She is the youngest of three sisters, who she thinks may have toned down the story elements of various legends or myths to avoid scaring her. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, this piece was collected via an interview that took place over FaceTime. 

I thought it was really interesting that La Llorona wasn’t as scary to my informant as another piece of folklore she gave me, which is the legend of the Skinwalkers. Personally, I think I would’ve been more scared of La Llorona, although I hadn’t heard of either of them until I moved to Los Angeles for college. I think a big part of that had to do with La Llorona’s portrayal in the version of the story my informant heard – she was never evil, never intended to cause you harm even if she got you, she just made a mistake and is now regretful of it. This is very different from other versions we read for class, some of which painted her as a cold-hearted killer who hated kids. It’s an interesting variation on the same story, and I’d never stopped to consider how different variations would impact a person’s opinion on a piece of folklore before this.