Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: April 1, 2013
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Farsi
Contextual Data: I asked a friend of mine if he could remember any stories from his childhood, and he offered me this story — a Persian folktale — that his mother and his maternal grandmother used to tell him. They would tell it to him in the original Farsi (his family’s first language), but over a cup of coffee, he recounted this translated version of the tale. The following is an exact transcript of his account.
“So this is the story of Bōz Bōze Ghandí — which Bōz Bōze means ‘goat’ and Ghandí means, like, ‘sweet’ so like ‘the sweet goat.’ [Laughs.] And Bōz Bōze Ghandí had three children, baby goats: Shangúl, Mangul, and Hapeyē Angur — those are their names. Um, Shangúl means ‘joyful’ in Farsi, Mangul means — Mangul is like the bell on the collar of an animal — and Hapeyē Angur means ‘a single grape.’ Um, so… And every day Bōz Bōze Ghandí would go out and tell her children, ‘I’m gonna go out and eat the alfalfa so I can make milk for you to drink.’ Um, and she would admonish them, ‘Be careful not to open the door for the wolf, who’ll come and ask you to open the door for him.’ And every day the wolf would come and say, ‘I am Bōz Bōze Ghandí open the door for me.’ And Shangúl, Mangul, and Hapeyē Angur would say, ‘No you’re not. If you’re our mom, show us your paws.’ (‘Cause she has white paws.) And the wolf would put his paws and obviously they were gray and had like long nails and claws. And they would say, ‘You’re not my mom. Go away.’ And they would not open the door for him. So one day the wolf comes back — and wolf is ‘gorg’ in Farsi — the wolf would come back and the one day the wolf dipped his paws in flour and cut all his nails and went back to the home and said, ‘Open the door. I am your mom, Bōz Bōze Ghandí.’ And they said ‘No you’re not. If you are, show us your paws.’ And so he slipped his paws under the door and they saw that they were white and the nails were short and they said, ‘Okay,’ and they opened the door. And he leaped in and ate Shangúl and Mangul, but Hapeyē Angur hid. And as much as he looked, the wolf couldn’t find him, and then the wolf left. And then Bōz Bōze Ghandí comes home and says, ‘Shangúl, Mangul, and Hapeyē Angur, where are you?’ And no one answers, and after a while [Pause: Coffee dropped off at the table by waitress]. After a while Hapeyē Angur comes out and he’s very sad. He’s crying or something. And Bōz Bōze Ghandí says, ‘What happened?’ And he says, ‘We opened the door for the wolf and he ate Shangúl and Mangul.’ And his mom is like ‘Okay. I’m gonna go find this wolf.’ So Bōz Bōze Ghandí goes and finds the wolf and says, ‘Did you eat Shangúl and Mangul?’ And he says and laughs, ‘Yes. I ate them. They’re in my stomach.’ And she says, ‘Then I will fight you.’ And he says, ‘You can’t fight me. How are you gonna fight me?’ And she…And she says, ‘With my horns. You will see. Tomorrow I will fight you.’ And so she goes to the local knife sharpener… Or blacksmith and trades him some alfalfa to sharpen her horns. At the same time, the wolf goes to the same blacksmith — not at the same time, but later — the wolf goes to the same blacksmith and asks him to sharpen his teeth. But I think by threatening him instead. And the blacksmith doesn’t like the wolf, so instead he pulls out all his teeth and replaces them with cotton balls… And the wolf can’t tell for some reason. [Laughs.] So the next day, Bōz Bōze Ghandí shows up to face the wolf and they fight and she stabs him in the stomach and he bites her, but it has no effect ‘cause his teeth are gone and he… She ruptures his stomach and he dies and Shangúl and Mangul pop out. [Laughs.] And then they go home and the moral of the story is don’t open the door for strangers. [Laughs.]”
– End Transcript –
My informant explained that when this story is told in Farsi, it has a rhyming pattern, and so, it’s something that children would enjoy hearing. There were no specific times or reasons that his mother and grandmother would tell him this story — they weren’t too concerned with the moralistic aspect of the story. It was more just something “to pass the time,” and he would enjoy hearing it often because of its rhymes. You can get a sense of the story’s fun rhyming quality just through the names of the three children — Shangúl, Mangul, and Hapeyē Angur.
I think the story’s rhyming structure (in it’s original Farsi) certainly would help make it more enjoyable to hear, memorable, and therefore easier to pass on. But there could also be a bit of significance in the fact that my informant heard this story from his mother and his maternal grandmother, as the heart of this story is about a mother fighting to protect her three children. My informant mentioned that in spite of the slightly violent nature of the ending, when he heard the sound of this rhyme coming from the soothing voice of his mother or his grandmother, he found it to be rather innocent and placating. Therefore, while the rhyming aspect is certainly one reason that a child would want to hear this story, there also seems to be something about the reassuring mother figure that also gives it some value.