Tag Archives: children’s story

Hans Brinker and the Dam

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 21
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: April 2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Piece

One of the stories I heard, growing up as a kid, uhm… whether that be in elementary school or through my parents was the Dutch story about Hans Brinker, uhm… who is not usually named that, it is just his official title in the book. Uhm. And he’s a dutch boy that puts his finger in a damn and saves his entire village from drowning. I’m not sure what it is about this story that has been popularized so much, and I don’t know why it is taught so much in american schools. Uhm. But it is something that is stuck in my mind as the story that’s been passed on from generation to generation. Cause after looking it up I found out it originated in an 1875 book. But yeah, that’s my favorite piece of ferkl- folklore. 

Background

M is a close friend from Minnesota who studies film. He is a really serious guy with strong roots in Minnesota. He told me that he heard this story from his school and his parents and it stuck with him for whatever reason.

Context

He sent me a voice clip over Whatsapp in which he said all of this. I told him to send me a piece of folklore earlier that day. 

Thoughts

The story is an example of a martyr figure, a young boy, that saves his village through self sacrifice. It is probably indicative of values of the community. M mentioned that it was taught a lot throughout american schools and this could be an attempt to instill specific moral values in children, namely those relating to self sacrifice for the good of your community. 

El Cucuy

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Mexican-American
Age: 19
Occupation: Student
Residence: Arizona
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/3/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Spanish

Context:

MV is a 2nd generation Mexican-American from New Mexico. Half of her family is of Japanese-Mexican descent and the other half is mestizo. Much of her extended family lives in Mexico. I received this story from her in a video conference call from our respective homes. She learned this story from her grandmother, who told it to her when she was a child.

Text:

JS: Tell me the story of El Quiqui (alternatively el cucuy)

MV: All right so el quiqui lives in tunnels in the mountains. And he’s a really creepy guy who takes away bad children and eats them. There’s this girl, her name is Rosa or some other Mexican shit it doesn’t really matter (laughs). And she’s such a good kid, always does her chores, is obedient and all that. Her sister, though, her name is… Margarita (laughs), she’s awful, just a bad kid all around. So one night el quiqui comes and takes her to the mountains. Rosa goes up and just as he is about to eat Margarita, she saves her, and also finds all these other kids in his tunnels and sets them free.

JS: What do you think the story means?

MV: Classic. Classic! “Do your chores or you’re gonna get eaten (laughs)”

Thoughts:

The practical utility of this legend, as the informant stated above, is obvious. It is a tool for persuading children to take care of household duties. Paradoxically, to give them a sense of responsibility, the story scares them into obedience. The informant’s response, “classic,” suggests that household duty and obedience are important parts of being a woman in a Mexican family. Interestingly, in this informant’s account, the two children were girls. This gendering of the objects of El Cucuy’s aggression suggests that young girls are more often trained at a young age to assist with chores around the house than young boys. The faithful Rosa is a model child, one with a sense of responsibility to her sister and to her family. She is a model of domesticity and virtue. Additionally, El Cucuy is masculine, suggesting that a girl who is not obedient will be taken away and consumed by a mysterious and dangerous man. The story can be used to scare children into doing their chores, but it also contains a gendered lesson of matronly duty and selflessness, that if one does not practice obedience, she will end up with an unfavorable man and meet her demise.

For a more comprehensive look at El Cucuy and other Mexican children’s folk legends, see Domino Renee Perez’s book There was a woman: La Llorona from folklore to popular culture

Perez, Domino Renee. There was a woman: La Llorona from folklore to popular culture. University of Texas Press, 2008.

The Legend of The Lindworm

--Informant Info--
Nationality: British European
Age: 79
Occupation: Retired
Residence: Sherman Oaks, California
Date of Performance/Collection: March 21, 2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Performed Piece:
Once upon a time in a far off kingdom there ruled a king and queen, who were plagued by a terrible sadness. They mourned the fact that they could not have a child. One day the queen went for a walk in her garden. There she sat and cried. A witch appeared before her, hearing her sobs and asked ‘why are you crying, my dear?’ the queen explained that she was sad that she will never be able to have a child and the kingdom would be left without an heir. The witch then told her, ‘come back this evening and place the smallest teacup you own upside down at the bottom of the garden. The next morning, before anyone else wakes up, return to the cup. Underneath you will find two roses, a red one and a white one. If you eat the red one you will have a boy and if you eat the white one you will have a girl.’ And with that the witch disappeared. 

The queen did as she was told and when she returned to the bottom of the garden she did indeed find two roses. ‘If I have the red one, I will have a strong boy but one day he may go off to war and die. But if I have the white one, I may be with my daughter for her youth but I know she will one day have to marry someone and I will never see her again.’ Eventually she decided to eat the white one, but the flower was so sweet that she ate the red one too to combat the taste. The queen instantly became pregnant and went back to the castle to tell her husband the good news.

A few months later the queen went into labor and, to the shock and horror of the many handmaids present, gave birth to a scaly Lindworm. It hissed at the queen and slithered out the window. But the queen gave birth to a second child, a perfectly healthy baby boy. That night the queen and her maids agreed to not tell a soul about the first child. Years later and the boy grew into a young prince and eventually told his father that he wanted to find a wife. His father agreed and sent his son to a neighboring kingdom. 

However, on the ride there, the prince’s path was blocked by a large Lindworm. It hissed at the prince ‘a bride for me before a bride for you.’ The prince was confused so told his entourage to take a different path, but his path was blocked by the Lindworm again as it repeated its message ‘A bride for me before a bride for you.’ The prince tried a third time with the same result, and so returned to the castle to tell his parents of the strange beast. The queen went pale and explained to her son that the Lindworm was indeed his older sibling and in common practice the eldest must marry first. So the king sent a letter to a nearby kingdom, asking for it to send a princess to marry one of his children.A princess arrived and was horrified to see her groom to be: the Lindworm, but it was too late. The morning after the ceremony, the maids went to check on the Lindworm and his bride. They found the Lindworm but the bride was nowhere to be seen. He had eaten her.

The young prince set off later that day to find himself a wife only to find the Lindworm on the road again, hissing ‘a bride for me before a bride for you.’ The prince rode home immediately and told his father. The king sent another letter to a different kingdom and the Lindworm was married again. The next morning came with the same results as last time, the Lindworm had eaten his bride again. The prince set off as early as he could but the Lindworm still stood before him hissing ‘a bride for me before a bride for you.’ The prince rode home again and told the king, but the king shook his head explaining a war has been started between two kingdoms over the princesses. While thinking of what to do the king went walking and eventually stopped by the home of his swine herder, where he saw the man’s daughter. He asked the swine herder to give his daughter to marry the Lindworm. While the man objected he eventually relented. His daughter was horrified and ran to the nearby woods and cried. A witch appeared before her and asked “why are you crying, my dear?’ The girl explains her situation to the witch and tells her “tonight before you enter the bedchamber, wear 12 shiffs, bring a tub of lye and milk, and as many switches as you can carry. By this method you will rid yourself of the Lindworm.’

So on the night of the wedding, the Lindworm said to the girl ‘fair maiden, shed a shiff.’ and the girl responds ‘Lindworm, shed a skin.’ The Lindworm is taken aback, ‘no one has ever asked that of me.’ ‘Well I ask this of you now,’ says the girl. The Lindworm sheds his skin and the girl sheds a shiff, but before anything else happens the girl scrubs the Lindworm’s raw skin with the lye and milk. After she finishes bathing it, the Lindworm asks her to shed another shiff and the process repeats late into the night.

In the morning the maids come to check on the couple and when they look inside, they find the girl, unharmed, in the arms of a handsome prince. The kingdom celebrates and has the wedding anew for the happy couple.

Background: My informant learned this story from a children’s book that she used to read to her children and grandchildren, however she does not remember the title of the book.

Context: My informant and I were discussing my childhood with her and how I used to love a few specific stories. This was one of them and she tells it how she remembers.

Thoughts: I wonder if she is still telling the story as it was originally written, or if she changed it through re-remembering and re-telling it. I remember phrases repeating only three time instead of 12, and the reason why the Queen ate both flowers being a bit more selfish, like she wanted both a son and a daughter.

Aunt Margy

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: Laguna Niguel, California
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/18/17
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Farsi

My informant is Persian and he told me a story that his mother used to tell him when he was little. In Farsi, a lot of the words in the story rhyme and flow a bit better than the english translation.

“The story is called Aunt Margy. So Aunt Margy had a lot of chickens and a rooster. Every morning she would take them out of the chicken coop to come and eat their food. At night, Aunt Margy asked them kindly to go to their chicken coop, so they can stay safe and away from the wild animals. One night, Aunt Margy went to go put them in the coop, but the rooster was very arrogant and didn’t want to listen to her. He was running around and didn’t go in. Aunty Margy decided to let him stay out and deal with the consequences that night. It started to rain very hard and Aunty Margy decided to keep him out and get punished. The next day the rooster did the same thing and he was very sick and he kept sneezing. He was sitting by Aunty Margy’s door desperately. Aunt Margy told him, ‘See what happens when you don’t listen to me?’ So she brought him in, made him some soup, and he felt better. Next day when Aunty Margy was calling for everyone to go in the coop, he was the first one to go in and he learned his lesson. This was one of the stories that my mom used to tell me as a kid and it was obviously in Farsi. In Farsi, a lot of the words rhyme, so it was meant for kids.”

This story takes place in a fictional world where roosters can talk, and is intended to entertain and educate its audience. These attributes make the story of Aunt Margy a tale. It also follows Axel Olrik’s Epic Laws of Folk Narratives. The first one is that the tale does not open or close abruptly. The second is the use of repetition. Repeating things in a story helps the audience follow along easier, especially if they missed information the first time around. Another law that the tale of Aunty Margy follows is that it never has more than two characters to a scene. It becomes difficult for children to keep track of characters when there are too many introduced at once.

The Crows and the Serpent

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Indian-American
Age: 19
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/27/16
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Piece:

The Crows and the Serpent

This story is from the Panchatantra tales. In indian culture when the kids are going to bed, parents will read out of this book. All of the stories have morals to them. In that story pretty much what happens is there are a bunch of crows living in a tree. One day a family of snakes moves under the tree. So then obviously the crow family is really mad about that, because snakes eat crows. So the next day crow parents go out in the morning to search for food for their kids. They come back later and all their babies are gone–because the snakes ate them. So then they have more kids and decide to come up with a way for the snakes to not attack them. So then the mom decides to stay in the nest when while the dad searches for food–but because she’s alone, the snakes attack her and eat all their babies again. So they have to come up with a new plan to save their next babies. So they call their friends over who are foxes. They tell the foxes about how the snakes keep eating their babies. The fox tells them to use their brain. He says that all the royal families bathe really early in the morning, and leave their jewelry on plates. So he tells the crows to steal one of the necklaces and drop it into the snakes’ home. So the crows wake up really early the next day, before the snakes are awake, and steal a necklace from one of the royal families. Some guards are chasing them as they fly away, and then they drop the necklace into the snake hole. The guards then have to kill the snakes to get the jewelry out of the whole, which they do, and the crows stop having their babies eaten.

This moral of this story is to use intelligence over physical strength.

Informant & Context:

My informant for this story is an Indian-American student at the University of Southern California who grew up in Seattle, Washington. She grew up in a fairly culturally traditional Indian household. This story comes from a set of stories that many Indian parents read to their children.

Thoughts:

The thing that stands out to me the most about this story is that the crows are the heroes. In many stories in western culture, crows are often the antagonists—the same can be said for foxes.

The story has a very concise message: Use intelligence to solve your problems instead of strength.