Tag Archives: Dragon

Polish Dragon

Context: Poland has many mythical beasts in its folklore, however, very prominently featured are its dragons. Poland’s dragons are very big beasts, which are fearsome but not very smart. Mostly villainous in nature, the dragon must be defeated by a Polish hero, oftentimes through outwitting the dragon, rather than use of physical force. Wawel is a Polish castle, which is made of stone and stands on an outcrop on the left bank of a Polish river.

Informant: “The Wawel dragon in Poland. So my mom told us this story growing up and she told us the kid friendly version but its this legend about this dragon that was terrorizing this town and eating the livestock and knights tried and tried to kill it but no one could until this young boy, i think his name was Skuba or something, took a dead sheep and stuffed his stomach full of hot hot pepper and when the dragon ate it, it was so spicy that he breathed fire and went to drink from the river and then either died or flew away idk but Skuba saved the day and theres a statue in Krakow of him about that story.”

Background Knowledge: The informant’s mother lived in Poland for most of her life, and only moved to the United States a few years before Informant’s birth. Despite not knowing the language, and being mostly ingrained in American culture, the Informant tries to keep in touch with their Polish heritage. The informant remembers this story from their childhood, as a story their mother told them. It is, I believe, a very old Polish story. The informant does not speak more than basic conversational Polish, and did not hear the story in its original Polish language. However, the informant has visited Poland a few times, and has much Polish influence from their mother. Informant is proud of their Polish heritage, and spoke of this story with fondness.

Thoughts: I wonder if the story of the Wawel dragon came before or after the building of Wawel castle. It’s interesting to see how these Polish stories have come to emigrated to America along with its people. Despite being based on/being the inspiration for the wawel castle, the story of the wawel dragon leaves its castle, and travels to America without it. It’s interesting that the story can outgrow the location which it is originated from, even when the location is so inherent to it.

Sir Francis Drakes Drum

–Informant Info–

Nationality: British

Age: 20

Occupation: Student

Residence: Los Angeles, California

Date of Performance/Collection: 2022

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): N/A

(Notes-The informant will be referred to as JV and the interviewer as K)

Background info: JV is a student who was born in Britain and moved to the United States 2 years ago for college. He told me this story as we walked down the road due to a band playing drums nearby.

K: Lemme ask you a few questions before you get into it, dude! What’s the title, how do you know it, and whats the context of the performance?

JV: *laughter* yea, right, sorry, it’s called uh, I guess Sir Francis Drake’s drum, and you just kinda hear about it everywhere, from your mum to even like a history class or what have you. It’s kind of like uh…national pride? Like the cherry tree thing you blokes have going on. *laughter*

K: George Washington cutting down the cherry tree??

JV: Mmhm! *laughter*]

K: *laughter* Ok, ok tell the story already

JV: There honestly isn’t much to tell uh…Sir Francis Drake was this dude who was uh who had magic and could turn into a dragon, ergo the “drake” part of his name. He raided a bunch of Spanish ports and ya know, good ol English racism makes that a good thing. Anyways, he had this drum that he always brought with him on his like adventures I guess, and when he died the drum became like…a legend. Like, you you hit the drum SIr Francis Drake would come to England when it was in peril. Or sometimes the drum will hit itself when England is in danger *laughter*. There’s always tales about how during like war or something people have heard the drum being struck, and I guess we’ve always won.

K: Except during the American Revolution, how do they explain that

JV: *laughter* People conveniently ignore that

Interpretation:
I loved the way this was told to me. I thought it was interesting how much humor the informant was able to bring to something with apparent national pride, which h showed me that the newer generation of British citizens possibly doesn’t take this tale as seriously;y as previous ones. The idea of a magic dragon coming to aid Britain when needed also speaks volumes about what the English adhere to most. Dragons are a motif in most of the UK, especially wales, where one is on their flag. Magic is also a feature in most of their folklore so it makes sense that it would make an appearance in something like this. I wonder in what regions it is told in still, as JV is from a smaller town in the countryside and didn’t know all the details.

The Nine Maidens of Dundee

–Informant Info–

Nationality: Scottish

Age: 67

Occupation: Electrician

Residence: Los Angeles, California

Date of Performance/Collection: 2022

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s):

(Notes-The informant will be referred to DM as and the interviewer as K)

Background info: DM is the father of 4 from Scotland who moved to the United States when he was a young child. Both his parents are Scottish, which is how he knows of Scottish folklore like the one being spoken about. He told me this story at the grove over lunch.

K: So, what’s the name o the story, how do you know of it, and what’s the uh content for the performance? I mean like…under what circumstances is it like told?

DM: Ah it’s called the none maidens of Dundee. Everyone who grew up in my little-little town knows of it, as we be right outside Dundee. It’s just sort of told around, it’s not at any parades or nothing of the sort, it’s more sad or an explanation…no more of history about the town, somethin for tourists.

K: Ok cool so…whenever you’re ready to tell the story go ahead, however you wanna tell it works.

DM: Aye. A farmer had 9 beautiful, maiden daughters. He would send the oldest one out for water at a well every day but one day she did not return. So he sent the next eldest and so on and so forth. After all nine failed to return, he went to go see for himself and saw all nine of his daughters lay dead against the well, and wrapped around them was a giant dragon that looked like an uh…a snake. The farmer then fled to his neighbors and then all of them attempted to kill the dragon. He tried to escape but then young man named Martin *raises a fist and begins to stand up* HIT the dragon while everyone yelled: “strike martin, strike!”

K: Wow, did he manage to kill the dragon?

DM: Aye. The area was named “strike-martin” which would eventually change into “Strathmartine”.

Interpretation: This was super interesting and enlightening to what Scottland and Scottish people hold dear when it comes to morals and such. The farmer’s 9 daughters were killed, the farmer ran to get help and people helped him to the point where they killed the beast that killed his daughters. You could argue that anyone would run for help after seeing their daughters killed by the dragon, but the fact that people were so willing to help fight something that had the strength to kill 9 people is striking. It shows that Scotland teaches young children that helping people is essential, and is normally rewarded, as a part of the town was named after the man who killed the dragon.

Lạc Long Quân and Âu Cơ in Vietnamese Folklore

Main Piece:

AL: The tale of Lạc Long and Âu Cơ:

Lạc Long Quân was born in 2800 BC. He is the sun of a mountain god… and his mother is uh the sea god. His body is a dragon of some sort even though his parents… Was a sea dragon and his father the son of mountain… [He] was like a human-ish figure. His name, Lạc Long Quân, translates to Dragon Lord of Lạc. Lạc is a place in Vietnam…

Âu Cơ is the daughter of the northern chief… And fairy from the mother… Lạc Long Quân, the dragon, decided to take the form of a handsome man because he has that power, and Âu Cơ is a fairy. And so they married, and um *laughs* interestingly enough, Lạc Long Quân married the daughter but killed the father. I know. It’s weird… You would think that you shouldn’t kill the daughter’s father…

Anyway, so they had sex, and uhm she gave birth to a sack of a hundred eggs, and they grew into a hundred boys… Or children, depending on lore, and reestablished Vietnam. Uhm they say that all ancestors descend form these 100 children… Âu Cơ loved the mountain, so she really liked the north side. Lạc Long Quân loved the water because his mother is a water dragon… And so they decided to split the kids in half, or not in half— *laughs* divide the kids in half, fifty-fifty, and take them to either location… Half of them in the mountain and half of them near the sea… It was agreed by both parents that they would help each other in need. Lạc Long taught his children to fish and tattoo. Âu Cơ taught her children to farm and breed animals.

In Saigon, there are two streets who intersect. One is named Lạc Long, and one is named Âu Cơ, and they intersect because they’re married to each other… It’s very cute… Probably intentional… And then Lạc Long is known as the first king of Vietnam…

Context:

Taken from a conversation with my roommate in the Cale & Irani Apartments at USC Village. Him and I are of Vietnamese descent.

Analysis:

Myths are like adult versions of fairy tales. Historically, they have helped societies try to understand elements of the natural world or the scientific phenomena around them. Here, this myth plays into patriotic ideals in the founding of a nation and a unification between the rivalry of North and South Vietnam. These cross-generational stories are kept alive by the communities performing them. These two figures are so deeply incorporated into Vietnamese culture that there’s many pieces of art dedicated to them. In fact, there is a temple dedicated to the Dragon Lord. Furthermore, the intersecting streets are just further proof of how stories like these unify people through their collective imagination, childhoods, and rich cultural histories and beliefs.

Dragon Boats Legend

Piece
It was originally a native tribe holiday. A dragon boat competition. Rowboat? Like rowboats competition, in the beginning of summer and you had lots of special food. After the festival, the weather stays warm.
In the old days, China was always a kingdom. This was before China unified to one kingdom. At that time, there were several kingdoms and there was always war, it was not very peaceful. There was a king, back before… it was called the three kingdom era. There were more than three kingdoms but that must have been the three major ones. There was a test to see who had the most knowledge, every year, and the winner would get to advise the king. The poets were very knowledgeable in literature, and there was one poet, Qu Yuan, who was very loyal to his king, but another king was trying to lure him with his daughter to marry. Qu Yuan was a very good advisor, but his king did not listen to him, so Qu Yuan worried that his kingdom would be swallowed by the others. So at the end, he gives up on the king and was so sad that he jumped into the river and die. The people of the kingdom tried to find his body and that is where the dragon boat competition started. They also made a lot of bout-zons and threw them in the river in hope that the fishes would not eat him.
Context
The informant heard this story from their mother during a childhood celebration. The informant does not practice any of the described activities nor celebrate the holiday as an adult with a family.
This story was shared during a family gathering as it related to another story told that specifically focused on the tradition of throwing bout-zons into a river after a person has died in those waters.
My Thoughts
This story highlights a lot of the attributes important to Taiwanese culture: Chiyan is loyal to his king, even when he is not heard. He cares for his people and works for their benefit. And he is honored after his death by the people that he served. He is not tempted away from his duty by the offer of a princess’ hand in marriage, but instead seeks knowledge and to do what is good for the people of his kingdom. This idea of self-sacrifice and the pursuit of knowledge is perpetuated in many Asian cultures even now. While Americans may find his death pointless, the intended audience of Taiwanese people see his death as a statement of his care for the kingdom and its people.
Scholar Huang Zheng wrote that the Dragon Boat Festival was to commemorate two individuals: Qu Yuan and Wu Zixu, and that the festival sought to exorcise evil. This version introduces another character and attempts to explain the dragon figureheads of the boats.
Zheng, Huang. “A Review and the Expectation of the Dragon Boat Festival Culture.” Journal of Hunan Agricultural University, 2010.