Tag Archives: Fairytale

Armenian Tale: Kikoyi Mahy

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Armenian
Age: 51
Occupation: Dental Hygienist
Residence: Glendale
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/24/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Russian, Armenian

Կիկոյի մահը

Transliteration: Kikoyi Mahy

Translation: Kiko’s Death

Description by Informant:

There was a poor family who had three girls. All of which were unmarried. One day the dad sent one of the daughters to bring a water from the well nearby. The girl goes to the well and sees a big tree next to the well. She starts thinking or dreaming, “If I get married one day and have a son named Kikos, what if Kikos comes to the well and climbs the tree and falls from it and dies?” She starts crying, “My dear Kikos, why did you die? Oh my dear son, how did this happen?” And she stays at the well and keeps crying and crying as if this truly happened.

Meanwhile, the parents notice the girl didn’t come back, so they sent the second sister to see what happened. The second sister goes to the well and finds her older sister crying at the well. After finding out why she is crying, the sister also starts crying “Oh my dear nephew Kikos, why did you come here and climb the tree?”. Then the third sister joins and also cries. Then the father sends the mother to see what happened to the girls. The mother arrives and finds out what could happen to Kikos. She joins the daughters in crying.

Finally the father decides to go and see what happened to his family. When he comes to the well and finds out the destiny of his unborn grandson, he says “Are you women crazy? Who says that Kikos will come to the well to get water? Kikos is going to become a king. When have you seen a king go and get water for himself? Someone else will get the water for him. Now lets go enjoy life!”. The End.

Background Information: This is a popular Armenian children’s fable/ fairytale. Many different versions, some with more detail than others.

Context: The informant told me about this tale during a conversation in which I asked her to tell me about an Armenian folk narrative that she knows about.

Thoughts: It is clear that this is a story for children. I believe that the moral of the story is to not look too far into the future and worry about things that may never happen. Live in the present and enjoy life. If you are going to thing about the future then think positively, not negatively. I think the story has underlining air of misogyny. It is portraying the women as these highly emotional beings who cannot decipher reality from fantasy, while the only man in the story is pictured as the reasonable one although he does say that his grandson will become a king. I think he says this to be sarcastic and to show how dramatic the women are being.

Shirin and Farhad

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Persian
Age: 22
Occupation: University Student
Residence: San Diego
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/11/2018
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Farsi

The following informant is a 22-year-old Persian-American women from Southern California. In this account she is describing a tale her parents and family used to tell her when she was little. This is a transcription of our conversation, she is identified as S and I am identified as K:

S: So, my name, um because it means sweet, there used to be this fairy tale in Iran, that basically every old person, in their entire life, and basically everyone has been told this story.

So basically, there was this princess and her name was Shirin, and there was a King and his name was Farhad. So basically, Shirin lived in this Castle… and… um… and she was just like this princess of like Persia. And he like… well… it’s kind of like a Rapunzel type of situation and basically Farhad came and like saved her and took her outside the castle and like gave her a new life. He was basically… he was just like her prince, but like she was the main focal point of the story as opposed to that guy. But like yeah, the story is not like too-in depth, it’s pretty short. It’s basically… just like… there is a prince and a princess and it’s like bada bing bada boom

S: But umm… yeah, my parents told me that, and basically most people who name their kids Shirin, or Shireen, will tell their children that story. It’s kind of like Rapunzel, because she is just like stuck in the castle and he like comes and saves her, but like the Persian version, haha.

K: Who is told this story?

S: Well like any Persian over the age of 45 knows it cause it’s like a children’s tale, but they always tell it to kids named Shirin

K: Do you like the story?

S: Well, yeah, because there was not a story, like growing up in America, the princesses were not named Shirin, so when I heard about a princess with my name and she was rescued by a knight in shining armor, I was like very there for it… because like yes… it was not Cinderella, aurora, or whatever the fuck and now there was finally a Shirin

K: What does it mean to you?

S: Um, I think when I was like a child, I thought that your name … actually no when I was a child I did not give a shit about that, I just thought it was so cool that I had a princess and other people didn’t. But as an adult it makes me feel better, that my name has meaning and history behind it.


The informant told this retelling while we were at a café by her school. The conversation was recorded and transcribed.


First of all I love her retelling of the story, I thought it was great. But I also think that her not knowing the specifics of the story and only knowing the main ideas is okay because her take away from being told this story was that her name means something. It makes me think of the Oral-Formulaic Theory, how if she were to tell her child the story, she will probably keep the plot the same because that is what she knows, but the formulaic speech (little details) she could change up. In addition, which is what I find most interesting, is that she explained that this is a popular fairy tale, that is about a Persian princess, tell young Persian children. After doing some research, this story is actually based on a poem, which was based on a real event, of an Armenian princess named Shirin falling in love with the Kind of Persia. So, in the original story, the princess was not Persian, but to the informant its more about the name of the princess than her origins.

Here are two links to look at the original poetic version and historical version that inspired this tale. (These are not links to the absolute original version, as I don’t understand Farsi, I had difficulty procuring it):



“The Heavenly Maiden and the Woodcutter”

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Korean-American
Age: 52
Occupation: Finance & Administrative Manager
Residence: San Pablo, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: March 2013
Primary Language: Korean
Other Language(s): English

            The informant, who was born and raised in South Korea until immigrating to the United States as a young adult, tells a popular childhood fairytale about a woodcutter and a heavenly maiden. As far as the informant knows, the tale dates as far back as at least the Chosŏn Dynasty, the last and longest-lived dynasty in Korea that began with General Yi’s proclamation in 1392 and ended in 1910. According to her, it is one of the most oft-told tales during childhood, and that most children’s storybooks would include it. In fact, the informant herself had a published version of the tale in a children’s book she bought for her own children. The text and images included are from this book, the story re-told by Lee Hyung Sung, illustrated by Lee Mung Sun, and published by Ji Gyung Sa.

            The informant finds “The Heavenly Maiden and the Woodcutter” a touching story because of its ultimate sadness. She feels that Western tales, she cited Disney renditions of fairytales in particular, are easy to forget because “each one makes you feel the same way. . .they leave you happy, but children are happy most of the time, so wouldn’t a child remember something better if it made them feel sad?” The sadness and bitterness that concludes the story is not necessarily a result of anyone’s faulty behavior or poor judgment. Rather, the informant explained, it is a set of unfortunate circumstances that leads to the forced separation between the woodcutter and his wife and children, so by the end of the tale there is no one or nothing to truly blame for the situation. For that reason, she remembered this story above all other childhood tales that she heard, and she knew she wanted her children to hear it as well, to show that sometimes, in life, it is futile to struggle to find a concrete reason behind the sadness that we will all come across in life.



            Long ago in another land, there was a woodcutter who lived in the countryside with his old mother. He was so poor that even though he was an adult he could not get married. No one wanted to marry him because he was so poor and living with his mom. So his wish was always to get married. One day, he was in the deep forest cutting and collecting the wood, and there was a deer running hard toward him. The deer asked him, “Please save me! The hunter is coming after me! Please help!” The woodcutter told the deer to hide underneath his pile of chopped wood. Sure enough, a couple minutes later the hunter came passing by and asked the woodcutter, “Have you seen a deer running?” The woodcutter told him, “The deer went all the way that way” and pointed him in the wrong direction, even though the deer was hiding underneath the pile of wood. So, of course the hunters follow the path  the woodcutter pointed to, and a couple minutes later he lifted the wood and told the deer, “Okay now you can come it, it is safe.” However, this deer was a spirit of the forest and he told the woodcutter, “Thank you so much! In return for your kindness I’d like to make one of your wishes come true. So, what is your wish?” The woodcutter explained, “Well, I am so poor and even though I’d like to get married there’s no lady to get married to. . .I want to be married.” The deer told him, “In the deep forest, there is a big pond. Every 15th, when there’s a full moon, heavenly maidens descend from the sky and bathe in the pond. Go there and hide one of the maiden’s outfits, which allow them to fly back to heaven. If you hide it, one of the maidens will not be able to fly, and you can take her to your house, where she will be your wife.” The deer firmly added, “Remember, no matter what do not give the maiden her outfit until she has had three children.”

            So, the woodcutter followed the instructions. He really went deep in the forest during the full moon and, sure enough, the maidens were out and having fun bathing. He went to where the clothes were piled and then hid one of the robes behind a tree. When the maidens are done bathing, they put their robes back on and fly up to the sky again. But one of the maidens kept looking and looking for her outfit and couldn’t find it and she began crying. So, slowly the woodcutter went to her and told her, “Here are some clothes, would you come with me?” (they were human clothes, of course).

The woodcutter reaches the pond

          She had no choice, so she went with him and became his wife. They had two kids and lived very happily. But, every once in a while, always during a full moon, she would look at the sky, missing her home. The woodcutter felt really bad watching her missing home, so he thought that they seemed happy enough―they already had two kids―and maybe it was okay to give her the winged maiden’s outfit. So one night when she was crying again he gave her the winged robe and explained that he trusted her not to run away because he could see that she was happy. She was happy, and asked if she could try it on. Of course, as soon as she put it on the feeling of flying and of seeing home returned to her. She held her two kids―one in each arm―and flew back to the sky in her winged robe. The woodcutter has now not only lost his wife but his two kids, as well. He cried every day.

The heavenly maiden flies away with her children

            One day, the deer came back to him and said, “I told you not to give her the winged robe until she had three children. The reason being that she cannot hold three―she only has two arms! No matter what, she could not bring herself to fly without her children. But, you didn’t listen to me, and now this has happened. I will give you one more chance. After the time when you hid the robe, the heavenly maidens don’t come down to the pond anymore to bathe. Instead, they send a bucket from the sky and lift the water to the heavens. When the bucket comes down to the pond, get in the bucket and it will lift you to the sky.” Again, he followed the instructions and, sure enough, the next full moon a bucket came down from the sky. He hopped in the bucket and was lifted to the heavens.

The woodcutter ascends to the heavens

             He saw his wife and two kids, who were so happy to see him, and his wife asked if he could stay and live with him. He stayed there until the next full moon, but soon he became worried about his mom back on Earth. He was happy, in a way, but still missed his mother back home. So the heavenly maiden said, “Since you are missing your mother so much, I will give you this winged horse so you can go to see your mom, but please come back! You must be riding the horse the whole time; if your feet touch the ground, the horse will fly away and you will not be able to come back.” He promised his wife he would just visit his mom and he would return right away.

            The winged horse took him to his mom, but he could not jump off to the ground. He explained this to his mom and she understood. That day, she had made a really hot pumpkin porridge, which is one of the woodcutter’s favorite dishes. She told her son, “That’s okay, you don’t have to come to the ground, but I made some delicious pumpkin porridge and I will bring it out to you. You can eat it on the horse and then go back to the sky.” She brought the bowl of soup and he was eating while still on his horse. By mistake, he spilled some hot porridge on the horse, who cries “Aiiiih-aiiiih” and jumps up and down in pain. The horse’s rocking knocks the woodcutter to the ground and, of course, the horse flies away to the sky. The woodcutter had no way to return; the maidens no longer even sent the bucket down anymore. From then until the day that he died, the woodcutter looked up at the sky in search of his wife and two kids. After his death, the woodcutter became a rooster, and that is why we now see the rooster look up at the sky and cry “Cuckaeioooo, cuckaeiooo.”

The woodcutter spills hot porridge on the winged horse


The woodcutter's soul as a rooster


            “The Heavenly Maiden and the Woodcutter” has many elements expected of a fairytale. Animals are personified and humans can travel between the earth and heavens, indicative of a mystical world that is typical of the fairytale setting. The story is, however, quite sad and moving at the end, as the heavenly maiden and the woodcutter never reunite and neither are truly happy. The sadness and bittersweet nature of the tale (because, in the end, the couple’s separation was cemented by an accident) seems somewhat unconventional for a children’s story, but perhaps this is only because so many western children consume sanitized versions of children’s stories.
             A number of interesting observation can be made from the tale. For one, it is clear Korean culture places importance on the lunar cycle; much of the tale’s pivotal moments revolve around actions the occur on the full moon. Additionally, the spirituality and wisdom of the deer suggests little invincibility and superiority, if any at all, attributed to humans. Furthermore, the maternal connection between a mother and child is clear and strong―the informant spoke of the heavenly maiden leaving with her children despite her Earth-bound husband quite neutrally, as if the reasoning behind this is natural and understandable. Lastly, the ending of the story is akin to that of a myth, because the tale not only tells a story but also explains why something has come to be the way this it is in the world today.