Tag Archives: fate

The Story of the Maiden’s Tower

Text: “This is apparently a popular Turkish legend that I was told on a family trip to Istanbul. It is the story of The Maiden’s Tower, a popular tourist destination. It tells the tale of a princess who was locked in a tower to protect her from a prophecy that she would die from a snake bite. As the legend goes, the king of Constantinople was told by a fortune-teller that his daughter would die from a snake bite on her 18th birthday. In an effort to protect his daughter, the king had a tower built in the middle of the Bosphorus Strait, where he locked the princess away. On the princess’s 18th birthday, the king brought her a basket of fruit as a gift. Unbeknownst to the king, a snake was hiding in the basket, and when the princess reached in to grab a piece of fruit, the snake bit her and she died.”

Context: CW is a close friend of mine and he claimed this popular Turkish legend was told to him and his family by way of a tour guide while they were visiting Istanbul. He claimed, “I thought this story was cool but the most interesting part was how the tower was real and it was so isolated from the whole area that the story kind of became believable in a way”. I found this interesting and asked him to explain more and he just stated that actually seeing the setting of a legend for himself made the legend come to life and seem more believable, whether or not the story is true, it was unique getting to know it was actually possible. He remembered this story because he enjoyed the trip so thoroughly and he actually had a few pictures of the tower which allowed me to understand why the story seems so possible.

Analysis: After rereading the account of this legend I was able to find two main lessons. Firstly, the story highlights the dangers of overprotectiveness. The king’s decision to lock his daughter away in a tower shows how a desire to protect someone can become excessive and ultimately lead to unintended consequences. Instead of shielding his daughter from harm, the king inadvertently brought about her demise. Secondly, the story underscores the notion of fate and how it cannot be avoided. Despite the king’s best efforts to protect his daughter, the prophecy that she would die from a snake bite still came true. With these two lessons in mind, the legend had a purpose and therefor was easier for me to understand. It seemed to me that this legend was likely popular among all residents of Turkey considering it manifests in a popular location within one of Turkeys most populated and popular locations. The story being told to CW and his family indicated to me that it was also popular for the story to be told to visiting groups of tourists. After some research I found that the exact origins of the story of the Maiden’s Tower were unclear, as it has been passed down through oral tradition over many centuries. But it is believed to have originated in ancient Greek mythology, where it was known as the “Legend of Leandros and Hero.” The story was later adopted by the Byzantine Empire, which built a tower in the Bosphorus Strait to protect the city of Constantinople from invasion. Over time, the legend evolved into the tale of the princess who was locked in the tower to protect her from a prophecy. This timeline meant this story has a rich history and consisted of elements from several different cultures which made it all the more interesting.


Fortune Keeping


A is a Pre-med biology major at USC, currently a freshman. A is a Vietnamese American who grew up in Vancouver, Washington a short drive from Portland, Oregon. 


A: Okay, so I’ve learned this at a very young age, but my family has told me that fortunes come true. Like, the fortune in the fortune cookies. I keep the slip of paper in my pocket like, as a way to make it come true. Keeping it with me helps make sure the fortune will come true, but if I don’t want this fortune to come true, I won’t keep it. 

Me: Do you ever lose them?

A: I keep them for as long as I think I need the fortune. Like, if I think it came true, then I’ll throw it away. 


The fortune tellers A is talking about are finely printed words, usually in a vague phrase or arrangement, that come from restaurant complementary cookies. As fortune telling is a way of predicting or controlling the future, I think what A experiences reading a fortune teller is something along the lines of superstition and homeopathic magic. Fortune tellers are usually signs, a specific message from the universe or time or fate telling you something important will happen. A believes this sign and wants this future to be his, so fortune tellers encourage some change in behavior to bring about that important thing. To bring fortune into reality, it is important for A to keep evidence of the future (the fortune paper) with him, as if to constantly be summoning it into his reality. Through this “like produces like,” A believes the paper in his possession (representing good fortune) will eventually produce what is predicted on the paper (actual good fortune). For A, he associates the paper with telling the future and keeps the fortune with him to invite the future to happen. He chooses to indulge in a sense of control or a kind of understanding over the world, where there is usually something wholly unpredictable. 

月老紅線 Red Thread from the God of Love

The informant is a 21-year-old woman who lives in Taiwan. She went to a temple and asked the God of Love for a red thread to stop bad relationships from happening. The interview was conducted through a video call.

Collector: Can you tell me more about the red thread from the God of Love?

Informant: Yeah, of course. The red thread from the God of Love represents the marriage that is meant to be in your destiny. In our culture, there’s this idea of 緣分 [yuan fen] which is roughly the idea of fate in terms of love and marriage. It’s often described as an invisible string that connects two people who belong to each other. The red thread represents the right 緣分, and it will stop other bad or just not meant to be relationships from happening. 

Collector: How do you get a red thread from the God of Love?

Informant: You have to ask for one from the God of Love 月老 [yue lao]. You bring sweet snacks to the temple and put them in front of the altar. You take these things called 筊 [jiao] which are two red moon-shaped wooden pieces that can indicate what the gods and goddesses trying to say. You list out what you are looking for in your future partner and toss the pieces. If you get yes 3 times consecutively, you can get a red thread from the God of Love. I got mine from one of the biggest temples in the city. Your parents can ask for one for you as well, but you should only have one with you at all times. If you own more than one, the old one needs to be burnt in the furnace in the temple after you get permission from the God of Love. 

Collector: What do you do with the thread you have?

Informant: They used to say that you should tie it on your wrist. However, the staff in the temple told me to keep mine in my wallet and make sure I look at it often. She said don’t tie it because it would mean that there will be 結 ([jie]; knots) which represent 劫 ([jie]; obstacles or disasters).

Collector: Will anything happen when you find the right person?

Informant: When they used to tie it on the wrist, they said that it would break and fall when you find the right person. But I don’t think this is the case anymore. What I’ve heard is that you will lose the tread somehow. 

The religious life in Taiwan is mostly a mixture of Buddhism and Taoism. Though the God of Love 月老 mentioned by the informant is a Taoist god, the practice of asking for a red thread is a part of vernacular religion. People who would want to go through the process of earning a red thread are often feeling lost or frustrated about their dating life. The red thread acts as a guiding light in their search for their happily ever after or reassurance from a higher being that the owner’s love life is being taken care of. Owning a red thread is homeopathic magic because it symbolizes the invisible string that connects one to the right person. Jiao bei, sometimes called moon blocks, which are the red wooden indicative pieces are really amusing in the sense that the sign from gods is quite straightforward. It is also worth noting that the name 月老 or the full-name 月下老人 means the old man under the moon (Full moon), this ties back to the common connection of full moon and fertility since the god is mainly in charge of marriage.

Indian proverb about fate

Context & Background:

Indian proverbs relating to death and fate. Translated from Hindi to English. Informant: an old lady from Rajasthan who is my late grandfather’s family friend.

Performance: (via phone call)

Proverb: “Jakho Rake Saiya, Maar Sake Na Koi”


Jakho: Whoever

Rake: Keep

Saiya: God

Maar: Kill

Sake: able to 

Na: not

Koi: anyone

Translation: Whoever god wants to save, no one can kill them.   

Explanation: This proverb says to have faith in God or fate, and if you have that no one can kill you.       


This sounds a lot like a religious proverb, but I don’t think it relates to Hinduism as much as Indian culture. India is a mix of many religions, including a lot of Muslims and Sikhs. The proverb doesn’t state any particular God, just one that you believe in. India is a very faithful country and most people have some sort of relation to a higher power. The proverb is used to reduce worry and have trust, like all faith related sayings. This proverb, unfortunately, is very prominent today in India because of the Covid-19 Pandemic and India is suffering from many deaths in its second wave. As we have family members in India, we use this proverb to keep us hopeful and trust in the higher power. This proverb is also used when to explain miracles that save people’s lives and tragedies that take people’s lives. 

Prince and the Lion

10) Prince and the Lion

-) There was a prince who was born in a castle. It is said by a prophet that before he reaches the age of 12, a lion will look at the prince and cause the prince to die.

Thus, the King and Queen locked the prince in the castle, and never let him outside, fearing for any sorts of accidents to happen.

One day the prince (age 11 and a half) was bored and was wandering in the hallway, he sees this intricate design of the lion on the wall paper. The prince imagined that he was playing with these lions and thus he was tracing the lion’s shapes on the wall.

However, in the place of the lion’s eye, there was a nail; and so when the Prince accidentally traced it with his finger, he got cut and got tetanus, and he died from it.

-) The moral of this story is that no matter how hard you try to avoid something, what is bound to happen is bound to happen. This is widely believed by many Greek people, and it is a theme that is deeply ingrained in their culture. In many greek plays and myths and legends, we can see that when the main character tries to escape their fate, fate just leads them right back into where they tried to run away from. (ex: Oedipus.)

-) My Greek friend heard this story from her grandmother, and her mother; it was one of the bedtime stories that was told to her. She performed this to me when she heard that I was collecting folklore stories; but rather than a performance it was pretty concise and flat.

-) I think it is very interesting how the theme of fate is so ingrained in greek cultures; from ancient greek plays, myths, to different folklore tales. Even my friend told me that this is something she believed in. These tales must have played a pretty significant role in shaping her belief.