Tag Archives: Folk Tale

La Llorona

Main Text

CE: “Essentialy El Paso kinda runs along this main river that borders Mexico and the United States, El Rio Grande. So there’s this really famous, um, old tale, kinda like a legend that exists, it’s called La Llorona. Um, it’s basically about…”

Interviewer: “And will you translate La Llorona please?”

CE: “Yes. La Llorona is like ‘the crier’ it’s a woman who just sobs and cries and, um. The story was an old woman who lives by the river and she, um, used to have a really nice farm and this beautiful garden and then a really tragic accident in the Rio Grande, she lost her son. He got washed up because he was playing to close to the water when it was high tide and so he ended up passing away and dying and so now every night if you go by the river, late at night, and the water is high you’ll hear her sobbing and crying for her son to return her. So, it’s all in Spanish, so she goes like *breathes* ‘Ay mi hijo’ just like really sad kind of like wallowing and depression, it’s a very sad story. Essentially just to encourage kids not to play by the water late at night or else they’ll get taken up by this, like, scary woman who’s, again, called La Llorona.”


CE is a 21 year old Mexican/Colombian American from El Paso, Tx and is a third year student at USC studying urban planning. She first heard the story from her grandmother and mother growing up in El Paso, and said the tale was especially prevalent in her household because her home was so close to the Texas/Mexico border. It was used as an incentive not to travel too close to the border, which since her childhood has been a more dangerous region of her town.


This story was told in CE’s household, and in other’s she says usually by a maternal figure to younger more impressionable children in order to keep them from straying too far away from the house and towards the river, and coinciding national border. The story only works as a deterrent if the children believe in and are afraid of La Llorona.

Interviewer Analysis

La Llorona follows a larger folkloric trend of children’s stories designed to protect them by preying on their fear of the unknown, or upon instilling that fear. By using a story like La Llorona or Hansel and Gretel, parents are able to use a terrifying fictional character to protect their children from perhaps less terrifying real-world threats such as wild animals or losing their way. Children are naturally curious and may not understand the dangers of the world, but will certainly be scared of a vicious monster that steals children and lives in the river. This story is told with good intentions by Latina parents and grandparents alike and is effective at achieving its goal, but this interviewer wonders if building a world view on fear of the unknown has detrimental consequences in the long run.

“Peeking Heads” Ghost Story

Main Piece:

AL: This was back at my old house where I lived in. A duplex, essentially. And it was night time, and it was probably around midnight to like 1 or 2 which is I guess late for me as a child.

Me: How old were you do you think?

AL: Uhm… I think I was in like fifth or sixth grade. And I was still afraid of the dark, and so I slept with like a night light… And my room was… [across the hall] from my parents room… Connected through a hallway, a very short hallway, and both [our] doors were open. And it was dark. It was late. My parents were asleep. I was asleep. My brother slept in my parents’ room, and so… I just woke up… and I was really tired but I was peeking out at the door, and I thought I saw my brother. I assumed that this person was my brother—who had their head sticking out of the door.

Me: *in disgust* Ahhhhh!…

AL: But It was so dark because they had no light [on]… And so I was kinda like shocked, but… it was understandable in my head… I called out my brother’s name like “Jonathan!” (Silence.) “J- jonathan! W- what? Hello?” And they would just stare back at me. It’s like where—in cartoons—you would see the silhouette of their hand peeking sideways? And I would see like a hand, waving, and I was like “Jonathan! It’s late!”

Me: *laughing* Like “What the hell is this, Jonathan?!”

AL: And I kept at it. And they would not go away…. They stopped waving, and I was like “Okay, okay. Good night!” And so I would roll over and try to fall back asleep… And then I’m assuming like 10 minutes passed… I roll over again, and they’re still there with like another person. And I’m like “Mom! Hello?” *laughs* But all I could hear was my dad snoring. And so I kinda just gave up on them, and then I eventually fell asleep. And then, the next morning, I talked to them, and I was like “What were you doing? looking out the door at me?” …I spoke this to my brother first….

He was like “Huh? What do you mean? I didn’t do anything.”

AL: I was like “No, you did. You had your head out and your hand and everything… Do you not remember? Are you dumb or something?”

And he was like “No, I was sleeping!”

I was like “Mom, do you remember? You were doing the same thing.”

Mom: “Huh? No!”

AL: “What do you- what do you mean?”

Mom: “What did you see?”

I was like “You and Jonathan were like literally… Staring at me and waving… You don’t remember anything?”

Mom: “No.”

I was like “Oh… Who were they then?” (jokingly) Hello? *laughs*

Me: *laughs* So, what was their initial reaction to it? Did they not believe you?

AL: They were kinda, like, laughing at me for thinking these things— rather than like believing, which I would also understand…

Me: So, did it scare you? In retrospect? Or in the moment?

AL: In the moment, it did not freak me out… Just like really tired… It could be just my tiredness and just like hallucinating. Do you know like when its dark and you see like grains [in your eyes]?…

Me: Yeah!

AL: It could just be that… Or actual people. Who knows?


An interview I had with my roommate in the Cale & Irani Apartments at USC Village late night, with the lights out to set the mood. He is of Vietnamese descent. His younger brother, Jonathan, was five to six years old at the time.


I love ghost stories, especially the way in which people perform them. This is a piece of self-proclaimed folklore, and his family still laughs about it till this day. He has disclosed to me that he was deathly afraid of the dark as child, but has since grew out of it. This experience was more confusing to him than anything. Children are often associated with ghosts or spirits because they are more ‘innocent,’ and therefore can see the paranormal easier. However, they are seen as more naive, so this lends itself as to why no one believed him. Perhaps, if he were to say this today, his family would. This brings into questions the credibility of folklore and personal narratives. Is folklore just as valid when it comes from children, themselves?

Momotarō (Peach Boy)


The informant–HO– is an third generation Japanese American 18 year old woman born in California who attended a weekly Japanese language school from age 7 to age 9. The tale was told to her by one of her teachers in English. 


The one I know the most is about the little boy who hatches from the peach. It’s like an egg. I don’t know where it [referring to the the story] comes from. It’s just like a fairy tale. It’s an Asian fairy tale. It’s Japanese. OK here’s the story. I think it’s just called Peach Boy, I guess, in English. 

There’s like this old lady, and she’s going to do her laundry in like the nearby river ‘cause that’s like what they did then, I guess. I don’t know. And then she sees like this giant peach floating by and she’s like “Whoah…that’s a big peach. I’m gonna take it back to my husband, and we’re just gonna like eat this huge peach. Because that’s crazy how big it is. So like the husband sees it and is like, “Whoah! That’s a huge peach!” And she’s like, “I know right!” And he’s like, “Where’d you buy it?” And she’s like, “I literally just found it floating in the river.” Would you eat a peach that was floating in the river? So {the husband} gets a big knife and is like, “I’m gonna cut this sucker open.” And then when he is like about to do it, he hears a voice that’s like, “Stop!” And then he’s like, “Whoah!” And so he stops. And then, it just like (She then cups her hands and mimics the sound of a cracking noise while separating her cupped hands to represent the peach opening like an egg) And there’s a boy inside! And his age? I’m not sure. He’s just like little. Just young. I would say like baby to toddler range. Uhm…yeah.. Okay and then… What’s next? 

Then he’s like the talk of the town. And..uh..so they just adopt him as their own. Sort of like Hercules when, like, those two “normies”, like find him and raise him and he’s like [She laughs] He’s like… He’s kinda, like, better than all the other kids. He’s just like- in literally every other aspect, and the other kids are like, “Oh my god he’s the best!” And the parents are like, “Yeah we know.” But nobody knows why except for them, and they know it’s, like, ‘cause he hatched from inside of a giant peach. Is this what James and the Giant Peach is about? I’ve actually never seen it. It makes you think…

Okay, and then he’s fifteen. He’s like, “What up, fake Dad that’s like my adopted dad? Um, here’s a proposition: “What if I like go to this island full of demons,” which are just like those little red people. There’s, like, an island full of demons and they, like- They basically have taken over this, like, island that people used to live on, and they’re like going crazy. He’s like, “I wanna go there, and, like, free all the people.” And his dad is like, “Since you’re, like, crazy better than all the other children, why should I stop you? You can do anything.” 

So then he, like, goes and starts his little journey. And then he’s, like, walking along, and he comes across this wild dog. And the dog is like, [She mimics a dog growling] “What are you doing? Why are you walking here?” And the little kid is like, “Oh my god do you know who I am? Like, I’m Peach Boy!” And the dog’s like, “Oh my god. So sorry that I even questioned why you were walking here. Like, I’m super embarrassed. Could you let such a rude person on your journey? Like, I can’t believe how rude I just was.” Direct translation. [She said this sarcastically.] And he’s like, “Sure! Let’s go!” And, like, how is that dog gonna kill demons? I don’t know but, whatever. And they’re like walking along some more, and then they like- This monkey, like swoops down and is like, “Hey! Heard you guys are gonna go fight those demons. Can I be in on it?” And the dog’s like, “You’re a monkey. That’s dumb.” But the little boy is like, “Yeah!” So then, there’s like- [She hums a bouncy tune] Walking along some more. And then they, like- There’s a bird flying by, and the dog barks at the bird and is like… I don’t know. He just doesn’t like birds, but the boy is like, “Don’t be rude to the bird. That’s rude.” And then um… And then he’s like, “Hey, bird, we’re gonna go kill some demons. Do you wanna come?” And the bird’s like, “Yeah!” And then, they all go, but then the boy’s like, “But if you’re gonna join our little clan, all you crazy animals have to promise that you won’t be mean to each other because that’s rude.” They have a bad trek record, obviously. 

So then, they’re like- Okay, so then, they go to- They finally reach the shore. Like Japan’s an island. How long can it take you to reach the shore? Then, they find a little boat. How? I don’t know, but they get on a little boat, and they sail across the ocean to the demon island.. um.. And then they get off the boat. 

Oh wait, back up. When they’re sailing there, um, the peach boy is like, “Bird go ahead, and tell all the demons that we’re going to seriously kill all of them.” Which, like, wouldn’t you want it to be a surprise attack? But like, whatever… And the bird’s like, “Alright.” And so he flies over and is like, “Whats up? You’ll never believe who’s coming. It’s the peach boy. And then um..Okay, so then, the demons are like, “Okay. We’re super ready.” They’re not. 

So like, once the boat gets there the monkey, the dog, and the peach boy go absolutely bonkers on these demons. They kill all of them until there is one left, and it’s, like, the leader demon. And Peach Boy is like gonna kill him, and he’s like, “Oh my god! What if I just gave you all my gold and set everybody free, and, like, we were totally good.” And Peach Boy was like, “Yes. I’m into that.” And then, so he, like showed him where all the gold was and set free all of the people he was holding who were suffering and et cetera. And then he brings home all the gold to the old people that raised him, and then they’re like super rich until they die. And thats the end.


This tale, told to entertain children, teaches audiences the dichotomy between good (the hero, Peach Boy) and evil (the demons) and can triumph evil through superior physical strength. 

For further analysis of the tale and its function of spreading Japanese nationalism, see 

Antoni, Klaus. “Momotarō (The Peach Boy) and the Spirit of Japan: Concerning the Function of a Fairy Tale in Japanese Nationalism of the Early Shōwa Age.” Asian Folklore Studies, vol. 50, no. 1, 1991, pp. 155–188. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/1178189. Accessed 30 Apr. 2020.

The Old Man, the Boy, and the Mule

Context: I collected this from a friend on a trip over Spring Break, after he’d heard me talking about folklore with another friend I was collecting from.

Background: This is a story that my friend read when he was learning to speak Mandarin as a child.

Dialogue: This old guy and his young son are on their way to the market, and they’re riding a mule and taking all their stuff with them. They start off, uh, the, the young guy, er, the… The old man is walking alongside the mule and the young, the young boy is sitting on the mule, and as they walk by a group of people, they overhear the people, like, criticizing— er, like, gossiping about them, criticizing: “Why is the, why is the young guy riding the mule and forcing the old guy to walk?” So the, the pair hear this, and don’t really wanna be judged, so they switch places. And so the old guy starts to ride the mule, and the young guy starts to walk, um… And, so then, they, as— They keep going, and they pass another group of people, um, and, they overhear some more gossip. These people are like, “Wha- Why is the, why is the old guy not letting the, the young boy ride the mule? How selfish is he?” And so, at that point, they… switch again, cuz of, after overhearing those people, um… So then they keeping going for a bit… And then they walk past another group of people and they overhear some more gossip, er, some more, um, talk. And these are like, “Wow, look at those two, they’re forcing that mule to carry so much stuff, poor mule!” Uh, so, at that point, the two decide to, they basically start carrying the mule on the way to the market.

Analysis: The friend who told me this story said that the moral he gained from hearing it was to avoid letting judgment from others affect your own actions. According to him, this is an older story that he read as a a way of learning more Mandarin. I would agree with him about the story’s moral, but I’d like to compare his delivery to that of the original.

Annotation: Upon further research, it was found that this is one of Aesop’s Fables. The moral given in the strict Aesop version is “Please all, and you will please none.” This was very enlightening to me, since it showed how differently the story appeared to my friend once it reached him as a child.

Three Soldiers Coming Home From War

The interviewer’s comments are denoted through initials JK, while the interviewee’s responses are denoted through initials SO.


SO:  “This is the story of three soldiers coming home from war.  And they’re walking through the countryside and they’re really hungry and they’re tired.  And they come across this little village.  And they walk into the village and the people aren’t overly friendly and the soldiers say to them, ya know, “Do you think you could give us some food?”  And the one house says, ya know, “We’d love to but the harvest hasn’t been good….. and we just don’t have any food to give you.”  So the soldiers go on to another house and said, “Do you think you could give us some food to eat, ya know, we’re really hungry, we just fought in the war to help all of you people… and um this other couple, this other family said, “Ya know there were soldiers that came by here recently and we gave them all of our food.”  And what really happened, uh, was these people had seen the soldiers coming and they hid all their food cause they didn’t wanna share it with the soldiers.  So the soldiers were kinda upset and they’re in the town village and they said, “Well, there’s no food, we have a good idea… we’re gonna make stone soup.”  And all the people in the village were like, “Well, what’s that?  I’ve never heard of that before”  


JK:  “Stone Soup?”


SO:  Stone. S-T-O-N-E.  Stone soup.  So the soldiers said, “We gotta get a big, big pot of water and let’s build a fire, and they boiled this big, big pot of water.  And then the soldiers said, Go find us three nice, round, smooth, stones.”  And the villagers were, uh, kinda excited, they went and they got the stones and they put the stones in their and the soldiers were stirring them.  And the soldiers said, “Ya know, do you think maybe we should….put some carrots in there?”  And the villagers said, “Yea, that sounds like a good idea, we could find some carrots.”  So they put some carrots in there.  And then they stir it up, and then they said, “Uhh maybe we should put some celery in their.”  And the villagers ran home and got the celery  and put it in there.  And then the soldiers said, “Well, what if we put some barley in there?”  And the villagers ran home and got the barley.  So it was startin’ to smell really, really good and then the villagers said, “Wait a minute, we need something more than this… we need some bread.”  And they went home and got their bread, got the bread.”  And then the villagers said, “Nah, we need, we need to have a big, big dinner here.”  So they set up all these tables in the town square and it ended up turning into this big, big party.  And the villagers were so, so happy that they had this big party.  And then the soldiers said, “Well, we do need some place to sleep.”  So they go the best houses in the village.  One of the soldiers slept at the Mayor’s house, one slept at a priest’s house, and the the other slept at a really wealthy person’s house.  The villagers thought the soldiers were so clever to have this soup made out of stones.”


JK:  Where is that from?


SO:  It’s an old tale, it’s an old French tale.  It was just about how they conned the people, they didn’t even realize, ya know the people were being stingy, but the soldiers kinda conned them into making soup.  And the villagers ended up being so happy with the party, they thought these guys were just the best in the world.  In the beginning they weren’t even gonna give them anything.”




This tale was told to me by my dad’s friend, Stephen.  I enjoyed listening to how the wit and cunning of the soldiers got them everything they wanted and more.  I think this story encapsulates one of humanity’s basic animalistic tendencies: greed.  We see this when the townspeople will not give any of their food to the weary soldiers.  Everyone seems to be thinking for themselves– their minds are solely focused on their own survival.  It isn’t until the townspeople hear they will get something out of the soldier’s request that they being to cooperate and act more hospitable.