Tag Archives: generational

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.

Pennies from Heaven

Context: Pennies are a form of American currency equaling 1 cent. Their low value makes them adaptable since people are generally not worried about conserving them. because of this, pennies have also become a common object of folklore-ish discussion.

Background Information: Informant’s grandmother died young, and the informant’s mother and father died when informant was in their twenties. Informant and Informants family are/were Christian and very relationally close to one another. The loss of their family has been very difficult for informant.

Informant: “My mother used to tell me that when my grandmother- her mother- died, that she would send pennies to her as kisses from heaven. Whenever we saw a penny on the side of the street, she would tell me grandma had sent it. When my own mom died, I went to the funeral, and I had paid a parking meter. When I came back to my car, the meter had broken and all these pennies littered the ground. I just bawled and bawled and bawled. Completely broke down crying.”

Thoughts: The presence of pennies is common folklore, and is often perceived as a sign of some sort when found accidentally. Whether or not the parking meter was a coincidence or not, the folklore surrounding the penny stands firm. The penny in this situation connects a member of a family group to the other members, even after death. The folklore is a unifying front, which unifies the member of this group and gives credence to the belief that the members of the group will continue to embody their group identity even after death.

Confinement for New Mothers

Context

Confinement is still a common practice in Singapore. It is when a woman who had just given birth must do nothing but rest for at least a month. My grandmother often brings up the lack of her confinement period to reference her now unhealthy state. The interview takes place as I get my grandmother to recount my mother’s confinement period.

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Performance

The following is translated and transcribed from a conversation between me, (M), and my grandmother, the interviewee (I).

M: What did you do when my Ma was pregnant with me?

I: Your mother had to stay at home. She couldn’t leave the house and must stay in bed.

M: Why did she have to do that?

I: After you give birth. A lot of your energy is taken away from you. And you lose a lot of important nutrients. So, you must stay at home and drink herbal drink. It is called zuo yue zi. Your mother had to be at home and lie on the bed for one month.

Translation: Zuo Ye Zi literally means Sitting The Moon, or sitting on the moon. Referring to how mothers who had just given birth must do nothing but sit and rest.

M: Did you also have to do confinement when you gave birth to my mom?

I: At that time I was too poor to afford a confinement lady. And I’m not lucky like your mother, my mother has passed away already so I couldn’t do confinement properly. I only did about ten days for each child then I had to go back to work. That’s why I’m so sick now,  I have very bad immune system. So when your mother gave birth, I made sure that she did at least one month, I wanted her to do more but she didn’t want to. I was already quite lenient with her.

M: What would have been a stricter confinement period?

I: I wouldn’t have let her shower if I could. When you shower you take away all the energy that is helping to rebuild your body. But she insisted on getting to shower, so I let her shower with warm water. And she only drank half of the tea I made for her, she didn’t finish it all. She won’t be very healthy when she is older. But I tried my best.

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Analysis

This is an old wives tale of why women must be pampered and taken care of after they had just given birth. This belief comes from Ancient China where women of rich families had the luxury to stay in bed and care for their health, and in many ways flaunt that they did not need to do any work after they had given birth. Today, many Chinese people in Singapore still believe in confinement, though not to the same extreme extend of the woman never being able to leave the bed, but rather that the woman should be able to just rest at home for a month without doing anything. I think that on a personal level for my grandmother, she uses this belief to explain her sickness right now. Though there are many medical explanations such as her old age, and just generally her immune system perhaps is not as strong as other people her age, she uses the fact that she wasn’t given the proper care when she was a young mother for her illness now. I think this gives her a sense of comfort because she can put the blame on something else, and pinpoint a reason for her illness rather than just accept that in a world of chaos, perhaps she was just unlucky in health. I believe that it is also a way in which she shows care for her daughters. Due to traditional beliefs, a lot of the love and care went to my grandmother’s two sons, and not much to her daughters. And it is perhaps through taking care of her daughters through confinement that she is able to show them that she loves and cares for them deeply.

The Oogli Boogli Man

Main Piece:

This is the transcription of a story told by the informant.

There is an old old woman and she lives all alone in the hills and every single night when she goes to be she takes her boots off and puts them on the ground and tries to go to sleep in the middle of the night the boots wedge themselves on her feet making her do chores all night long and then right as the sun starts to rise the walk her back to her bed and slip back off her feet. So she is becoming really really exhausted and doesn’t know what to do. So she finally takes a trip to the Oogli Boogli Man. He lives even deeper in the hills than the old woman. So when she has to go and walk over to him she takes her time and as she approaches his house a stench comes into the air. She stands far from the porch and screams “Oogli Boogli man” and there’s nothing. She screams again and then out comes the most stinky, farty, old crusty man that you have ever seen. He has icicle boogers coming from his nose and rat poop in his hair because the Oogli Boogli man does not like to clean himself. But he is magic. So the old lady says that her boots are exhausting her until the day breaks then she can go to sleep. The man says all right I will help you. Tonight when you go to sleep the boots won’t hurt you anymore. That night the boots jump back on her feet only this time the boots are taking her all over the town. She is absolutely exhausted and she knows a trick has been played on her. This next time the old lady decides she is going to take matters into her own hands. She makes jam for the Oogli Boogli man and puts some choice ingredients like cat turds, snot, whatever she can find. The concoction is a deep icky brown. She pours it into a jar and seals it shut. Then when she walks over to the man this time there is no reply, but she says all she wanted to do was thank him. That night when she is walking back to her house she hears a scream from the Oogli Boogli man’s house. “Damn you old lady, I’m gonna come get you” that night she is scared shitless, obviously. She hears a knock on her door and she does not know what to do so she stays nice and quiet. The man says “old lady I know you are in there, I just wanted to thank you for that jam that you gave me” and she stays nice and quiet. Then all of the sudden there is a creak and the door opens, so she is freaked out. Then the boots start walking towards the door that’s just opened and the Oogli Boogli man pops right into the boots and walks out the door cursing the old lady’s name. And that’s it, she gets to sleep after that. 

Background:

This story was told to the informant by their father and he learned it from his grandmother. The informant’s great-grandmother was from a tough-as-nails farming family that moved from Nebraska to the desert outside of Joshua Tree. The informant is very close with their family so stories are constantly shared as a way to feel close to their relatives.

Context:

The informant explained that this story was told to them by their father as a spooky tale before bed or around a campfire. When I asked the informant to share some of their family’s folklore, this was the first example that jumped to their mind. They were able to recite it completely from memory and with critical detail and description that showed how much this story had impacted them.

Thoughts:

This folktale is very representative of the blue-collar background of the informant’s great-grandmother. The isolation of the mountain town makes this story more scary for those who live in that environment. It also has magic involved but a very dark kind of magic that can control you in a painful way. This again shows the beliefs of people living in isolation. It could perhaps allude to the idea that outsiders could try to control communities they did not understand, just like the shoes control the old woman. Also the shoes never allowed for this woman to rest and in a farming community, rest is one of the few sacred things that you are given to survive. There aren’t luxuries that wealthier communities get access to, but rest is something guaranteed. The woman gets her rest back by standing up to the Oogli Boogli man which highlights the values of tough communities. You have to act for what you want and not expect things to get better without work.