Tag Archives: lake

How To Become a Mermaid

Mermaids are mythical creatures that are half human and half aquatic creature. They have a tail and fins with scales instead of legs. Mermaids are rumored to live deep underwater and have become a beloved character in fairy tales.

So the tiny town my mom’s family lived in was on Lake Ontario. I had a friend in this town, and both of us really liked anything to do with mermaids. She told me that some girls in this town had seen mermaids in the lake, which was VERY exciting for me! I told her to ask for more info, and a few weeks later she reported back that apparently, the mermaids have lived there a long time, and some girls were able to perform magic spells that transformed THEM into mermaids, and they left behind their normal life to live with mermaid society. We spent the rest of the summer trying to recreate the magic that would turn us into mermaids. Most of it was stuff from our imagination, but she would come sometimes with lists of spell ingredients or magic words that she found online or got from other kids. We created a whole system of magic elements that we deemed either helpful or useless in getting us closer to transforming, and kept detailed notes of it. sadly, we never figured out how to join the runaway mermaid kid society.”

Korean story: The Woodcutter and the Axes

Nationality: Korean
Primary Language: Korean
Age: 68
Occupation: retired, former pastor
Residence: Seoul, South Korea
Performance Date: 24 March 2024

Tags: woodcutter, ax, god, greed, lake, gold, silver

Text:

Once upon a time, there was a woodcutter who would chop down trees and sell them for firewood and such. One day, while he was chopping logs, his ax slipped out of his hands and into a lake. As the woodcutter went to retrieve his ax, a god appeared out of the lake, with the woodcutter’s ax in hand as well as a shiny new gold and silver ax. The god asked the woodcutter which ax he had lost, and though the woodcutter was enamored with the gold and silver axes, he truthfully said that he had lost his normal one. The god was pleased with the woodcutter’s honesty and gave him all 3 axes as a reward. Word of the woodcutter getting the new axes spread throughout the village, including to the ears of a rival woodcutter, who got jealous and sought to do the same. Thus, one day while cutting logs, the greedy rival woodcutter threw his ax into the same lake, where the same god came and asked him the same questions as the other woodcutter. The greedy woodcutter lied and said that he had lost the gold one, so the god got angry at his dishonesty and drowned him in the lake.

Context:

H. is a born and raised South Korean citizen, and has had experience with telling stories through giving sermons in his church. This was simply one of the stories he told me when I was young in Korea. H. was aware that there were other versions of the story, and just said he told me the one that he knew the best, thinking about whether he should include the part with the greedy woodcutter.

Analysis:

Obviously, this story is derived from the story of the Woodcutter and Hermes, adapted in a Korean setting where the god is unnamed and some small details are changed. The aspects of being honest and not being greedy are pretty common lessons that still hold up in modern Korean society, and this is another good example of a story being changed throughout time and place from its original version.

Indawgyi Lake

Nationality: Burmese

Primary Language: Burmese

Other Language(s): English, Chinese

Age: 19

Occupation: Student

Residence: Hanover, N.H

Performance Date: 03/17/2024

P.P has been my friend since middle school and is also a Burmese person who is originally from Yangon, Myanmar. When I asked her of any legends, myths or tales she knows of, she recounts a legend that she learned of when traveling with her family and friends. Her family went on regular trips along with other family friends, to different places all over Myanmar. This included a lot of superstitious tourist spots. 

“Another tale I learned related to dragons was at Indawgyi Lake in the Kachin State. There, there is a Pagoda on an island in the middle of the lake, that’s where I visited. When the tide comes down, there is a path to the island. When I went there, the guide told us that there are dragons in the lake because dragons are usually in bodies of water. There were a lot of stalls selling food for us to feed the dragons while we walked on the path. I saw that some people were wriggling around like a snake on top of the path, it was really weird. I asked the tour guide about it and he said that’s because some of them have ancestral ties to dragons, and since they are near the dragons, their dragon spirit comes out and they start acting like dragons. It was so funny and unbelievable but quite a lot of people were doing it. There was a shaman that told one of my friend’s mom that she had a dragon spirit so they encouraged her to feed the dragons. She ended up buying milk as a donation and poured it into the lake! I think that this story was created just to make the tourist attraction more fun to visit. But the main reason is definitely to make the tourists pay for the food in the stalls and gain more profit.”

I interpret this legend as both a means of reinforcing cultural beliefs and scamming tourists. I see the dragon lore as a reflection of many Burmese people’s spiritual beliefs. On the other hand, the behavior of people acting like dragons is too nonsensical so I assume they are either hired actors or people who simply want attention. The legend seems tailored to mainly enhance the tourist experience and make more profit off of them. By making the location more mystical and intriguing, it preserves local folklore but also generates economic activity through the sale of food and souvenirs. 

The Ax Farmer – Tale

Context: R is a Korean American who was raised in Hawaii. She moved to Los Angeles to attend USC and is currently a freshman studying Computer Science. Her mom told her this story, and R herself has heard from multiple Koreans each with their own variation on what the tale sounds like. According to R, it’s a very popular folktale.

Text:

The story of the ax farmer begins with an axman who had a very poor quality ax. It was wooden and broken. He dropped in this lake one day, and there was a god living in the lake and the god appears with two axes in his hands, one gold and one wooden. The god asks the axman “Which one is your ax, the golden one or the wooden one?” The axman answers honestly with “the wooden one.” The god, impresses by the man’s honesty, gives him the golden ax.

However, there was another man listening to the ax man and god’s conversation. He then purposefully threw an ax into the lake and the god appeared. The god asks the man which ax is his and the man chooses the golden ax. The god knew he was lying, so he punished him. The punishment R never specifies, but she implies that the god severely punished the other man for lying.

Analysis:

Like any tale, the god and man interaction and the golden ax is clearly not real. There is no real lake that this story was at nor would there be a god living it who can give golden axes to passersby. But, due to the context in which these motifs are placed, the audience is able to learn a very real and applicable lesson about honesty and punishment. From Oring’s definition of a tale, the inherent falsehood of the narrative makes it easier to digest; the linear path the plot takes and the extreme contrast of the characters allow the logical and real-world solution to the story, the man’s punishment, to be impactful and relatable. From there, the two-dimensional and predictable story can be adapted into metaphor, and then motif and then life lesson. A god living in a lake and the existence of a golden ax are metaphors for a high power or authority in life and rewards. By pleasing the authority figures with honesty and good morals, rewards will be given. Lie to power or manipulate selfishly, the punishment will be severe and no such rewards will be yielded. Tales like these are usually told during childhood, so this tale gives a young and innocent audience a hard truth about living in society without it being overwhelming or stressful. The tale is blaring entertainment, yet perfectly subtle in the delivery of morality and ethics.

The Legend of Stoggoty Stu

Text: “This is called the legend of Stoggoty Stu, that’s literally what they call it. Every year my family for like the past three, four generations has gone to New Hampshire. We like to own the cabins on one part of the lake and then people on the houses on the other part of the lake. There was this myth that Charlie and this man named Stoggoty Stu were best friends. Stoggoty Stu lived across the lake and Charlie lived in the cabins where we were. We play volleyball every single night from like 10pm-1am there. Charlie would blow this huge horn and scream volleyball across the lake and then families, including Stoggoty Stu would come to play volleyball. Stoggoty Stu and Charli have passed on now because it’s been so many generations, but we still play volleyball and we don’t call across the lake, but everyone comes like when they know. And so, the myth is that after we all play volleyball and everyone is getting hammered, good vibes all around everyone goes to the lake to jump in. Everyone pretends if they’re drunk enough or if you believe it that you can hear Stoggoty Stu calling back across the lake especially when it’s windy and dark and foggy. Specifically at 12:12 when we all jump in.”

Context: M is nineteen years old and grew up in Seattle, Washington. She’s currently a Business major at USC. She says that she grew up hearing the Legend of Stoggy Stu, and her family and friends still tell it today. 

Analysis: Stoggoty Stu’s location and nature are both interesting in this story. Those who interact with ghosts are typically witnesses or victims, in this case M’s family is witnesses. Ghosts also often appear at a changing of location or ownership, in this case the ownership of the lake house is changing hands from one generation to the next. Stoggoty Stu is stationary, M says her family doesn’t tell or follow the legend when they are at home in Seattle, but rather when they enter the separate space of the lake property. Stoggoty Stu could also be considered an ancestral spirit, connecting M’s family to the property. By continuing to call for his friend to come play volleyball, Stoggoty Stu is expressing a desire for M and her family to stay connected to their community. M’s family’s imitation of his call, having their friend’s for volleyball every night, could be considered quasi-homeopathic ritual magic perhaps to bring back the spirit of the good times Stoggoty Stu represents.