Tag Archives: legend

“Have a spicy salad,”

“Have a spicy salad,”

Paula: Um…there’s gotta be some midwife’s tales, right? Um…like, uh, have a spicy salad. Or something. If- if you look that up, you’ll find that’s something that midwives used to tell women.

Me: …Tell pregnant women to have a spicy salad?

Paula: …to have the baby come.

My mother wasn’t entirely sure where she heard this from, but in my own research on the topic, it seems this saying was born from a local restaurant in LA. At this restaurant, they serve a certain spicy salad that is believed to help induce labor in pregnant women, and they have a chalkboard dedicated to all the women who went into labor shortly after eating this salad. Its a really interesting piece of folklore to me because of how, as my mother said, it seems like something a midwife would say to an expectant mother, but it was ultimately born from an entirely different place out of, most likely, sheer circumstance.

The Fisherman and the Golden Fish

It’s about a fisherman, and his wife that are living very humbly by the ocean. And uh … one day the fisherman goes down to the ocean and uh .. he uh .. casts his hook into the ocean and he catches a golden fish. And this fish, when it’s caught by the fisherman says, “Listen, if you let me go I’ll give you anything you want”. This is a Russian folktale. And the fisherman says, “Well, let me consult with my wife”. And so what he does is he goes back, and uh … he asks his wife what she would want, and she says she really wants a trough. You know what a trough is, it’s like a vessel almost. It’s a vessel made out of wood. A very humble request. And the fisherman says to the fish, “All we want is a trough. My wife just wants a trough to put stuff in, maybe flour or vegetables or something”. And the fish says, “No problem, no problem”. And so the fisherman goes back home and there’s this beautiful brand new trough uhh … in front of his wife. Now this repeats, because the fisherman, this is all folktale, he catches that fish again at another date down the line. And the fish says, “You know, listen, please let me go. Whatever you want I will provide”. And so he consults with his wife again and the wife says, “Hey, you know this is a big opportunity, I like, I like a new house. You know this hovel we’re living in doesn’t do it”. This progresses, the fisherman keeps going back and it goes from the trough, to a new house, and then it translates or devolves into something even bigger than a new house like a new cow or something like that. And he keeps going back to the fish, and he catches it, and finally the wife says, “Hey listen, I would like to be, … I think our wish should be that I should be the Queen of Russia”. They call it Tsaritsa. And the fish says …, the uhh fisherman goes back after he catches the fish, and sure enough the fish is tired of all these requests. There are many of them, they keep escalating. And uh he says uh .. “Just go back home, and your wife will get what she deserves”. And so he goes back and she’s in the same miserable state … as the uh inception of the story, because she had overextended her requests.

Background: This informant’s family is from Russia and he grew up in the US. He eventually taught Russian at a university. This piece is an example he has come across after studying Russian folk belief.

Interpretation: This story shows both the value in compassion, and that you should not be greedy. The fisherman is initially rewarded for showing kindness, it is only when he abuses this ability to get rewarded does he have all his rewards taken away. It also might say something about the right to the crown as that is the wish that breaks the camel’s back as it were. Basically the story warns against taking advantage of others and doing good out of greed instead out of kindness.

The Banyan Tree Ghost

Folklore/ Text:

TM: “When you [post author] were about four years old, we took you to an Italian restaurant in Lahaina, Maui called Basil Tomato. We were seated at a booth against a large window facing a courtyard with a grass field and a banyan tree, and you were closest to the window. Out of nowhere, you screamed ‘ghost!’ at the top of your lungs, which we attributed to your recent obsession with the tv show Scooby-Doo. We kind of brushed past what happened, until the waitress came to our booth and said ‘What did your son just say?’ Then your Mom had to explain, ‘So sorry for the disruption, our son is just being funny and thinks he saw a ghost outside…’ and the waitress’s face dropped. She continued, ‘That’s interesting you say so, because that’s not the first time we have had a guest see some kind of figure or apparition out at that Banyan tree recently. Apparently, someone who visited that tree often has passed away, and seems to be visiting that tree still in the afterlife.’ And then the whole table and restaurant went silent.”       

Explanation/ Context: Whenever my family tells me this story, it gives me chills. I actually vividly remember seeing a sort-of transparent/ holographic/ shimmery/ glowing figure at the Banyan Tree that night; it has sort of been ingrained into my mind because I was so taken aback by the experience. But it’s interesting to consider how this same story has traveled through my family, to my cousins, aunts, and uncles. It’s an anecdote people love to re-tell. And it’s especially interesting considering there’s this notion that young children are more susceptible to seeing paranormal activity because of their innocence. And my story, as told by my family members, confirms that belief to some extent.

The Curse of the Billy Goat

Folklore/ Text:

TM: “You can’t be a Cubs fan without knowing the lore surrounding the curse of the billy goat. During the world series in 1945, the owner of the Billy Goat Tavern (William Sianis) brought his pet goat, Murphy, to the game. The goat was messing with some fans in the stands, so Sianis and the goat were asked to leave the stadium. But before they left, he declared a curse upon the Chicago Cubs to never ‘win no more…’ The Cubs lost the game that day and never won another World Series again until 2016. It took 71 years for them to win, all because of the curse of the billy goat.”   

Explanation/ Context: This is an interesting piece of sports folklore, and gives Cubs fans everywhere an explanation as to why they hadn’t won the baseball World Series for such a long time. It’s lore that has been passed on since that unfortunate day in 1945– it certainly helps justify the team’s lack of performance in their games.

Annotation: The unfortunate story of the Curse of the Billy Goat has been adapted to authored literature, like The Cubs Win the Pennant!: Charlie Grimm, the Billy Goat Curse, and the 1945 World Series Run by John C. Skipper. The novel recounts the curse and its effects on the Cubs team over time.

Hatchet Annie and the Banana Man

Folklore/ Text: Hatchet Annie and the Banana Man

KM: “Basically, the banana man is a person dressed in a yellow rain suit. He was known for sneaking around below the intermediate girl’s shower house (bathroom cabin). He would grab their feet and toes through the gaps in the floorboards and occasionally stab their feet. Allegedly he was an old counselor who was fired for sneaking around and stalking girls, so he would break into camp during rainstorms with his yellow rain jacket and stick his fingers through the floorboards of bathrooms to scare them. Hatchet Annie was an old camper who had gone for many years, but was bullied by her fellow campers. Eventually, she stopped returning to camp, but grew up and returned to camp with an ax to kill the campers. She needed a place to hide the bodies, so she would tie rocks to the bodies of the victims, and she would throw them into a swampy marsh by the old shed that she had taken over as her base of operations. Forevermore, this swamp would be known as Lake Anne.”

Explanation/ Context: Despite being scary stories to tell around a campfire at night, they also serve as a way to ensure that campers are behaving. Because of Hatchet Annie and the Banana Man, campers are less likely to be misbehaving out in the woods late at night or act recklessly during storms. Likewise, it would keep campers away from Lake Anne, where younger kids may be likely to drown. If they think there are bodies at the end of the swamp, they won’t swim in it! These scary stories employ immense fear for the young campers especially… because they don’t know better than to understand they are fictional. They are examples of camp lore that have been passed along to generations, including my mother and my sibling. I certainly remember being freaked out by the prospect of stumbling upon Hatchet Annie in the woods, or seeing the Banana Man peak up at me from beneath the floorboards of a cabin. And it was always fun to speculate about whether one of these monsters were spotted around the camp property, too.