Text: “死鱼正口，收杆就走” Translation: Grab the rod and go if you got a dead fish.
Context: This is a superstition that Chinese anglers believe in. The informant is an angler, and he learned this saying on the Chinese online forum of fishers. The dead fish is believed to be attached to the fishing rod by the water monsters(水鬼). If the angler keeps fishing, he will be the next water monster. To protect oneself, the angler must burn the paper money and prepare meat for the water monster, a ritual to appease the water monster. Although the informant does not believe in monsters, he still respects and shares this term with others. The informant is also sure that all anglers in China know this term as it’s a general term.
Analysis: As a well-known term, the saying has some practical meaning, while the ritual is a common way Chinese people deal with creatures that are not human beings. The saying itself, which warns anglers about dead fish, might be a cautionary saying. When one catches a dead fish, it might mean the water is contaminated, which causes the death of the fish. Thus one should stop fishing at that location and avoid eating the fish. The ritual of appeasing the water monster involves the Chinese superstition of offering food and money to things in another world. Burning paper money is a way to provide money to the dead, and it is believed that supernatural creatures can consume the food humans provide them. By “worshiping” the water monster, anglers can avoid being harmed by the water monsters.
“I really like the story of Scylla and Charybdis– which also relates to the saying of being between a rock and a hard place; and some people alternatively say ‘between Scylla and Charybdis.’ It’s because the whole tale goes, in two stories, people are trying to sail through this narrow path. It’s between this big cliff where this legendary monster known as Scylla resides within. Scylla used to be this normal and beautiful woman, but she was cursed to be a monster with dog heads sprouting from her lower half, and now she’s gained monstrous features like scales. These dog heads constantly hunger, so now she’s just become a monster who hides within the cliffs.”
In the water is Charybdis. Charybdis is a child of Poseidon, I think. She’s a huge monster, and you never actually see her in her entirety. What stays the same among depictions, however, is her gaping maw that summons a whirlpool going down into an unending amount of teeth.”
In the tales, the main character is on the ship, but the problem with sailing through is that sailing away from the whirlpool places you next to Scylla where the wolf heads will begin to pluck crewmates off the boat and eat them whole. But if you sail away from Scylla, you risk your entire boat getting completely destroyed by Charybdis.”
RELATIONSHIP – “I really like this mythos because– first of all this would be a terrifying situation. As a fan of big monsters, there’s not a lot of big monster situations that would be as dreary as this.”
WHERE THEY HEARD IT – “Dad showed me cool monster things because he got me into that stuff. So there were Greek mythology books and games and figures that I enjoyed, including sea monsters like this.”
INTERPRETATION – “This story is very relatable to picking the lesser of two evils. In order to carve your own path forward, you have to show your resolve. This was also probably something used to explain the phenomenon of whirlpools and jagged rocks that probably sunk ships.”
The tale of Scylla and Charybdis was certainly heavily referred to as a way for early humans to make sense of the world around them. I think an important piece of this tale is the lesson of making the most of a bad situation. It teaches people that sometimes there just seems to be no good option. The tale ensures and validates the idea that it’s impossible to know what choice is the right one at every given moment, but no matter what, one must resolve to press on, push through, and handle the consequences.
CONTEXT/BACKGROUND: The interlocutor (JP) is the mother of the interviewer (INT). She and her family grew up in Bacolod, Philippines, and lived there up until she moved to Los Angeles in her twenties.
DESCRIPTION: (told in person) (JP): “The manananggal is this mythical creature that separates from their lower body. She usually has fangs and wings, like um… a vampire witch, and she likes to hunt for her victims at night.
Most of her victims are pregnant people since she can such the blood or heart out of the fetuses, or, um…. or even the mother, but she also will attack newlyweds and abandoned grooms. A lot of people who fear the manananggal will put out salt, holy water, or garlic to keep her away from their home. She also doesn’t like the sun, I think.
Some people say that since the manananggal leaves her severed legs just standing in the middle of the forest… if you see the legs, you should sprinkle salt or ashes or even put garlic where the body is supposed to meet. And they say that…if you do that, you will kill her.”
FINAL THOUGHTS/OBSERVATIONS: There’s a lot of similarities between the manananggal and other monsters and legendary figures we’ve studied, such as the Balkan vampire. While there may not be a distinct cultural connection, it’s definitely interesting how different cultures can come up with similar mythical creatures that are meant to scare people. It definitely reflects the cultural fears people have. In this case, based on the fact that the manananggal is represented as a woman with the ability to suck blood or eat fetus hearts, I believe the manananggal could possibly reflect a fear of miscarriages or other issues regarding childbirth, as well as divorce or young relationships being ruined.
Informant: “Ok, I don’t know a lot, except that when I was a child, I had these, you know, grandparents that were both from Cajun country. These big Cajun families. One of them had seven siblings and one of them had nine. And so I had all these aunts and uncles who were Cajun aunts and uncles, and the two most mischievous of them were Clarence and Lawrence who were twins. They were about five-foot-eight and they were twins, and were always causing trouble, and they used to tell us all the time, all the kids, the next generation, the grandkids, that we better be careful and not go out late at night and behave ourselves or the Rougarou would get us.
And the Rougarou was like a big, like wolf kind of thing, and he lived in the swamps. He got the children when they were bad or when they were out when they weren’t supposed to be, or doing something they weren’t supposed to be doing. It was a generally known thing in Cajun country, the Rougarou.
I was terrified as a child. It kept me in line a little but, until I was old enough to know that they were just old nutty Clarence and Lawrence, but it was pretty scary, like there was this big hairy creature in the swamp. And there were swamps everywhere, I mean, thats like saying in the backyard theres a monster.”
The legend of the Rougarou is a common one in Cajun country, and is used primarily to scare children into obedience.