Tag Archives: mother

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.

Anti-Lullaby to Children

“Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, guess I’ll eat some worms. Short fat skinny ones, itty-bitty little ones, guess I’ll eat some worms.”

Context: The song was originally preformed by the mother of the collector when her child said that she was having difficulties making friends with children during elementary school. The collection is taken from a later date when asked to recite the song.

Informant Analysis Below:

The informant had grown up switching many schools, about 11, during her time from elementary through high school. She noted that because of moving around so much she often had difficulty making strong friendships. This song seemed to encapsulate the self-pity she once had as a child, and how she learned to become less emotional about such things.

Informant: “I honestly don’t remember when I first heard it, but I know it was definitely while I was still a child. It’s possible my mom also sang that to me too.”

Collector: “Do you have any idea of what it means?”

Informant: “I think it is saying, like, who cares if you feel unliked. Be stronger than that. The whole eating worms thing, to me, is saying that if you are gonna whine about not having friends, might as well eat worms while you are at it because the world does not care.”

Collector Analysis: Lullabies in themselves are supposed to be calming and reassuring to a child. This lullaby is rather odd because it does no such task. It seems to point out any amount of self-pity one may have for themselves and make light of it. In doing so, it can be seen as “tough love” and harsh in many ways. The concept of not being liked is a very common fear, not just for children, but for adults too. Perhaps when told to a child it not only is meant to teach children to “toughen up”, but also remind the adult to do the same. I believe this piece also has a lot to do with the drives in American culture of being self-sufficient. Starting at a young age, it would make sense to instill a sense of individualism by not caring what others think onto a child.

Chinese folk saying from kids

Main piece:

你妈的头,像皮球,一脚踢到四排楼

Translation:

Your mom’s head is like a ball; I will kick it to the Sipai Building.

Context:

This participant is born and raised in China. Growing up, she also absorbed a great load of Chinese folklore from her friends. This folklore piece is very interesting. According to her, this piece is mainly used among younger children, who often use this kind of rhymed saying to curse each other.

Analysis:

The theme of this swear is also related to the tarnishing of mothers. This piece is fascinating in the way that it’s rhymed, and that although the ballad seems violent, hearing this from a kid is very funny and childish, not violent at all.

Annotation: Her version comes from Hefei, but this ballad actually has many different versions throughout China and takes on different localization. For example, the version she gave me utilizes the local building name Sipai Building, while my city’s (I’m from Shenzhen, a southern city) is like “your mom’s head is like a ball, there are mountains, water, and rivers, just like the earth.” My another friend from Chongqing says that he has heard similar folklore when he was young, but his version was “your mom’s head is like a ball, I will kick it to the skyscrapers.”

 

The Seamstress

Main Text

Subject: I think the one that is…the details I remember most, is about…like, the mother daughter story? And I think my mom called it like, the seamstress or something?

Interviewer: Hm, okay.

Subject: But basically it was about a daughter who was like, leaving their home village to work, or something? And then the mother like, was really sad that she was leaving, and then, I think the night before she left, she ended up sewing this entire quilt that night? Uh…of like, memories, or something, something mystical. And then, and then like, the daughter like, brought it, away. And then I think she ended up like, not being able to come back, and then she just like, always had that like, quilt, as, like, a symbol of her mother’s love.

Background

The subject is a 22-year-old Taiwanese-American woman in her fourth year at USC. She was around four when she heard this story for the first time. She remembers her own mother telling her this tale as a bedtime story, and that it was so sad it moved her to the point of tears. Her mother had framed the story as an example of how a mother’s love was so deep, it could travel with you wherever you would go.

Context

This was the first item of folklore the subject brought up in a broader interview over folklore that the subject knew. As a child, the subject had a very literal interpretation of the tale. She thought her mother was literally going to make a her a quilt in the name of motherly love, just like the mother in the tale did for her daughter. As she grew up, she realized this interpretation was not grounded in reality, and that her mother had intended the tale to be taken no more literally than other folk stories she told at bedtime.

Interviewer’s Analysis

As a college student preparing to graduate this semester, the subject likely was thinking about reuniting with family again after an extensive institutionalized period of separation, much like how the daughter in the tale was extensively separated from her family by the institution of labor. Now, at a different stage in life, her identification with the daughter in this tale has become more literal, albeit in a way her four-year-old self had not considered.