Tag Archives: Motherhood

Green Frog


Original script: 청개구리

Roman script: chung-geh-goo-ri

Transliteration: Green frog

Full translation (according to performer): Expressing your frustration by calling someone a contrarian


This saying is inspired by a Korean folktale that explains why frogs croak when it rains. A disobedient frog regrets how burdensome he was when his mother dies. To finally follow her wishes, he buries her near the riverside and cries out for her in fears that she’ll be swept away. In a less tragic light, CL says that her mother often recites this to her when she “didn’t do what she asked for certain things.” An example CL provides is when she pulled an all nighter instead of sleeping, even though her mother advised her to rest. As usual, her mother was proven correct when CL “complained about feeling like I did bad on the test the next day.” Thus, CL’s mother said “청개구리” to express her frustration.


Minor genres can act as forms of discipline or advice. By taking from culturally significant knowledge, the dite holds extra weight than if it were a stand alone saying. Almost like an “I told you so,” certain sayings can reflect broader knowledge that exists outside intimate relationships. A mother’s advice appears much grander when it is connected to a cultural tale or traditional story–the saying exceeds her and carries the weight of the “wisdom of the masses.” The saying universalizes personal experiences, thus considering disobedience an expected aspect of child development. Folklore doesn’t necessarily illustrate how to live life–it can also be used to discourage behavior and tell a cautionary tale. Thus, this saying is applicable to a multitude of situations: its moral and disciplinary motive can be used for various situations of disobedience or hypocrisy. Furthermore, it reinstates the mother-child dynamic and confirms the mother’s superior level of experience and life knowledge. However, the tale that inspires this imposes restrictions as to who can be the performer and who can be the audience: it can only be told from a mother to a child, not vice versa. Otherwise, the moral implications would fall short. Motherhood is prevalent in various forms of folklore–symbols, characters, and metaphors immortalize the mother-child bond. Even when their relationship appears ruptured, mother and child are eternally united through folklore.

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.

Cold Wind on a mother’s back


J is a 23-year-old Salvadorian-american and resides in Southern California. She’s heard various superstitions and stories from her family and friends. She heard this one from her mother after a family reunion.

The context of this piece was over a dinner when J was asked if she had heard of any folk beliefs from her family.


J: “I know of one that we always make sure to follow no matter how like dumb people think it is. Like my mom told me about this one so that when I have babies I wont get sick or anything like that. She told me stuff like women need to be wrapped up after having a baby. Kanda like a baby themselves. If they didn’t then stuff like the wind would get to them,”

Me: “The wind? What do you mean by it getting to those women?”

J: “Like if a woman left her back exposed after having a baby, then they’d get really bad back pain because of the wind. My mom said that the cold wind was the worst thing a woman could be touched by after giving birth. It’s because wafter having a baby the woman’s body is like weak and its sensitive. So she has to be covered in clothes or blankets so that her and her back stay like warm.”

Me: “So if the wind touches her back, it hurts her?”

J” Yeah so like wind is cold and since the baby took all of her warmth and strength the wind would leave her in pain. We just say the back is the most important part because that’s where they put like the shot thing for the pain so its left more out in the open. So yeah, now you know to always have you back covered up after having a baby”


I think it’s really interesting to hear about this folk belief because something as simple as wind could have a greater affect on someone’s body. I know that the wind is usually avoided as it brings the feelings of coldness but the way it is spoken of in this belief is somewhat animalistic. This belief connotes the wind negatively as it makes it clear that the wind is something that can hurt a woman and should be outright avoided. I think this belief is especially interesting because it revolves around a woman’s body post-birth. I know that in many cultures birth is sacred and the creation of a new life in the world is highly valued, so it was interesting to hear how the birthing process needs the after-care.

“Kes hiljaks jääb, see ilma jääb.” – Estonian Proverb

Informant’s Background:

The informant, in this case, is my mother, M, who was a first generation immigrant born to an Estonian family in the North-East of Canada. Her family had escaped from occupied Estonia, and had settled in Canada before she was born. She moved with my father to Los Angeles, in the United States, to take a job as a university professor. My brother and I were born a few years after.


I mentioned collecting folklore to my mother, who I regularly call on the phone now that I have moved out of our house, and she told me that she wanted to help. I told her yes, and she emailed me the following.


  • Original: “Kes hiljaks jääb, see ilma jääb.”
  • Translation: He who is late, will go without.

Informant’s Context:

M: “My mother used to say it all the time when we were kids and taking our time about coming back inside when she rang the dinner bell to summon us to dinner. She sometimes added an extra line of her own – “ja raua rohtu saab” – which meant “and will get cod liver oil” (a vile-tasting medicine that used to be given to children as a vitamin D supplement).”

Informant’s Thoughts: 

M: “This is harsh, but reasonable in some circumstances. Even though she often said it, I can’t remember my mother ever actually enforcing it. She understood that we were busy playing and that we had often wandered quite far away from home, so it took time to get back.”


This seems like a pretty standard proverb to me. It gets across a lesson, in this case in the form of a warning, about being punctual, most likely aimed at children, as seen by it’s use in my mother’s example. It also contains a threat, that if one is not punctual one will be denied something, in this case food. Denial of food was a fairly common means of punishment for children throughout history, and even in some stricter households to this day, so this makes sense as well. In this case it seems more like a light warning intended to get the message across without really intending to enforce the punishment.

La cuarentena

Background: Informant, B.B. is a mother of 3, and was around 20 years old when she had her first child. She personally has abided by “la cuarentena” rules but was told about it by her mother.

Main Piece:

Informant: After I had my first kid, my mom tried to be really strict about my healing process, telling me I need to follow “la cuarentena”.

Interviewer: What is “la cuarentena”?

B.B: Basically giving birth takes a huge toll on the body, so according to my Mexican mother, there are certain rules to follow postpartum. Cuarentena translates to quarantine, which describes how we were suppose to stay home in order to take care of ourselves properly.

Interviewer: What rules were suppose to be followed? Was it hard to follow them?

B.B: I was suppose to stay “in quarantine” for about a month. I was also not suppose to lift anything heavy, cook, or even clean because it could be too much for my body. I was also told not to shower, which was one of the hardest rules to follow and I didn’t. The logic behind not showering was that I could get sick from having wet hair. I wasn’t really able to stick to the rules, I only managed it for about a week or two before I tried my best to get back to normal.

Interviewer: Did you try la cuarentena for each of your kids?

B.B: No, I did not really believe in needing a whole month to myself.

Context: The informant is a relative, and we were discussing another family member who had just given birth and was already back at work. She was not too shocked about her not following la cuarentena because of how strict it is.

Thoughts: Thinking about having to quarantine after giving birth seems a bit extreme. Knowing how life being quarantined is because of the corona virus, I do not see myself going though with the full month either. I think it is easy to listen to our bodies and if we feel like it is okay to get back to doing certain things, then we should do so as long as we do not push our limits.