Tag Archives: mythical creatures

Loch Ness monster

Content:

Y: So, when I was a kid- like elementary school- I was super afraid of the Loch Ness monster. I don’t remember where I learned about it. I think maybe my dad had watched some show about it. But I was terrified. Like, if I was in a pool, like not in the shallow end, I thought the monster was swimming beneath me. I think a kid had told me that monsters lived in pools and would, like, grab your legs and drag you down, right? So I thought the Loch Ness monster would grab me in the pool. 

Me: What did you know about the Loch Ness monster at that time?

Y: Just that it was big and green and had a long neck and hid in the water all the time. 

Background: Y is a 20 year old who was born and raised in New Jersey. She now resides in Los Angeles, California. 

Context: This story was told to me at a hangout among friends.

Analysis: I was drawn to Y’s story because I had never considered the lore surrounding the Loch Ness monster to be scary. Instead, it seemed in the same vein as Bigfoot or Mothman, who people just wanted to search for in an attempt to prove their existence. Instead, Y’s exposure to the lore at a young age affected her perception of the myth, and the myth combined with other childhood lore to shape her fear. 

Sirenas

Context:

K is a 21 year-old woman with a mixed heritage. She grew up for most of her life in California but spent most of her childhood with her Lolo (grandfather), who told her stories from the Philippines. She learned several stories about Philippine mythology and shares them with friends to preserve her cultural heritage,

The context of this piece was during a game of Loteria when the card of the mermaid came across the deck. She explained the story of sirenas to the participants,

Text:

K: “That looks like the Sirenas my Lolo would tell me about”

Me: “He’d tell you about mermaids?”

K: “He’d call them Sirenas and would always tell me about them since I was so obsessed with Princess Ariel as a kid. He said that they were beautiful creatures that looked like women at first, but they had fish tails! They sang so pretty though. They would sing to fishermen that passed by them in their boats and would lure them to their deaths. My Lolo said they would usually drown them but occasionally they would suffocate them first.

Me: “Would the fisherman just fall into the water once they heard them singing or how would it happen?”

K: “The Sirenas would usually hide behind rocks at the shore and start singing so that the fishermen would crash into the rocks. If they sang while they were in the ocean then the sirenas was hypnotize the fishermen into jumping into the water to join them.”

Analysis:

I found this interview with K really interesting because she told me about a creature I had already heard of yet she told me details I had never heard of before. Sea creatures like mermaids are well-known in western culture as they appear frequently in films and television shows. In the western entertainment industry, mermaids are often depicted as warm, playful creatures that meant no harm. This is the exposure I had as a child so I had positive connotations to mermaids and which is why I was surprised by some of the things discussed in this interview. The introduction to the Filipino counterpart of the western culture’s version of these sea creatures was interesting to learn about. I felt that they were almost similar to sirens as the sirenas used their voice as a weapon to seduce men into their deaths. It was interesting to hear in person how different folklores can transcend through different cultures. It was especially interesting to hear the similarities between the western mermaid and the Filipino sirenas and how they were different as well.  

Champ

Context: SF is a USC sophomore studying journalism and he’s also my classmate in Anthropology class. I decided to have a zoom meeting with him and talk about some folklore from vermont. 

SF: Vermont has this big lake named Lake Champlain which is the next biggest lake after the great lakes.. Between vermont and new york

SF: People believe there is this dinosaur or sea monster named champ living at the bottom of the lake because there have been a bunch of sightings… uh and like some very fake pictures.. But you know people like to believe 

SF: And uh yeah the local baseball team is named after him and they’ve scanned the lake for it but um I don’t think they’ve found anything yet

YM: They’ve actually scanned it ? 

SF: Yeah they scan like part of it, it’s really murky and for a really long time it was really badly polluted by paper mills.. So there’s a lot of algae blooms and it’s really hard to see in it which is kinda disgusting but also adds to the mystery of it 

SF: It’s supposed to be like yeah kinda the same humps in the water and then the head, loch ness sorta vibe.. Big dinosaur

YM: Do you know of anyone who claims to have seen it ?

SF: My cousin and I thought we saw it but we were like seven hahaha 

YM: ahahah awww

SF: It was definitely a stick.. The people are into it.. It’s a cool story to have.. But uhh yeah no proof yet

YM: who did you hear this from 

SF: My grandparents actually lived by the lake and they told me about it when I was a kid… but it’s very prevalent in the community and you’ll see little cartoon drawings of it in Burlington which is the main city, every now and then

Analysis: Champ is a mythical creature that lives at the bottom of Lake Champlain, it seems to be an important part of the community since a lot of people believe in this lake monster to the point where the lake has actually been scanned. There have been more than three hundred sightings of this creature since 1609. Real or not it has definitely been something that distinguishes Vermont, since not all states have a “20 ft long serpent, thick as a barrel.” The belief in this creature has also been passed down for generations and has even created a revenue generating attraction since the local baseball team uses it as their mascot. After some research, there is even a “champ day” on the first saturday of every August. It’s clear that this monster brings a sense of identity and representation for people in Vermont. 

Setting Leprechaun Traps

SB: I did not have a lot of holiday traditions specifically, but what I did have was for St. Patrick’s Day, my parents were very excited in me believing in things, especially fantasy things, so they really pushed me into strongly believing in leprechauns. And so, every year me and my brother would get like boxes from like our Costco trips, or like, collect things around the house and make traps for the leprechauns, and they- the next day, they would leave us like a gold dollar coin, but it was just my mom, and so one day – I really believed in it – and so I brought this coin the next day to school to third grade and I told all of my friends that I captured a leprechaun but like it escaped but it left me gold and then they all made fun of me (laughs) but I still believed in the leprechauns for like a really long time.

VG: How long?

SB: Um, probably until I was like nine years old.

VG: That’s like…on the edge.

SB: Yeah, it was on the edge of a long time. I think it’s because everyone just kept telling me they were not real, and so I just like wanted to fit in, so I left my belief of leprechauns.

 

Background:

Location of story – Denver, CO

Location of Performance – SB’s dormitory room, Los Angeles, CA, night

 

Context: This performance was done just between SB and I in response to me asking if she had any urban legends, riddles, or holiday traditions. I am very close friends with SB. This story follows one about a conspiracy theory about the Denver airport being linked to Satan, a word riddle, and a CD of folk songs.

 

Analysis: This performance is notable for its detailed description of the “personalization” a traditional Irish folk creature. What I mean to say is that SB and her brother were able to adopt a folk creature and myth that is not traditionally their own by creating physical spaces based on how they imagined the creature. I think it is very interesting that this is the one holiday tradition SB chose to identity because St. Patrick’s Day is traditionally not as celebrated as Easter or Christmas. Moreover, leprechauns are not as actively believed in as the Easter Bunny or Santa Clause in my experience. I myself celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and have never heard of setting Leprechaun traps before. In addition to these observations, I also think this tradition demonstrates the strange social duality with belief in mythical creatures and beings. On one hand, kids can bond over shared believes, but as soon as one peer becomes a non-believer, their believing peer is seen as less mature or cool. Therefore, having one’s belief in mythical creatures challenged is now a rite of passage. 

Icelandic Nykur

Background Information:

My informant is a 23-year-old student originally from Iceland, but studying in Dublin. She was born and raised in Reykjavik and moved to Ireland in her 20’s to come to University there. She told me about the nykur, a legendary water horse specific to the Nordic countries. She does not personally believe in this legend, but apparently opinion is fairly mixed on whether or not it is real, and belief is higher with children. She believed it as a child, and was told it by her mother possibly in an effort to stop her from wandering near large bodies of water. She agrees that it was a useful way of making her cautious without ruining her innocence about the true dangers of icy cold water.

Main Piece:

A.J.: Have you heard of the Nykur?

A: No, what is it?

A.J.: It’s a mythical creature in Icelandic – well, I think they have it in some places in Sweden and Norway and stuff – but it’s mostly Icelandic. It’s the shape of a horse, and grey, but it’s not a physical thing, more like a kind of ghost horse. They live by lakes, or by waterfalls usually. But they’re pretty scary looking – kind of like if you had a Patronus of a horse, a weird version. They have some scary things about them, like I’ve heard that they have backwards hooves, and sharp teeth and that kind of thing.

A: And do people interact with them at all?

A.J: I don’t think you would want to. They’re not peaceful, they’re a bit like sirens in that they lure people to their deaths in the water. They seem really nice and beautiful, and then you go to pet them and if you ride on them they’ll take you into the water and drown you. They seem to take children in particular.

A: Is there any way to prevent them from taking you underwater if you do come across them?

A.J: Yeah, there is. My mom told me about them and that if you recognize that the horse is a Nykur, you can make them go away by saying their name.

A: And do you believe in them?

A.J.: I did when I was a kid, but not anymore. I think it’s a bit like the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, you grow out of it when you’ve been to enough waterfalls to know that you’re not going to see any magic horses. But when I was younger I wouldn’t go near the water without someone else with me.

Perfomance Context:

In a phone conversation in which she recounted to me what she knew about the huldufólk, she also told me about this Icelandic mythical creature which I had not heard of before.

My thoughts:

This reminds me a lot of the La Llorona myth. Considering she was told about them by her mother, in a landscape with many lakes and waterfalls, this myth seems to serve the same function as warning children about La Llorona, insofar as it discourages them from wandering by themselves near bodies of water where they could potentially drown. By making the horse scary-looking, they emphasize this warning. By connecting this warning story to the landscape, it makes for a more believable tale. Much of Icelandic folklore is connected to the natural landscape as it is so unusual and striking, which also plays into the fact that much of Icelandic folklore is very different from that which we find in the other Nordic countries. Their landscapes are much more snowy and similar to each other, whereas Iceland is a volcanic outlier.

For the La Llorona myth, see here: http://www.legendsofamerica.com/gh-lallorona.html