Tag Archives: Mythological Creature

Duendes

Context:

J is a 23-year-old first generation Salvadorian-American  and resides in Southern California. Her dad would travel throughout Latin America when he was young, and she recalls the stories he would tell her as a child. Many of these stories were ones that her father had heard from others during his travels, so she enjoys spreading the stories to others.

The context of this piece was during a shift at a community center where the employees were asked about stories they had heard from their cultures or other for an upcoming cultural heritage event.

Text:

J: “So from what I know they’re like small little creatures. Kinda like gnome look-alikes.”

Me: “Are they bad creatures or are they a good omen?”

J: “Okay this is from like stories what my dad would tell us, like stories that they’re actually like bad creatures and like they live in Latin America because I haven’t heard of them here in the U.S. Like for example they would try to steal babies or a little kid’s soul. They’ll like snatch it and they’ll take it to like some river”

Me: “What happens after that?”

J: “You’d have to go to the river to claim it back. That’s what I know about them. They’re small and like a lot of little kids have said that ‘oh I’m playing with so and so’ and then the parents will be like ‘well who’s so and so?’ and the kid will be like ‘oh my little friend.’ Like little kids are the ones that can see them. For example, when a baby is crying like a lot a lot its because like the soul got snatched by the duende and the parents has to go to the like, to a river and like reclaim it. I don’t know how they reclaim it or what they have to say but that’s pretty much how they get it back.”

Analysis:

Duendes are cryptids that are said to inhabit places such as Spain, Portugal, the Philippines, Iberia, and Latin America. These mythical creatures are characterized differently with each culture that talks about them. Some describe Duendes as kind, helpful creatures that guide lost children while stories such as the one J gave depict them as mischievous and evil creatures that harm children. Although the characteristics of the Duendes change, their general description is consistent through ought as they are described as small, swift creatures with exaggerated facial features. I also found it interesting how J heard about the lore of the Duendes. Although she nor her father had “first-hand experiences” with the Duendes, they heard it through other people. The spread of lore in this case was through storytelling, this is so important because it continues to spread lore from one or multiple regions and distributes them across the globe

Chaneques

Context:

A heard about these creatures when growing up in a rural part of Mexico. In this interview they recount their personal experience with a mythological creature.

The context of this was during a dinner when the conversation of creatures from folklore was asked about.

Text:

A: Aprendí sobre los chaneques cuando era pequeño, incluso vi uno una vez. Mi madre me había dicho que no me acercara a un río junto al pueblo en el que crecí, pero no le hice caso, así que iba con otros chicos del pueblo casi todas las semanas.

Me: ¿Es ahí donde lo viste?

A: Sí, estaba jugando a un juego con mis amigos y acabé separándome del resto. En la orilla del río, escondido detrás de un árbol, vi algo pequeño. Podía oírlo cantando o tarareando algo, no lo recuerdo muy bien ahora pero sí recuerdo haberlo oído. Me llamaba y trataba de que me acercara, creo, pero me asusté demasiado y corrí de vuelta a casa.

Me: ¿Lo viste después de eso?

A: Nunca más volví sin mi madre o mis amigos, así que no, no lo he vuelto a ver.

//Translation:

A: I learned about chaneques when I was little, I even saw one once. My mother had told me not to go near a river next to the village where I grew up, but I didn’t listen to her, so I went with other kids from the village almost every week.

Me: Is that where you saw him?

A: Yes, I was playing a game with my friends and ended up getting separated from the rest. On the riverbank, hiding behind a tree, I saw something small. I could hear it singing or humming something, I don’t remember it very well now but I do remember hearing it. It was calling to me and trying to get me to come closer, I think, but I got too scared and ran back home.

Me: Did you see him after that?

A: I never went back without my mother or my friends, so no, I never saw him again.

Analysis:

I found this interview really interesting because it was a personal narrative from someone that had actually encountered a mythical being. I had never met or had anyone tell me about meeting a mythical being so it was engaging to hear such a story. I have read about and watched videos regarding people’s encounters with beings of folklore but it was an entirely different experience to hear it in person. This was because I was able to see the body language and subtle changes in expression when A was telling their story. The experience felt so genuine and the raw emotion they spoke of was really compelling to hear. It was also interesting to hear about how the chaneques would sing or maybe hum as a way to somewhat lure children towards them, as said by A.

Lạc Long Quân and Âu Cơ in Vietnamese Folklore

Main Piece:

AL: The tale of Lạc Long and Âu Cơ:

Lạc Long Quân was born in 2800 BC. He is the sun of a mountain god… and his mother is uh the sea god. His body is a dragon of some sort even though his parents… Was a sea dragon and his father the son of mountain… [He] was like a human-ish figure. His name, Lạc Long Quân, translates to Dragon Lord of Lạc. Lạc is a place in Vietnam…

Âu Cơ is the daughter of the northern chief… And fairy from the mother… Lạc Long Quân, the dragon, decided to take the form of a handsome man because he has that power, and Âu Cơ is a fairy. And so they married, and um *laughs* interestingly enough, Lạc Long Quân married the daughter but killed the father. I know. It’s weird… You would think that you shouldn’t kill the daughter’s father…

Anyway, so they had sex, and uhm she gave birth to a sack of a hundred eggs, and they grew into a hundred boys… Or children, depending on lore, and reestablished Vietnam. Uhm they say that all ancestors descend form these 100 children… Âu Cơ loved the mountain, so she really liked the north side. Lạc Long Quân loved the water because his mother is a water dragon… And so they decided to split the kids in half, or not in half— *laughs* divide the kids in half, fifty-fifty, and take them to either location… Half of them in the mountain and half of them near the sea… It was agreed by both parents that they would help each other in need. Lạc Long taught his children to fish and tattoo. Âu Cơ taught her children to farm and breed animals.

In Saigon, there are two streets who intersect. One is named Lạc Long, and one is named Âu Cơ, and they intersect because they’re married to each other… It’s very cute… Probably intentional… And then Lạc Long is known as the first king of Vietnam…

Context:

Taken from a conversation with my roommate in the Cale & Irani Apartments at USC Village. Him and I are of Vietnamese descent.

Analysis:

Myths are like adult versions of fairy tales. Historically, they have helped societies try to understand elements of the natural world or the scientific phenomena around them. Here, this myth plays into patriotic ideals in the founding of a nation and a unification between the rivalry of North and South Vietnam. These cross-generational stories are kept alive by the communities performing them. These two figures are so deeply incorporated into Vietnamese culture that there’s many pieces of art dedicated to them. In fact, there is a temple dedicated to the Dragon Lord. Furthermore, the intersecting streets are just further proof of how stories like these unify people through their collective imagination, childhoods, and rich cultural histories and beliefs.

La Mano Peluda

–Informant Info–
Nationality: United States of America
Age: 30
Occupation: Lead Associate of Operations, Chase Bank
Residence: Laguna Niguel, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/19/2021
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Spanish

Main Piece:

The following conversation is transcribed from a conversation between me (HS) and my co-worker/informant (MR).

MR: So La Mano Peluda translates to “hairy hand.” It’s basically an old legend that my parents used to scare me with when I did something that I wasn’t supposed to do, like not taking out the trash or doing chores. So I would literally crawl into a ball at night and make sure that my legs weren’t hanging out of the covers because I genuinely thought that this terrifying hand would come out from under my bed and drag me by my ankles out of my room to who knows where.

HR: Hahahaha. So how old were you when you heard this story?

MR: It went back to when I was probably like 5 or 6. Because I was in school already, and if I didn’t do my homework my mom would be like, “If you don’t do your homework La Mano Peluda is gonna come and get you!”

HR: And do you know where this legend came from?

MR: Well my mom got the tradition from her family in Mexico, but after you asked me about it I did a little googling. Apparently, it was a man’s hand that had survived from the Spanish Inquisition. He wanted to seek revenge on the people who had pillaged his home or something like that. But when I was little, I didn’t really care about the origin and just got freaked out when I thought about an old hand hiding under my bed.

Background:

My informant is my co-worker from my job. She is essentially my supervisor and she enjoys helping me to practice my Spanish and telling me a lot about her culture and heritage. She was raised in a Spanish-speaking household by two parents who both immigrated to the United States from Mexico. She used to be intimidated by the legend of La Mano Peluda as a young child but grew to see it as a funny way that her parents made her do her chores. 

Context: 

The legend of La Mano Peluda was brought up while having a general discussion with my co-worker about her culture and traditions. She had told me about the legend before but I asked her to go more in-depth for the sake of the collection project. We were sitting next to each other on the teller line at work and we would chat in-between customers. 

Thoughts:

The story of La Mano Peluda is a classic legend that is prominent across a wide range of Latin-American cultures. I would equate it to classic American campfire stories where the goal is to scare and entertain the audience. I have heard multiple recollections of this folk tale and they all seem to stem from having a fear of something hiding under one’s bed. For particularly young children, the legend of La Mano Peluda is used as a sort of scare tactic to get them to do their chores, while in older adolecents it is seen as an entertaining folk tale. What is interesting is that there is a pattern of “hairy hand” stories across the globe.

For another “hairy hand” story, see:

Mary Curtis Special to The Star. “Dartmoor Nights and Scary Tales Stir Imagination: SA2 Edition.” Toronto Star, Torstar Syndication Services, a Division of Toronto Star Newspapers Limited, 1990.

Texas Mythological Creature: Jackalope

Context: The informant is among two peers of mine who grew up in Texas. My peers began sharing and comparing amusing and humorous pieces of folklore from their hometowns, as well as discussing how the folklore has worked to shape their families’ beliefs and southern values. An excerpt of their conversation can be found below.

Text:

Informant: So, I grew up in Texas and there are a lot of different mythological creatures concerning Texas wildlife. And one thing that people talked about a lot was the jackalope, which is a combined animal of an antelope and a jack rabbit. And it came up a lot when I was going on school field trips to go camping. We went on these camping trips called O.L.E (Outdoor Learning Explorations), and they would tell us not to go out alone at night because the jackalopes would come after us. And so, that really terrified me, so I didn’t go out at night because of the jackalopes. What’s interesting is that people would have these things, like taxidermied jackalopes, on their walls in Texas, and I was like always so confused about why they had jackalopes on their walls. Like, how did you hunt it down? Could you not have died from a jackalope attack? And what’s interesting now looking it up is that it is the state mythological creature of Wyoming, so I guess it’s not just a Texas thing. But yeah, I really thought the jackalope was real until super recently when I Googled it because it was such a big part of my childhood.

Informant’s relationship to the item: My informant seems to be fully indoctrinated into the mythology of her home state; even though she is 20 years old, she only discovered recently that the jackalope is not a real creature — a testament to the large role it plays in the childhoods of children who grew up in her community in Texas. The presence of manufactured taxidermy jackalopes in people’s homes likely added to her confusion about the state of the jackalope’s existence. Additionally, the informant describes growing up in fear of attacks from the jackalope — a fear that was taken advantage of by figures of authority in her life in order to keep children in line.

Interpretation: It is interesting to hear how adults use the existence of the jackalope, as well as its purported vicious nature, as a scare tactic to keep children in line. The creature appears to serve a similar role in tight-knit southern communities as early fairy tales did, which were geared toward teaching children both moral and practical lessons. Belief in the creature, or at least knowledge of its legendary status, seem to be deeply ingrained in the psyches of Texas citizens. Additionally, the practice of cryptozoology, or the act of hunting for legendary creatures appears to be associated with the rumored existence of the jackalope. The manufactured  taxidermy jackalopes found in people’s homes probably add to the folk belief in their existence. Also, the fact that taxidermy jackalopes are a widespread folk item in Texas means that jackalopes, and the product made in their likeness, are likely an important aspect of Texas’s (and, apparently, Wyoming’s) tourist economies.

Works Cited:

To read more about the legend surrounding the jackalope, as well as the man who first created the legendary creature, refer to this 2003 LA Times article:

Oliver, Myrna. “Douglas Herrick, 82; on a Whim He Created ‘Jackalope’.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 23 Jan. 2003, www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2003-jan-23-me-herrick23-story.html.