Tag Archives: Origin Story

The Tale of the Eagle

Background:

D.S. is my father who immigrated from Albania when he was 18. I called him up to ask him about a story he used to tell me when I was younger about how Albania got its name.

Me: So who had told you this story originally?

D.S.: My grandmother who you never got to meet was actually the first person who had told me this story way back when I was young.

Me: That’s super cool, so how does it go again?

D.S.: So there is a young boy who was hunting in the mountains, when he saw a massive eagle flying above him with a dead snake in its beak land on the side of a cliff at its nest. After a while the eagle left, and the boy climbed up to the nest and saw a baby eagle with the dead snake. But the snake wasn’t dead, so the boy whipped out his bow and arrow and killed the snake, saving the baby eagle. He took the baby and started heading home, when all of a sudden he heard the loud flapping of the giant wings of the eagle. “Why did you take my baby?” the eagle said. “The baby is mine because  I saved it from the snake you didn’t kill”. The eagle then said “give me back my kid and I will give you the sharpness of my eyes and the powerful strength of my wings. You will be called the strongest and by my name”. So the boy handed the baby over, but the baby eagle remained attached to the boy for saving its life. When they were both older, the eagle would follow the boy, who is now a man. The man, who was extrememely powerful from the eagles gift, killed beasts with his bow and slayed enemies of the land with his sword, all while the eagle flew over his head following him. He became the king of the land and he was called Albanian which means son of the eagle, and the land was called Albania, the land of eagles.

The people of Albania have gone through a lot of hardships in their history, so strength is very important to them. This story shows that the people of Albania are strong and powerful, and gifted the strengths of eagles. The story makes Albanians proud of their country, and D.S. told me that during the tough times of his childhood, the story would give him comfort. It reminds me that I am strong because I am Albanian, and makes me proud to be Albanian.

The Origin of the Korean Nation

The origin of Korea is shrouded deeply in myth, though there is one widely circulated story that is most popular. This is a version of the story told to me by my father, who grew up in Korea for 30 years before immigrating to the United States.

호랑이와 곰이 사람이 되고 싶어서 환웅이란 사람한테 부탁했는데, 마늘이랑 쑥을 100일 동안 먹으면 사람이 된다고 했다. 그런데 호랑이는 포기하고 곰은 100일 동안 참고 먹어서 진짜 사람이 된다. 사람이 된 곰(여자)은 나중에 환웅이랑 결혼해서 한국이란 나라가 만들어졌다.

Romanization:

ho-rang-ee-wah gom-ee sa-ram-ee dwe-go sheep-uh-suh hwan-oong-ee-ran sa-ram-han-teh boo-tak-het-neun-deh, ma-neur-ee-rang ssook-eur bek-ear dong-an mug-eu-myun sa-ram-ee dwen-da-go het-da. geu-run-deh ho-rang-ee-neun po-gee-ha-go gom-eun bek-ear dong-an cham-go mug-uh-suh jin-jja sa-ram-ee dwen-da. sa-ram-ee dwen gom(yuh-jah)eun na-joong-eh hwan-oong-ee-rang gyur-hon-heh-suh han-gook-ee-ran na-ra-ga man-deur-uh-jyut-dah.

Transliteration:

A tiger and a bear person wanted to become so to Hwanung a person they asked, and garlic and mugwort if they eat for 100 days they will become a human. But the tiger gave up and the bear for 100 days endured and ate so they became a real person. The bear who became a person (female) later married Hwanung and the nation of Korea they created.

Translation:

A tiger and a bear wanted to become a person so they asked a man named Hwanung, and he said that they would become people if they ate garlic and mugwort for 100 days. The tiger gave up but the bear endured and ate for 100 days, and she eventually became a human. The bear who became a person later married Hwanung and they created the nation of Korea.

This myth is very deeply engrained in Korean folklore and history, as it tells the story of the marriage between Hwanung and the bear. It is widely told that the two produced a son named Tangun (sometimes Dangun) who is regarded as the legendary founder and god-king of Gojoseon, the first Korean kingdom. He is said to be the “grandson of heaven” and “son of a bear”, and to have founded the kingdom in 2333 BC.

Personally, I really enjoy this story because it links the heavens with humans and animals, who all play a vital role in the subsequent creation of Korea. Seeing the relationship between the divine member and the animal-turned-human was quite novel to me, as I had never seen animals actively approaching deities before. The inclusion of the vegetarian diet requirement was fitting for the mythological founding of Korea as well, since the people were a mostly agriculture based society. I also found it ironic that the bear becomes the wife of the founding father of Korea, although the tiger is most commonly attributed to the country and serves as its national animal. Perhaps this creation myth was hinting at the future, as Siberian tigers are now extinct in Korea while wild bears still roam the lands.

Spanish Moss

Context: This story is meant to be told as part of a performance. Usually children or campers, the group will all collect a piece of Spanish moss. They will then slowly start peeling off the layers of the moss, eventually revealing the red strands mentioned in the story.

T.A. : Okay so going up there’s a lot of Spanish Moss around where I lived and I was always told that story behind Spanish moss. And this is like a campfire story that we would always tell. You would pick up Spanish moss from the ground end and um when youre telling the story, you’re peeling the Spanish moss. You can get to the center of it. And I’ll tell you the secret now. And you peel the Spanish moss, and in the center it looks like a piece of red hair. Like Red hair at the very center of it, and that’s, so you peel back. The stuff and it looks like, uh, a strand of hair. It’s red, it’s like very red. Spanish moss isn’t red, it’s like green. Um, but the story that’s told with it, it’s like this Native American girl who’s, who is the daughter of a chief. And she had this gorgeous, long red hair. It was beautiful, it flew in the wind and she was very much desired. Um, but she was in love with this other man, and she wanted to marry this man in the tribe, but um, all these other guys wanted her and her father was like no, you need to marry this guy, dah-duh-duh-dah-duh, basically, and, um, so then one day when she realized that she, like, would never be able to be with the love of her life, that she was, you know, too beautiful, or her hair was too luxurious. Like, she, she didn’t care what she looked like, she just cared that she loved this man, and was tired of other men being like, ‘no, like you’re mine because of this.’ So, yeah, basically she was tired of being, of people being like ‘no, you have to marry me because you’re so beautiful,’ dah-duh-duh-dah-duh, and all this stuff, and her dad was like ‘you have to marry these guys that want to marry you.’ She just wanted to marry the one that she loved. And so she goes to the edge of this cliff. Um, it’s like a plateau. So there’s like a valley underneath it. And she takes her hair, and takes like a stone or something like that, like a sharp knife—
P.Z. : Something sharp.
T.A. : Yeah, and she grabs her hair and cuts it off. And all of her hair falls into this valley and onto all these trees. Right? And she throws herself off the cliff and kills herself. Um, which is tragic end to the story. But also, but she cuts all her hair off, throws it into this valley, and then at the end of the story, at the end, by this point you see the red strand of hair and it’s now —
P.Z. : Under the moss?
T.A. : Spanish moss. You see all of her beautiful long red hair still in the Spanish moss today.
P.Z. : And it’s like the original story of —
T.A. : Yeah, of like why it’s there.
P.Z. : And you heard this in your hometown?
T.A. : Um, so like whenever, my family’s a big camping family, and like going through summer camps and stuff too, it’s a campfire story people tell. So you’d pick up Spanish moss off the ground, and you’d go oh have you ever heard like the story about Spanish moss? And then you tell it.
P.Z. : And Texas… What part of Texas?
T.A. : I’m from southeast Texas.

Thoughts: This was the first time I encountered a modern myth. It was also one of the only pieces of folklore I collected that included a sort of performance with the story telling. I thought that this was fascinating because it took an everyday item found in the area and transcribed deep value to it based on this creation myth. It also was fascinating that it remains popular for people of all ages to hear and tell this story, as it can be used in any group setting when one is outdoors and encounters this very common flora.

The Screenwriter’s “Champion”

Main Piece:

“The only like, real, like screenwriting folklore I know is like the championing method which I don’t think— the more I think about it, the more I think this is fake, but freshman me believed it so hard. It was like— to explain for the folklore archive— it was like the way people get into screenwriting. Every screenwriting professor picks one application and has to fight for it. And so every student has their “champion” who is the one who fought for them to get into this program. And then before you graduate they have to tell you who they are.”

Background: 

My informant is one of my friends, a sophomore in the screenwriting major at USC. During her time at this school, she learned about the folk legend through our upperclassman in freshman year, who are also screenwriting majors. As stated in the performance, she seemed to believe it more in the past than she does now, but still spreads the story like the rest of our peer group does.

Context: 

This piece was brought up in conversation when my informant, another participant, and I were talking about our classes. This then led into a tangent about the kinds of screenwriting stories we’ve heard in the department, and how many different versions there are of the “champion legend” that supposedly led to students being selected for the program. 

My thoughts: 

I heard a similar version of this story when I was visiting USC as a high school senior, and heard it from upperclassmen that have since graduated. Since that was a few years ago, I think it’s fair to say that there has to be some credibility in the legend considering how many times it’s been passed down the cohorts in the screenwriting major. I would consider this story to be a legend because it plays a role in the real world in the sense that the faculty do have to determine which applicants to accept into the school, but it’s uncertain if they actually “champion” a particular application or not. This could furthermore be considered a local legend, at least in the School of Cinematic Arts, and by learning it, new screenwriters are initiated into the peer group. That being said, the story could be also interpreted as a myth, because like a sacred creation story, this piece explains the origins of the USC screenwriting student and how they came to be. Overall what I like about this piece is the various retellings there are from the upperclassman. because them passing down the screenwriting lore to us is like being initiated into the group.

Origins of Tea

Context: My informant is a 26 year-old woman who is of Chinese descent. She grew up in Hong Kong and lived there until she moved to Pasadena at the age of 7. Listed below is an account of where the word tea comes from and its pronunciation in different regions of the world. She learned these facts from her mother who is interested in history.

Informant:

“There’s only categories of how you pronounce the word tea, there’s tea and ta. The different countries that say tea, you can tell how they originally source the tea from China. In China they call tea, ta. Ams there’s this one province that called in te. The dutch would travel around Africa to get tea from that specific spot and that’s the only place that says ta. So you can tell where these places got their tea by how they say it. Like Persia says it che and more of the western countries say things more like tea.”

Thoughts:

I found this information really interesting. Being that the informant was 26, her mom, who taught her this, is about 52. It is cool to see how the older generation can bring about knowledge like this from their origins. I had never thought about the pronunciation of different words and how they came to be, but I am intrigued by language and am excited to learn more.