Tag Archives: origin

Vietnamese Dragon Origin Myth

“The legend goes that Lạc Long Quân, the King of the Dragonkind, lived in and reigned over Vietnam in about 3,000 BCE. Sometime in his life he married Âu Cơ, who was a goddess of birds. Quân fathered 100 children who all hatched at the same time with Âu Cơ. Once they were all born, the King and his wife realized that they could not live together anymore and raise all of the children together, so they split and the King went to the coast with 50 kids and the wife went to the mountains with the other 50. According to the legend, all of the Vietnamese people of today are directly descended from these 100 children, making us all dragon people.”


This legend was collected from one of my friends. He is fully racially Vietnamese, and both of his parents emigrated from Vietnam to the US when they were adults. He said his parents try to keep their Vietnamese traditions alive, mostly through cooking traditions, but also through some stories. This is the only one he really remembers clearly. To him, it’s important because his parents identify strongly with it. They don’t actually believe that they are part dragon, but the myth takes on a more significant metaphorical meaning. I don’t really know enough about Vietnamese culture, but I could imagine that this myth provides the Vietnamese with a sense of unity as well as a divide between the mountainous peoples and the coastal peoples of Vietnam.

The (Rumored) Truth of Movie Popcorn’s Origin

The first informant is a 65-year-old man who grew up in Southside Chicago and Baltimore with his parents and two brothers. He is a father, grandfather, patent attorney, musician, and inventor.

The second informant is a 95-year old man who grew up in Davenport, right near downtown with his parents and two brothers. His father came over from Russia and owned a grocery store in Davenport. He now lives in Skokie, IL with his wife and caretaker. He has three sons and 9 grandchildren.

 

Informant 1: “Your great, great-grandmother on your Grandma’s side was the pioneering movie theater operators.”

Informant 2: She was the one who started popcorn in theaters.”

Informant 1: “Well, it was rumored she was.”

Informant 2: “No, that was a definite.

Informant 1: “Umm,”

Informant 2: “And, what happened was there was a theater chain that was in Davenport. And it was very profitable, and the owner found out that she was doing it, and he started doing it and told the other theater chains. I read something historical somewhere about popcorn and they’re giving that theater chain credit, when they actually copied it from Grandmother.”

 

This particular interview made me think of the film we watched early on in the semester, Whose Song is It Anyway.

 

It’s an origin story—or an attempted, alleged origin story—of popcorn in movie theaters. Informant 2 was insistent that his grandmother had in fact been the pioneer of movie theater popcorn and got somewhat heated when Informant 1 suggested that it might be rumor that she actually did this. Informant 2’s account was closely concerned with credit and business—the idea of the underdog, or the small business, versus the big chain.

 

This interview concerns originality and relates to our discussions about originality and society’s—in particular, American society—obsession with it. Copyright falls into this arena, as well, a legal way of giving credit, and in doing so, giving ownership, to one individual or corporation for something that very well has been the product of several minds and over the span of several years.

Legend of the Rice Cakes

There once was a King with three sons.  He was about to die so his dying wish was to have one of his sons succeed the throne after him.  However, he couldn’t decide which son to choose, although they all wanted it.  Since he enjoyed food, he said to his sons, “Whoever brings me the tastiest food he made from Vietnamese ingredients will become king after me.”  So the sons set off around the world to find the best food.  One son traveled to the mountains to bring back boar meat.  The second son brought back the tastiest fish from the South Sea.  The third thought long and hard about what he should bring to his father.  On the final day, he brought two simple rice cakes, which looked very plain when compared to the expensive dishes his two brothers had brought.  When the king asked the youngest son to explain why he had brought such simple dishes, the son explained that rice is the most valuable food in Vietnam, although it is very abundant.  The round rice cake represented the sky under which all the Vietnamese lived, while the square rice cake was stuff with beans and pork to represent the Earth that they live on (back then they still believed that the Earth was square). Each rice cake was made to represent the love that the son had for the King as well as Vietnam.”  After everyone heard this explanation, they knew that the youngest son would be the next king, and they all bowed down to him.

The informant first heard this story when he was a teenager, although he doesn’t remember who told it to him.  It was during the Lunar New Year (Tet) season because the Banh Chung and Banh Day (square and round rice cakes) are traditionally made and eaten during this time of the year.  During this time, families make Banh Chung and Banh Day and travel to their relatives’ houses, giving these cakes as a gift of love and caring for one another.

The feeling of receiving these rice cakes is a feeling of love and belonging to a group of people who care for you.  Because of this, the Vietnamese people have carried this tradition across the Pacific Ocean to America and still do this during the New Year season, maintaining the Vietnamese traditions and unity of the people.  The story continues to be passed on by those who know it, generally those who are adults and can remember the story and the significance of it are the ones who pass it down to the younger generation who in turn cherish it and will later pass it down.  I think this legend, real or fake, is a good explanation of Vietnamese unity and loving spirit.

Theatre Occupational Superstition: “Break a Leg!”

Interview Extraction

Informant: “The ‘break a leg’ legend. Do you know that story?  It has nothing to do with fracturing any of the major leg bones.  That in a different usage of the language ‘to break a leg’ is ‘to bend a leg’.  So that gives us two possible origins of why when you want ‘to break a leg’ that the old way of bowing, is that you bend the back leg and then take the bow.  So that ‘to break a leg” means to get a big bow at the end of the show.  And other one is a similar thing on bending, that if coins were tossed on the stage at the end of the show, you would have to then bend down, thus breaking the straight line of the leg in order to pick up the coins that were being tossed on stage.”

Analysis:

The superstition of why you say “break a leg” to an actor is because saying “good luck” brings you bad luck.  There are many different origins of why you would say “break a leg” to an actor, and the phrase also changes based on what country you are in.  For example, in France you would say “Merde” which is French for ‘shit’.  The idea of this is that in wishing for something bad to happen such as the actor breaking their leg, the opposite will take place.

There are may theories behind where this idiom came from, such as the idea that my informant mentioned which suggests that to “break a leg” is a different usage of language that also means ‘to bend a leg’.  I like this theory more than the other origin theories that I have seen in my research, such as the idea that to “break a leg” comes from the production of Shakespheare’s Richard III where actor David Garrick became so consumed with his role as Richard III that he did not realize his leg was broken during the performance.  This legend is popular because it promotes the idea of being so into your performance as an actor that everything else is forgotten, and all that exists is the part you are playing in the world of the play.  This is the kind of mind set that all actors should aspire to accomplish, so it is no wonder that this story has achieved such a high level of fascination in the imagination of people who work in theater, especially actors.

The reason why I like this theory more than the other theories I have seen in my research is that it is very logical.  I have always thought that it is interesting that we say “break a leg” to an actor before they perform, but we do not say this to a designer or crew member before they do their job.  If this legend is the real reason behind why we say “break a leg”, than the reasoning behind not wishing a crew member to “break a leg” makes sense because only actors have historically been the ones that bend their legs to either bow or pick up the coins that had been thrown on stage for a job well done.

My informant was born in 1949, Connecticut.  He works as a costume designer in the entertainment industry occasionally, and serves as the head of the USC costume shop in addition to being a faculty member for the USC School of Dramatic Arts.  He has more than 40 years of experience in the theater.

Rubber Ducky

The informant is currently a student at the University of Southern California and went to elementary school in Northern California. The game was described in a casual setting where the informant and all audience members were sitting on the couch. The actual piece of folklore is performed in a school setting during recess for young children.

Informant: Uh so this game…it’s called Rubber Ducky, I couldn’t tell you why it was called that…And it was played, so there’s two teams, as many people as you want can be on the team, doesn’t even have to be an even number of people on each team…Um, just like however you divide it up. And you play, like, with a basketball court, on the short length of the basketball court. One’s on one side line, the other’s on the other side line, those are where the teams are. And you can either divide it like, the field extends from like, the base line to half court, or full court, depending on how many people you have. And, uh…you get as many dodgeballs as you want, it’s very very, well, depending on the amount of people, and you just hit the dodgeball to the other side. If it lands, you get a point, if they catch it, you don’t get a point.

Audience Member: Hit it with what?

Informant: Just hit it with your hand. Just hit it over, spike it over, throw it over.

Audience Member: Over what?

Informant: Over the basketball court. And you have to hit it, and if it lands on the other side of the basketball court, then you get a point. But if they catch it, or if it lands before the other sideline, then, you don’t get a point.

Audience Member: Can you lose a point?

Informant: No, you can’t lose a point, you just don’t get a point.

Audience Member: So you play this where?

Informant: Elementary school. Me and one of my friends made it up.

Audience Member: How does it end?

Informant: Uh…You just play to a certain amount of points, or play until, you know, recess is over.  Whoever is winning at the end.

Audience Member: And your whole elementary school played?

Informant: The whole elementary school, people in other grades. Teachers got in on it, and coached and like reffed it. It was awesome.

The game described is a game that does not involve many rules and is easy to learn. The title of the game “Rubber Ducky” has no relation to the actual game and seems to serve as more of a humorous title to amuse children. It is also a nonviolent and simple game, which is probably why the game became so widespread across the informant’s elementary school, and why the teachers allowed it and encouraged its growth. The simplicity of the game comes from the fact that two 8 year olds created it and the widespread popularity of the game in the informant’s elementary school shows how fun and easy it is to play, allowing it to multiply and change across grades , time, and possibly schools.

Unlike most folklore, the origin and the creator can be traced back to my informant. Although the game is not completely unique, taking aspects of several different sports and games, the name and its execution causes it to be considered a new game. Its rapid spread from two people to an entire school shows the power of folklore, and the informant states that last that he heard, which was a few years ago, the game was still being played in the elementary school. Therefore, it can be said that this children’s folk game follows the idea of monogenesis, and can be tracked back to its origin.