Tag Archives: parents

Bake Your Own Cookie

Background provided by NN : NN was born and raised in Southern California. They were raised in a Chinese-American household and experienced many different forms of folklore. 

Context: NN was approached about folklore, they conveyed it through a telephone call. NN says that her father tells this tale whenever they are lazy. They also revealed that this particular folklore had evolved to be a joke after they learned how to cook and bake. 

Main Piece Transcription of interview (contains the context of particular performance and additional background information):

NN: “ So … like … my dad tells me this story … ALL the time. He usually tells me … when he thinks I am being … lazy, or whatever. The story kinda … always begins … with “There was once a rich man” (accompanied by air quotes) who had … like everything done for him. He never had to … umm … lifted a finger … like AT ALL. Servants … wiped his butt, like … fed him,  they did everything for him. (Pauses for effect) One, day, after he got married his, ummm … wife had to … like … uhh … visit her family for the … the … holiday. She baked her husband  a large cookie, and like put in on … a … string  and put it on around his neck. AND she left to visit her family … for … like a week. When she came back home,  she …  her husband was dead.  Like … he was in the same position … like when she left him … and like the cookie around his neck was not eaten. He was too lazy … to even lift the cookie … to like … eat … so he died. My dad would always say something, like … (deepens voice to imitate their father) “See … work won’t kill you, but being lazy will. Do you want to have someone bake your cookie for you … or what.” 

Analysis: This particular short story is has morbid humor. The laziness of the man is obviously dramatized to highlight the importance of hard work. It seems like the story is told orally and had even evolved into a joke amongst close family members. The moral of the story remains despite the context of the perfomance. It also acts as a representation of Chinese values. The lazy man can also be interpreted as subtle commentary on the partriarchal society. The wife had provided substance for her husband, but his choice led to his own demise. Another interesting layer to this tale is the financial component; the lazy man had never done anything for himself because he had the financial means to outsource all his tasks. This tale could have originated from the working-class as way of encouraging their chidren to embrace work instead of focusing on the scarcity of money.

“Cría cuervos y te sacarán los ojos”

  • Informant: My informant is my Mexican dad who grew up in Puebla, Mexico. 

Main Piece: “Cría cuervos y te sacarán los ojos” 

Transliteration: “Raise crows and they will take out your eyes” 

Translation: “Raise ravens, and they’ll gouge your eyes out” 

Background: My informant is my dad, who grew up in the small town of Puebla, Mexico. He was raised by a single mother and is the youngest of all 5 siblings. As the youngest of all, he said he was a good kid, yet there were times that when he or his siblings did something wrong his mom (my grandma)would say the proverb above. 

Context: This proverb is known to usually comes up when a child has done something wrong such as anything that goes against a parent’s expectation. This highly includes betrayal. In especially betrayal in this case or when a child is not appreciative of what their parents have given to them. 

Analysis: This phrase seems to have been a staple of my childhood, part of which I have heard so many times when I do something that displeases my parents. Although the proverbs in a sense seem sort of harsh, I think it has been an important phase in my life, which has allowed me to realize that one has to appreciate their parents a little more. 

Sana Sana Colita de Rana

Text: “sana sana colita de rana”

“heal heal frog’s tail”

Context:

Informant: Whenever we got home when we were younger our mom would say “sana sana colita de rana”. Colita de rana is frog’s tail, it means heal heal frog’s tail, if it doesn’t heal today it shall heal tomorrow.

Informant: It’s um it’s kinda like not a really good luck thing, but when a young person gets hurt you know their crying and stuff so the mom says the magic potion thingy stuff so the kids stops crying and supposedly they heal faster. But it’s like I think it’s mostly like to make the kid shut up it’s a nice tradition thing, instead of saying oh you’ll get better, there’s a whole song to it and stuff so it’s like wow. It’s the “magic healing saying that your mom tells you”

Me: Is this saying a family tradition?

Informant: Yes and like no. A lot of people in Mexico use this. so it’s like passed down from generations I think. But it’s like a lot of people do it

Me: Would you personally consider it magic?

Informant: No, but I will add the placebo effect comes in

Context of Performance:

In-person conversation about things our parents would say when we were younger.

Personal Thoughts:

While “modern” medicine creates a clear distinction between the mind and the body, phenomena such as the placebo affect seem to call this distinction into question. This particular phrase – “sana sana colita de rana” – seems to play into the placebo effect. This phrase is merely words, it doesn’t physically tend to a child’s wounds. However, these words from a parent or trusted adult can comfort and soothe a child.

I’ve seen many memes on the parenting side of social media that joke that as long as a parent doesn’t act like they’ve been hurt, a child could be hit by a meteor and not cry. This particular piece of folklore seems to have a similar philosophy – a child will be ok if you comfort them with a magical healing little song.

Additional Notes:

As noted by the informant, this saying usually comes in song form, with an example linked below:

Ethiopian Tale – Wardit the Mule

Main Piece 

My informant told me the story of a beautiful mule named Wardit. Wardit was on her way to drink water from the river, when she met an admirer, a horse, on the way. The horse confesses his love for Wardit, and asks about her parentage. Wardit looked confused, and asked the horse why her parentage is important. The horse explains that it is tradition to marry someone from a good familial parentage. Wardit explains that her mother is the governor’s horse. The horse was delighted, and asked of Wardit’s father. Wardit then said proudly that her sister is the priest’s horse. The horse looked puzzled and asked once more of Wardit’s father. Wardit then said that her aunt is the village governor’s horse. The horse grew impatient and once again asked of Wardit’s father. Just then, Wardit’s father appears. He is an old, wrinkled donkey. He asks Wardit what she is doing talking to the horse. Wardit ignores him. Again, the father asks Wardit, and again, Wardit ignores him. The horse angrily asks Wardit who the horse is and why he disturbs the conversation. Wardit insists that she does not know the old, shrivelled donkey. The horse begins to kick the donkey to death. With his final breath, the donkey asks God, “Oh God, look at what has happened to me.” God speaks to Wardit and declares her barren and unable to have children. He says, “you have disrespected your father, so you shall bear no child.”

Context 

This tale is told to young children to teach them to respect their elders, as this is a very important manner to instill in children in Ethiopia.

Background

My informant was born and raised in Ethiopia. He explains that in Ethiopian culture, disrespecting one’s parents is considered a very heinous offense. He informed me that this also applies to any elders in or outside of the family. He explained that Ethiopians are very family oriented, thus many tales in Ethiopian culture aim to teach children to be obedient and prioritize their family. My informant learned this tale from his parents at a young age, which further reaffirms that this tale was told for educational purposes.

My Thoughts

I had never heard of this tale before, but it did resonate with me. We have the same family values in Armenian culture. I found it interesting that Wardit was punished by God, which suggests that disrespecting one’s parents is not only a social offense, but a religious one. According to my informant, religion is a non-negotiable aspect of society in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia. This tale also communicates the importance of family values. Wardit was punished for not defending or claiming her father. According to my informant, disrespecting an elder, regardless of your relationship with them, is disrespectful and shameful. For more information on Ethiopian family dynamics, see the cited article from Cultural Atlas under the subheadings titled “Family” and “Household Dynamics.” 

Source:

Evason, Nina. “Ethiopian Culture.” Cultural Atlas, 2018, culturalatlas.sbs.com.au/ethiopian-culture/ethiopian-culture-family. Accessed 1 Apr. 2021.

The Race Around the World with Kartikeya and Lord Ganesha

Context:

My informant is a 18 year old student from the University of Southern California (USC). This conversation took place one night at Cafe 84, a place where many students at USC go to study at night. The informant and I sat alone at our own table, but were in an open space where there was a lot of background noise. In this account, she tells a traditional Hindi story about a race between Kartikeya, the god of war, and Lord Ganesha, the lord of obstacles, learning, and the people. She learned this story from her mother, who told this story to my informant and my informant’s sister to “make sure we respect her, cause’ parents are our world.” In this transcription of her folklore, she is identified as P and I am identified as K.

 

Text:

P: So this is the folklore of Ganesha and his brother, um Kartikeya’s, race around the world. So basically, [laughs], ok, so basically, um, one day, his parents were like, “We want you to race for this mango!” And, um, there was two songs and one mango, so they decided to have a race for that one mango. So both boys really wanted to win this mango [giggles], but they had to race around the world and be the first one to finish, so, so Ganesha picked his trusty steed of a mouse. And, his brother, Kartikeya, picked a peacock. So, Ganesha was a little chubby boy, and he had a mouse, which isn’t the fastest… And… well aren’t elephants scared of mice? Is that a thing?

 

K: Yeah, I’ve heard that before too.

 

P: So maybe that’s like also a thing, I don’t know. Um, so people were like “Eh, he’s not gonna win.” And his brother had the peacock, which is a lot faster, and he’s like a slim boy [laughs]. So anyways, the race starts, Kartikeya books it on his peacock, circling the world, but Lord Ganesha, smart boy, he doesn’t start. Instead, he goes to his parents, sits them down, and then goes on his mouse and circles them, because to him, his parents are his world.

 

K: Awwwww!

 

P: So he got the mango! [laughs]

 

K: Where did you learn that story?

 

P: Um, my mother told me that story. I think it’s also to make sure we respect her, cause parents are our world.

 

K: Ok that’s fair. Did it teach you that? Did it actually serve its purpose?

 

P: Um, I don’t it taught me to respect my parents because it’s just some thing you do as a human being… as a good person, but I think it like, was a cute way to look at it. Does that make sense?

 

K: Do you plan on continuing telling this story?

 

P: Okay, honestly, I don’t know, just because it’s a religious story and I’m not very religious. But, it’s like a good moral story, I mean aside from the whole parent thing, it just shows that like, you don’t need to be the fastest or the slimmest to win a race, you need your wits and intelligence! You don’t need a peacock, you just need a mouse to get your mango. The mango of life.

Thoughts:

This story is particularly interesting because melds to forms of folklore together: a cultural story with the concept or phrase of “you are my world.” My informant told me that a large part of Indian culture is respecting your parents and recognizing that you’re parents have done so much for you. By having Ganesha express that his parents are his whole world, this story is ultimately a very endearing and wholesome way to teach children that their parents should be the center of their love because they are where they are because of their parents. The mango also seems to represent the idea that if you give your parents your love and respect, they will always reward you in return with theirs.

For another version of this story, please refer to the citation below:

Krithika, R. “Race around the World.” The Hindu, The Hindu, 17 Dec. 2015, www.thehindu.com/features/kids/why-were-ganesha-and-karthikeya-keen-on-winning-the-race/article8000267.ece.