Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 2/12/19
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Cantonese
Informant reported that their mother told them, “Don’t hang near the banana trees in Malaysia because ghosts live there.” Their mother grew up there and heard it from her Aunts. She describes the origin of this piece of folklore as having come about due to the amount of plantations in Malaysia, therefore people created this story to ward kids off of them, as they would play near the trees.
Informant is a secondary receiver of the folklore, whereas their mother experienced this in action — she would be taken near plantations and told not to stick around, while my informant only received the warning when about to go outside and play with other friends. It was less of a warning while in Malaysia, but rather a general warning before going outside.
I think this is an interesting anecdote that had to have started way back when, perhaps when children were hanging out too much in Malaysian plantations. It could have started due to malicious circumstances with a landowner getting fed up with children stealing from the plantation and therefore killing him, or it could be more lighthearted than that. I think a lot of different cultures have sayings such as these.
I did some research and found something called the “pontianak,” which is a female vampire ghost in Malay mythology. These are said to be spirits of women who died while pregnant, and my informant thinks this saying about Malaysian banana trees has roots with this mythical figure. Further reading can be done at the citation below:
Skeat, W.W. Malay Magic. New York, Macmillan and Co. Ltd, 1900. Print.