Tag Archives: rich

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.

Panchatantra = Indian comic book

Main piece:

“Panchatantra is a folktale comic book for kids created to teach morals and important life lessons. In one of the stories, there is a god/deity, who is disguised as a poor female street beggar. She goes to a rich family household and asks for food and money. They say no, so then she moves on to the village and goes to a poor couple’s house. The couple has like no food or anything but she asks for food and water. They give her one roti (which is like tortilla/bread) and water even though they had none for themselves. So then when the rich family and poor couple wake up, their lives are switched.

Background information (Why does the informant know or like this piece? Where or who did they learn it from? What does it mean to them?):

Informant said she got her Panchatantra from her aunt on her 4th birthday as a gift but it was very common and every kid owned it. Informant said that the story shows that no matter how much you have- a lot or a little- you should share with people. It teaches people to not be selfish and greedy.

Context (When or where would this be performed? Under what circumstance?):

It is read by kids as a comic book in India.

Personal Analysis:

The Panchatantra is like Aesop’s fables. It is a good way to combine something fun and educational. It is not education in a literal or academic sense, but it is one way that India teaches kids how to be generous. It shows the values of the nation that cares about giving rather than receiving.

The Pyrenees Castle

The informant (K) is a sophomore at the University of Southern California. She grew up in Alhambra, California, which is about half an hour away from Los Angeles. She told me the legend behind the Pyrenees Castle in Alhambra. It is currently owned by Phil Spector (a record producer), but he is serving a prison sentence for killing an actress in the entryway of the castle. K said that Spector’s wife is currently living there all by herself. She gave me the reported history of the building, as told to her by her grandfather. She tells the story to friends when other similarly creepy houses are brought up. Below is a paraphrased version of the story she told me.

“In Alhambra, there is a big old house called the Pyrenees Castles. It is built like a French Chateau in the early 1900’s and is absolutely huge. Legend has it that the house used to be the clubhouse for a country club for rich people. Apparently, George IV (I think) played polo there once. There was an Italian or Irish person that wanted to join the club but was turned away because his nationality was looked down upon. This upset the man, and years later he got rich. He then returned to the Pyrenees Castle and bought it outright. There was a golf course there too, so a lot of the streets around the castle are named after golfers.”
K is not sure if it is true, but it does seem like it could be true.

One of the reasons that this story is still passed around is because it is truly the American dream. The poor worked hard and came back to buy what was denied him earlier. Americans tend to like to believe that poor people can work hard and eventually become rich people, which is exemplified in this story. There also seems to be some resentment towards the rich who denied the at-the-time-poor immigrant that wanted to be a part of their club. It must have been embarrassing for them to reject the immigrant and then sell the house to him. Additionally, the story is probably kept alive because of how famous the house is due to Phil Spector having killed someone in the house. Having a king visit there also probably keeps the story afloat because it just adds to the glamour and reputation of the house itself.