Tag Archives: siblings


Main Piece: 

Informant: Oh, during ​​Rakhi, so Rakhi, when you the sisters in the family will tie a string like if you can, you can see them on my arm. (gestures to his wrist where he’s wearing strings). Of course that’s not going to be known but like you can see them on my arm. You tie them around the brothers. And the point of it is for the brothers to say I will protect you no matter what like this. I do it with my sister as well as my cousins every single year because they’re near and dear to me and I want to show that I will protect them through whatever happens to them. So every single year we do that I give them money as well. And then on top of that, and then they give me a specific treat that I prefer the most. So for my uncle and myself we both like this Indian treat called Jalebi it is-all Indians treat like desserts and everything are really sweet in general, but this one’s like- It’s like fried and then dipped in syrup. It is the sweetest thing you can get. But it is it’s so good. It’s amazing and that’s what I tell them to get me every single year. It’s my favorite. 


My informant is a 21-year-old Indian American gerontology major at USC, this folklore was told to both me and his girlfriend (my roommate) in my living room. 


He said that this is one his favorite celebrations because he gets to renew his commitment to his female relatives while also getting one of his favorite desserts. 


It almost sounds like siblings are bartering for protection in this ritual, but my informant wears the proof of his commitment to his female relatives and is reminded of his promise every day. There’s visible proof of his relationship with his family and this ritual is a way to celebrate it. 

Secret Family Call


The following piece was collected from a twenty-two year-old girl who is also a student at USC. . She will hereafter be referred to as the “Informant”, and I the “Collector”.

Informant: “My family does a special call to let each other know where we are.”

Collector: “What does is sound like?”

Informant: “One person would go ‘Who who-oo!’ and then if another person in the family hears it, they have to respond ‘Who-oo-O! Who-oo-O!’”

Collector: “So what is it for?”

Informant: “Basically, it’s a way to keep track of all the younger kids. I have a bunch of siblings, so if we ever lose track of one of them, it’s a way to quickly call out to them and find them. Or have them call out to us.”

Collector: “Does it work?”

Informant: “Always.”


            The Informant learned the call from her older sibling, who learned it from their father who came up with it. She believes in the family call’s ability to help make people’s location’s known, both in a lighthearted way and a method of finding a younger kid if they were to wander off at a grocery store. She remembers it for the frequency of which she and her family uses the secret call.


            I loved hearing about this secret family call. I believe it to be a fun and effective tool. To me, having insider knowledge, in the form of a secret family call, is a perfect way to feel a part of something. Secret calls as a form of familial folklore is reminds people that they are part of a group, a group that cares about safety and awareness of each other enough to have designed an entire secret system as a way to be aware of each members’ whereabouts.

Respect your Siblings

Informant: “When I went to temple school a long time ago when I was a lot younger, we always learned a bunch of sayings and proverbs, or… I’m not sure what the difference is in English. But a very common one which I’ve had used on me a lot was

‘Anh em như thể tây chân’

which means

‘siblings are like your limbs’

The idea was if you were fighting with you brother or sister, they would say this to remind you that, you know, you’re stuck with your siblings so you might as well get along with them. Like, if you’re angry at your arm you wouldn’t just cut off your arm you just deal with it, or if your leg is hurting you, you just deal with it. In the same same way, if you’re angry with your siblings, you can’t just try to cut yourself off from them.”

Informant is a student at the University of Southern California. Her parents immigrated to the United States from Vietnam after the Vietnam war. She was born in the United States, and was raised bilingually by her parents (though she says that Vietnamese “Is definitely [her] primary language at home”). Most of her knowledge of Vietnamese culture comes from her upbringing in he Vietnamese family in an area where a lot of immigrants from Vietnam settled. Additionally, when she was growing up, she learned a lot about her Vietnamese heritage through “Temple School” which she described as “Like Christian Boy Scouts, except for Vietnamese Buddhists”.

Collector Analysis: According to the informant, Vietnamese culture places an extremely large value on respect and family. This proverb is a clear example of this as it both shows the importance of one’s siblings, as they are just as important as your arms and legs, and it explains the importance of working together with your siblings. In much the same way as you need all of your limbs, you need your siblings and your family in life.

The Story Of Pili and Sina

The informant’s family originated in Samoa, his parents were born and raised there before traveling and moving into the United States. He takes many visits to Samoa and is very in touch with his Samoan heritage and culture. He shared some common folklore with me that he could think of off of the top of his head. 


“Loa of Fagaloa was the husband of an Afagaloa woman named Sinaletigae, a town that isn’t a town anymore in between Taga and Salailua in Savai’i. The couple made their home at Afagaloa and had four children there. The children were named Sinasamoa the only girl and three boys Pili, Fuialaeo and Maomao . Pili took on the form of a lizard and as he grew older he grew until he filled the house, causing his other siblings and parents to go find another house  to live in. Loa and his wife became so afraid at the size of their son Pili that they fled, and took their other three children with them. They went to Fagaloa where Loa was from. Sinasamoa brought the water bottle in which she always carried water to her brother Pili with her. It had been her job to give Pili water and the two brothers gave him food. They all still loved Pili and whenever they sat down to eat in remembrance of him they first threw a small portion of food and poured out some water from the water bottle of Pili. Pili missed his parents and brothers and sister and knowing that Fagaloa was the home of his father he took on the form of a human being again and looked for the District of Fagaloa, or the land of plenty. He got to Fagaloa and Pili asked about where his family was in the village and was told that they were out working on their plantation. He found his sister sitting alone on the family’s plantation. She did not recognize Pili’s human form. He begged his sister to go and tell the rest of the family that a visitor had arrived but Sina refused to go. Pili then asked her for a drink of water from the bottle she had with her. She again refused stating that the bottle was only for her brother Pili. Pili said “very well, this place will now be known as Vaitu’u” and the place is called by this name which means “water reserved or kept here.” The place was then looked upon as the ruling town of Fagaloa. Pili asked Sina to say why they had run away from Pili. Sina told him that Pili had gotten so big that they were afraid of him and Loa had made them to run away and go to his old home. They knew that Pili would follow them once he had taken on a human form. Pili told her, “I am Pili and I have come to you.” The rest of the family who were hiding in the bush came out and happiness reigned.

Sina grew into a very beautiful girl and the word of her beauty traveled around the world and was talked about. The King of Fiji head about Sina and he went to Samoa to see her. Loa told his daughter to become the wife of the King of Fiji but she would’t unless her brother Pili gave her permission. Pili told Sina to marry him because he believed that if children were born as the from the marriage power would come to Fagaloa. The wedding happened and the Fijians thought their King had found a beautiful wife. As they prepared to leave for Fiji, Pili heard of the plans and asked Sina to take him with her. He thought that if anything bad happened on the trip he would help. Sina didn’t want to tell her husband so she decided to hide Pili. She made a small basket and put Pili in his small lizard form in the basket to hide. The trip took longer than normal and all the food was gone. The Fijiians blamed it on Sina and said she was possessed by a Devil. When Sina heard what the Fijiians were saying about her she told Pili who told her not to worry about it and tell her husband to stop on a small Island. stopped at the island and the King was surprised. They would found plenty of food like taro, yams, bananas, pigs, fowls etc. They replenished their food supplies the canoes continued on the journey but day after day passed and Fiji wasn’t appearing. The food supply was low again and the people again became anxious. Pili who was the cause of all this trouble tapped with his tail on the basket in he was hiding in to get Sina’s attention. He told her to ask the King to again stop at an island. They found a small island and again found a lot of food. The Fijiians got more suspicious that Sina possessed a Devil because how else would she know to stop at the island and knew that they had an abundance of food on them. When Sina heard all this she was scared and when the King wanted to search her to find where the Devil was hiding she dropped the basket with Pili in it into the sea and this gave started to the saying “Pili a’au” which means swimming Pili in english. Back in Samoa Loa had a dream which showed that his son Pili had been treated badly, so he made his other two sons to launch their canoe and proceed to Fiji to search for Pili. The two brothers left on their trip and after a time came across Pili swimming in the sea. Pili asked them to take him to the Island named Pu’agagana leave him there and they could go back to Samoa. Tagaloalagi, Loa’s brother, predicted what would happen to Pili when he left with Sina. A some point later Tagaloalagi told two of his sons to go to Fiji to watch the group. The sons did as they were told and on their way stopped at the Island of Pu’agagana. As Tagaloalagi predicted, they found Pili sitting on a Pua tree. When Pili heard that they were going to Fiji he asked if they would take him to the King’s house. The oldest brother told him that there was not enough room in the canoe for another person and their father had forbidden them to take a third person. Pili said that he didn’t need a seat and he could be put in the bilge of the canoe and he could become very small. The brothers agreed and they got to one end of the town of Tuifiti. Pili immediately went into the forest and planted different foods with the help of the two brothers. Other than Sina, the King of Fiji had a wife from Fiji and this wife loved by her people. When famine was in the country the people brought food for the King by giving it to his Fijian wife hoping that love only her and hate his Samoan wife couldn’t present him with food. This worried Sina that it caused her to cry hysterically. Pili heard that Sina was sad and crawled into the town where the King lived and this started to the expression “Pili totolo” which in english means crawling Pili. He asked Sina to go inland with him and he would show her ways to keep her husband’s love. He told her not to worry because she had brothers who would assist her. Pili told her that all her troubles were because she was weak and threw him into the sea. Pili’s words hurt her heart and caused the tears to flow faster than ever and when he husband noticed her sadness he asked why? She said that her tears were only for her brother Pili in Samoa. She then went with Pili and saw the plantation Pili and the two brothers created for her  the whole plantation was full of food fit for the King. Pili told Sina that he would create a spring of hot water and also one of cold water so that she could cook and clean her food. A yam would also grow down to her doorstep so that she could reach out and break off pieces to cook. He also told her that she should always visit him by herself when she wanted anything and she must never tell her husband of Phili’s plansation. Sina was filled with joy and went back to the village where she found the springs both hot and cold. These springs still exist in Fiji today. Sina also found the yam and this yam was the origin of the saying used by Orators “O le Tuli matagau nei le ufi a Sina” which means in english “searching after the broken end of Sina’s yam.” The King continued to love Sina and he not his Fijian wife. Pili and his two friends returned to Samoa after his sister had given birth to two children; a daughter named Sinavaituu and a son named Latu-Tuifiti.”


The Informant told me that this story was passed down to him by his mother and his mother’s mother probably told her. He had heard parts of it from his aunts or his friend’s mothers as well. In his culture this is an important myth and they will refer to it by the phrases that were derived from it like “Pili a’au” or swimming Pili. He wasn’t sure where it had originated but he figure “a really really really long time ago in Samoa.”

This myth kind of captures the traditional Samoan family. It shows how the family structure works and usually how the siblings would interact. It is just following one family, but it shows the closeness and the connection that the entire family might have including aunts uncles cousins; they are all a closely nit family. This myth gives its audience an inside look on a traditional Samoan family. The informant told me that in Samoa family is very important and those relationships are the relationships that they invest most of their time and energy into.

Myths are created by cultures around the world to explain how things of the world have come to be. The one that I am most familiar with is the story of Adam and Eve although the Bible isn’t considered a form of folklore, it is still a believe that many people have. This Samoan Myth has a man who takes on the form of a lizard that the people on the Fijian canoe think is an evil spirit, in the Bible the evil one or devil takes on the form of a serpent and I draw a connection here. Also the myth says that Pili made a plantation that was full of food and made a spring for his sister Sina which reminds me of the Garden of Eden. The point of making this connection shows that there are many similarities through the stories of how the world or whatever else has come to be. Usually there is an animal involved and that is interesting to me. This Myth also explores the closeness of family particularly the relationships that siblings have. I know for me I have the mentality that I can do and say whatever I want to my siblings no matter how mean but if anyone else were to do those exact same things I would go to war with that individual over my siblings. The relationship of siblings is really expressed and explored in this myth and shows just how far siblings will go for each other.



My informant was born and raised in Fresno, California. His parents immigrated to the United States from India. He described the traditions his family has to celebrate the Indian holiday of Rakhi:

“Rakhi takes place in late August, and it basically resembles protection from one sibling to another sibling, mainly from a brother to a sister or a sister to a brother. I personally have a sister, and every August we celebrate Rakhi. What happens in Rakhi is we pass each other bracelets made of twine, sort of like friendship bracelets. And it’s not even just to my sister. My cousins from Canada, India, and like other parts of the U.S. like Chicago and New York, they always send us little bracelets in envelopes every single year. And um, we… My sister and I, we tie them on each other. We select a few and tie them on each other. And my parents do the same thing too, it’s not just for people our age. My mom has three or four siblings, and she always gets bracelets form her brothers and sisters, and same with my dad. Rakhi is really nice because it just shows the love between a brother and a sister, and it shows how much a brother protects a sister, and the love that a sister provides. And usually the guy gives his sister money, and the sister gives the brother some gifts.”

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are widely celebrated holidays in the United States, but in the U.S., the relationship between siblings is not commemorated in the way that Rakhi celebrates it. My informant is glad to have the chance to specially acknowledge his younger sister and to honor her in a traditional way. The actual actions involved seem relatively simple; the bracelets and gifts exchanged between siblings are not fancy and the phone calls shared between relatives would not take a huge amount of effort. Even so, it is wonderful to have a special day reserved for these small gestures that can make a big impact. It is interesting how this holiday perpetuates gender roles in a subtle way. The males are expected to protect the females; my informant says part of the reason the holiday is important is because it commemorates the way brothers protect their sisters. The females are expected to support their brothers in return. Even so, the underlying message of the entire holiday is the love siblings have for each other, and that is what my informant focuses on.