Tag Archives: story

The Legend of The Beast of Bodmin Moor

--Informant Info--
Nationality: British European
Age: 79
Occupation: Retired
Residence: Sherman Oaks, California
Date of Performance/Collection: April 27, 2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Informant: In the 1970s there was a rumor, legend, whatever, that there was a beast on Bodmin Moor in Devon. The moor was isolated and creepy and people became afraid to go there because of this beast. You need to know there were a lot of sheep on the moor that had been found mutilated and chewed by something. And there were reported sightings of a huge panther like thing with yellow eyes and a big black cloak. Then in the late 1970s people said somebody found a huge cat like a lion or a tiger or something. The rumor said it had been released from a nearby zoo or private owner, someone like Jo Exotic.
Other people said it was some sort of paranormal beast. Nobody ever got a picture of it. But THEN, and I think it was the late 1970s, somebody found a tiger or a panther skull on the moor.

Interviewer: So wait there actually way a panther on the moors?

Informant: Ah but! They sent it to the museum in London and it was indeed the skull of a panther, but the way it was detached from the rest of the body it looked like a rug. It turned out somebody had chucked out an old ratty rug and it rotted away leaving only the skull. So the mystery has never been solved.

Interviewer: Do you think it could have been someone just wearing the rug as a costume and messing with people?

Informant: Might have been, yeah. Could have been.

Interviewer: But I don’t know how they would have disemboweled the sheep like what you described.

Informant: Yeah. There weren’t wolves around there in 1978, I don’t think, so it couldn’t have been them. But it might have been foxes or natural wildlife, or a big dog.

Context: I asked my informant about what stories she knew about as a kid growing up in England. This was the first thing that came to mind.

Thoughts: There are pictures of a black cat when one searches for the beast which definitely coincides with my informants description of the creatures. I wonder if once upon a time there was a large cat in the area or if it really was just a large dog.

The story of the Popocatepetl

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Mexican
Age: 73
Occupation: None
Residence: Los Angeles and Mexico City
Date of Performance/Collection: April 24, 2019
Primary Language: Spanish
Other Language(s):

Main piece: 

The following is transcribed from a conversation between informant and interviewer. 

Infromant: The story of the Popocatepetl is of a umm…. I think of an Aztec warrior. He pretty much falls in love with her but is called into battle. So before he goes he tells her dad that upon returning, he will marry his daughter with his permission. The dad allows it and he goes but the news breakouts that he dies in battle. 

Interviewer: So he dies? What happens then with her? 

Informant: No he doesn’t die but the news got to her and the dad and she ends up dying from depression and loneliness. A week later he comes back from war, with riches and honor, but finds out she’s dead. So he asks the dad if he can take her body to give her a proper ceremony. He allows it and Popocatepetl takes her to the top of a pyramid. He holds a torch and watches her body. He plans to stay the night and he does but umm there’s a snow fall and he gets buried in it. Over time, annual rain and snowfall buries them even more and the mountaintop becomes the volcano that you can see from the house in Mexico. 

Interviewer: Oh it’s that volcano? I remember that name but I wasn’t sure it was the same name. 

Informant: Yeah that’s his body… his spirit. And whenever the volcano erupts or has activity… It means that Popocatepetl is remembering his love for the Aztec princess. 

Background: My informant here was my grandma who’s staying with us during COVID-19. She was born in Guadalajara, Mexico but lives in the U.S. with us for the most part. She says that she heard about this story from school textbooks and that she always remembers the story whenever there’s news about Popocatepec’s volcanic activity. For her it represents a true love story and a tragedy. She says that there is no longer love like that one in today’s world. 

Context: I asked my grandma during dinner if she can tell me the story of Popocatepetl because my mom heard it from my grandma but I wanted to get someone else’s view on it so I asked her. She complied and gave me this version while I recorded. Setting was at our house during dinner so it provided nice entertainment and I personally loved the story. 

Thoughts: I really enjoyed the story. When my grandma finished, my sister and I looked at each other and said “wow that’s true love” at the same time. I had known about the volcano for many years but I had never heard about the story behind it. I want to say I don’t believe in it fully but I do admire the love they had for each other. That love is scarce in today’s world so it was nice hearing that story. 

The Fox and the Rooster

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Pakistani
Age: 73
Occupation: Homemaker
Residence: Bahadur Khan, Attock, Pakistan
Date of Performance/Collection: 04/23/2020
Primary Language: Panjabi
Other Language(s): Urdu

Context: The following is a story told by the informant, my grandmother, when recounting to me a story she had heard during childhood. 

Background: My grandmother heard this story from her older cousin when chatting after school. She remembers it because unlike most stories she heard, this one was from someone closer in age to her.

Main piece: 

Once there was a fox that lived in the forest. Seeing a rooster sitting in a tree, the fox was eager to sink her teeth into it. Thinking about what a nice meal it would make, the fox decided to come up with a plan to get the rooster out of the tree. After thinking long and hard, the fox approached the tree and called out to the rooster, “Rooster! How are you doing today?”

The rooster responded, “I’m doing just fine, thanks to your prayers.”

“Did you know that there has been a new change in the forest?” the fox asked sneakily. 

This was news to the rooster, who hadn’t heard anything, so he asked in return, “No, what do you mean?”

“A decision has been made that from now on, everyone in the forest will live in peace and harmony. You don’t have to be scared of me anymore. Come, get down from that tree and let’s just sit in the shade and chat,” said the fox, greedily eyeing the bird.

“Oh really?” replied the rooster. “That’s great! Actually, I see that someone is coming over quickly.” Hearing this, the fox became frightened and looked around cautiously.

“Someone is coming? Who? Tell me quickly!” the fox said, afraid a predator might be approaching.

Seeing her reaction, the rooster was confused and said, “It’s just some hunting dogs, and they’re closing in fast. Why are you so frightened? Now that everyone is living in peace and harmony, we can all sit together and relax. Come, let’s wait for them to get here.”

Knowing her plan had been foiled, the fox could only grit her teeth and mumble an excuse that she had somewhere else to be before darting off into the forest, stomach empty.

Analysis: This story has the common trait of a more “evil” character that wants to hurt, or in this case eat, the “innocent” character, but has their plans ruined, either by being outwitted or mere happenstance. In this case, the narrative is quite open to interpretation as to whether the rooster actually did see the hunting dogs coming, or was clever enough to conjure up that tale to scare the fox off. Also, knowing the age of the storyteller to be quite young, it is no surprise that this tale focuses more heavily on entertainment than teaching a lesson or moral, although this could also be due to the way it was retold, perhaps being told to the girl in a different manner or emphasizing different parts of the tale.

Wealthy Man Riddle

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Native American
Age: 12
Occupation: student
Residence: Franklin, Tennessee
Date of Performance/Collection: 4-22-20
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main Piece:

Informant: There was a very wealthy businessman and a woman on a flight who was sitting right next to each other. And the woman was just trying to get some sleep on her flight. But the wealthy businessman was like bored out of his mind so he decided to give the woman a trick. He said, “I’ll ask you a question and if you don’t know it, you pay me $5. Then you ask me a question and if I don’t know it, I pay you $500.” The woman was like “ok, fine.”

So the guy asked the woman, he asked her a riddle and she had no idea was it was, so she went ahead and gave him $5. Then the woman asked the man, “What goes up a hill with 4 legs, but comes down with two?” The man spent a really long time thinking about it. He called his friends, he looked it up, but he couldn’t find the answer anywhere. And then he finally asked her what was the answer. And she hands him back his $5. Because, she didn’t know the answer either.

Interviewer: Wait, what?

Background:

The informant is a twelve-year-old Native American girl from the Choctaw, Blackfoot, and Lakota Nations. She was born and raised in Tennessee and frequently travels out west to visit family and friends. She is in sixth grade.

Context:

During the Covid-19 Pandemic I flew back home to Tennessee to stay with my family. The informant is my younger sister. I asked her is she knew any jokes or riddles.

Thoughts:

Proverbs, riddles, and.charms are three of the shorter forms of folklore. They are not necessarily confined to oral expression, having appeared in written literature for ages. The purpose of the riddle is usually to deceive its listener regarding its meaning. A descriptions is given where the answer must be deciphered. Many times riddles are used as a contest of wits. Regarding this particular riddle . . . story? The rich man was bored and used his money for entertainment. I honestly really don’t know what to say. It was kind of funny. (also, between us, could it be a murderer who went to bury a dead body . . .? Hopefully something much more pleasant).

An Irish Wake

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 70
Occupation: Health Care Worker
Residence: Alton, Illinois
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/28/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main piece:

(The following is transcribed from a conversation between the informant and interviewer.)

Informant: Grandpa, he always used to tell the story about the Irish – I’ve told you this one before – about the Irish wakes – cause the Irish always had the big parties. And, uhh, that was back in the days, when, you know… they were having a party for one of the guys that had just expired. And he was in the kitchen laid out on the kitchen table! And everybody was, you know, laughing and going on because… they celebrate death, in a different way. And so. (laughing) and then all of a sudden the guy sat up! Because they didn’t have embalming back there, and back then and stuff, you know. You just – they just, they laid you out and you wait a couple days-they – you know, they didn’t keep you around for very long cause you start smellin’. So, you know, people with diabetic comas and stuff like that they didn’t know about that back then, so, uhh, he just sat up! (laughs) And he wasn’t dead anymore! He asked for a beer! He said, “everyone’s drinking a beer, I want one too.” I think I would’ve been scared out of my mind!

Interviewer: Right!

Informant: Eh, if your grandpa- when he told it it was always funnier.

Interviewer: No, that was funny!

Background: My informant was born and raised in southern Illinois to very strict Catholic parents. She has strong Irish and Italian heritage. This is a joke/story that I’ve heard many times since growing up, in slight variations.

Context: The informant is my grandmother, and has always had a proclivity for telling stories, jokes, and wives tales. This piece was selected out of many from a recording of a long night of telling stories in a comfortable environment.

Thoughts: I think that the main joke in this story is that the Irish drink a lot, which is a simple and common theme for Irish stories and jokes and stereotypes. There is also a layer in which the man waking up is funny in itself, though I’ve realized it has to do with who is telling the story. I’ve heard it told more straightforward and snappily, getting to the line at the end where the man says he wants a beer as if it’s more of a punchline. In this telling, however, my grandmother focused around the absurdity of someone you thought was dead sitting up and thinking everything was fine.

The Legend of The Lindworm

--Informant Info--
Nationality: British European
Age: 79
Occupation: Retired
Residence: Sherman Oaks, California
Date of Performance/Collection: March 21, 2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Performed Piece:
Once upon a time in a far off kingdom there ruled a king and queen, who were plagued by a terrible sadness. They mourned the fact that they could not have a child. One day the queen went for a walk in her garden. There she sat and cried. A witch appeared before her, hearing her sobs and asked ‘why are you crying, my dear?’ the queen explained that she was sad that she will never be able to have a child and the kingdom would be left without an heir. The witch then told her, ‘come back this evening and place the smallest teacup you own upside down at the bottom of the garden. The next morning, before anyone else wakes up, return to the cup. Underneath you will find two roses, a red one and a white one. If you eat the red one you will have a boy and if you eat the white one you will have a girl.’ And with that the witch disappeared. 

The queen did as she was told and when she returned to the bottom of the garden she did indeed find two roses. ‘If I have the red one, I will have a strong boy but one day he may go off to war and die. But if I have the white one, I may be with my daughter for her youth but I know she will one day have to marry someone and I will never see her again.’ Eventually she decided to eat the white one, but the flower was so sweet that she ate the red one too to combat the taste. The queen instantly became pregnant and went back to the castle to tell her husband the good news.

A few months later the queen went into labor and, to the shock and horror of the many handmaids present, gave birth to a scaly Lindworm. It hissed at the queen and slithered out the window. But the queen gave birth to a second child, a perfectly healthy baby boy. That night the queen and her maids agreed to not tell a soul about the first child. Years later and the boy grew into a young prince and eventually told his father that he wanted to find a wife. His father agreed and sent his son to a neighboring kingdom. 

However, on the ride there, the prince’s path was blocked by a large Lindworm. It hissed at the prince ‘a bride for me before a bride for you.’ The prince was confused so told his entourage to take a different path, but his path was blocked by the Lindworm again as it repeated its message ‘A bride for me before a bride for you.’ The prince tried a third time with the same result, and so returned to the castle to tell his parents of the strange beast. The queen went pale and explained to her son that the Lindworm was indeed his older sibling and in common practice the eldest must marry first. So the king sent a letter to a nearby kingdom, asking for it to send a princess to marry one of his children.A princess arrived and was horrified to see her groom to be: the Lindworm, but it was too late. The morning after the ceremony, the maids went to check on the Lindworm and his bride. They found the Lindworm but the bride was nowhere to be seen. He had eaten her.

The young prince set off later that day to find himself a wife only to find the Lindworm on the road again, hissing ‘a bride for me before a bride for you.’ The prince rode home immediately and told his father. The king sent another letter to a different kingdom and the Lindworm was married again. The next morning came with the same results as last time, the Lindworm had eaten his bride again. The prince set off as early as he could but the Lindworm still stood before him hissing ‘a bride for me before a bride for you.’ The prince rode home again and told the king, but the king shook his head explaining a war has been started between two kingdoms over the princesses. While thinking of what to do the king went walking and eventually stopped by the home of his swine herder, where he saw the man’s daughter. He asked the swine herder to give his daughter to marry the Lindworm. While the man objected he eventually relented. His daughter was horrified and ran to the nearby woods and cried. A witch appeared before her and asked “why are you crying, my dear?’ The girl explains her situation to the witch and tells her “tonight before you enter the bedchamber, wear 12 shiffs, bring a tub of lye and milk, and as many switches as you can carry. By this method you will rid yourself of the Lindworm.’

So on the night of the wedding, the Lindworm said to the girl ‘fair maiden, shed a shiff.’ and the girl responds ‘Lindworm, shed a skin.’ The Lindworm is taken aback, ‘no one has ever asked that of me.’ ‘Well I ask this of you now,’ says the girl. The Lindworm sheds his skin and the girl sheds a shiff, but before anything else happens the girl scrubs the Lindworm’s raw skin with the lye and milk. After she finishes bathing it, the Lindworm asks her to shed another shiff and the process repeats late into the night.

In the morning the maids come to check on the couple and when they look inside, they find the girl, unharmed, in the arms of a handsome prince. The kingdom celebrates and has the wedding anew for the happy couple.

Background: My informant learned this story from a children’s book that she used to read to her children and grandchildren, however she does not remember the title of the book.

Context: My informant and I were discussing my childhood with her and how I used to love a few specific stories. This was one of them and she tells it how she remembers.

Thoughts: I wonder if she is still telling the story as it was originally written, or if she changed it through re-remembering and re-telling it. I remember phrases repeating only three time instead of 12, and the reason why the Queen ate both flowers being a bit more selfish, like she wanted both a son and a daughter.

Folk Healing by Reenactment of a Story

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Pakistani
Age: 73
Occupation: Homemaker
Residence: Bahadur Khan, Attock, Pakistan
Date of Performance/Collection: 04/23/2020
Primary Language: Panjabi
Other Language(s): Urdu

Context: The following is an account from the informant, my grandmother. She told me this over the phone.

Background: She related a story that people believe in and emulate in order to try and heal the sick. For example, when her younger sister had severe asthma, her mother had once emulated the actions related in the story and circled her daughter’s bed while praying for her to be healed, ready to give her own life for her daughter.

Main piece: 

There was once a Mughal king named Babur and his son Humayun. His son was very sick and on his deathbed, despite the attempts of many doctors to cure him. Babur became very desperate to save his son and gathered his advisors for direction. They advised him to give in charity to help remedy the situation. 

One person told him to sacrifice animals and another recommended that he should give away wealth. When Babur was confused as to what course of action to take, one wise man told him to not think too much, and just give away whatever was most dear to him. Hearing this, Babur realized the thing most precious to him was his own life.  

With this in mind, Babur kept circling around the bed of his son while praying for him to be healed. He was ready to sacrifice even his own life so that his son would recover.After a while of doing this, Babur himself developed a fever while his son started getting better. Eventually, Babur collapsed and died, while Humayun made a full recovery. 

Analysis: As a story, there can be many morals derived from this account. This can include the strong relationship and love between son and father as well as the necessity to sacrifice in order to achieve a goal or result. However, this was mentioned as a means of healing that people actually believed in, with the example of my grandmother’s mother re-enacting the story in an attempt to cure her daughter. Although this is the case, it is not clear whether such an event ever did happen in history, with a strong possibility that the story has just inserted real life characters into it, as many stories did.

one word stories (game)

--Informant Info--
Nationality: american
Age: 52
Occupation: marketing
Residence: los altos
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/25/19
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): austrian

Text:

“When we would sit around the fire at night as kids we would tell stories in the form of one word. Which we would call “one word stories.” So the rules of the game were everyone would sit in a circle and usually the oldest or youngest person would start with the phrase ‘once upon a time there was’ and the following person in the circle, which was always done clockwise, would say one word like ‘fish’. This would then continue until a full story was formed. The stories always were quite comedic and didn’t really make much sense in the end since the younger kids loved to yell out random words that a typical 9 year old would think funny.”

Genre: folk game

Background: The interviewee, VP, is an American middle-aged female. VP resides in Northern California and comes directly from Austria and Latvian descent. VP remembers this game being taught to her by her American friends, however does not remember their exact origins or where they learned the game from. VP states that the game usually would consist of at least 3-4 younger children and often some adults to mediate. She mentioned that his game was played in a variety of locations sometimes around a candle at home or fire at her childhood cabin in Northern California. The game usually was centralized around funny and child inspired stories as it was primarily for the children of the group; the parents, as previously stated, were there to make sure the stories did not take a dark turn. This was a procedure put in place so none of the younger children would end up in tears over a death or other scary fate. VP mentioned that she passed this game down to her children as well, and in hopes they will do the same as it was product for some of her most memorable childhood memories.

Nationality: Austrian and Latvian
Location: Los Altos, CA
Language: English

Interpretation: I, once being a young kid myself, have had a personal relationship to this game as it was passed down to me as a child. I have played this game time and time again with friends and parents. Although the goal is to make sure no one is upset with the twists and turns the story, I remember several participants in tears after certain games. I was left curious with the is game’s concept and its origins, as my interviewee VP had no knowledge of this. A quick Google search later and I found a similar game by the name of Consequences. The game Consequences is not a typical board game, but is self-driven by its participants. There are two variations of the game, written and images based. These two game methods compliment the oral version VP practices which in turn creates a trifecta of written visual and aural stories. One version of Consequences is practiced by individuals drawing lines to create a creature or images, and the latter is done by the following template:

Adjective for man
Man’s name
Adjective for woman
Woman’s name
Where they met
What they went there for
What he wore
What she wore
What he said to her
What she said to him
The consequence (a description of what happened after)
What the world said

Although all three variations of this game are drastically different they focus upon imagination and blind story telling. This game is something that I will definitely attempt to pass on to others to inspire this level of connection and creatively.

Why You Can Never Keep Glass on the Floor: Puerto Rican Tale

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: Tucson, Arizona
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/15/19
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): None

Is this tale well known in Puerto Rico?

L.O. – “Nah, this is just something which was told to my father, and he told it to me.”

How does the story go?

“So, there was a man in my dad’s like, village, or his small town, and he’d just always leave his dishes on the floor after he finished eating and was watching TV.  And one day he tripped, and the glass cut into his neck, and he died.  *Chuckle*  And that’s why you can’t ever leave your dishes on the floor.  It’s funny, this is definitely something that you just tell your kids, so they’ll behave around the house and such.”

Do you live by those rules now?

“Yes, absolutely.  We have like, actually kept those rules in our house.  Because I used to keep my dishes all over the floor, and my dad would be like, ‘this dude injured his neck and died, don’t do that,’ and so I never do.”

When you see dishes on the floor, do you think about it?

“Yes.  Immediately.”

 

This story served to remind this person why he should never leave dishes on the floor.  For me, though, it was a reminder to always remember your roots.  While that sounds cliche, it makes sense to me.  Again this is a person who is completely independent from his previous life where he grew up.  To think that, although one day he’ll live far away from his father, he’ll always think of that one story which was told to him, is quite sentimental.  They are stories like these which we hold onto the tightest.  You can also imply this story in other walks of life, using it as lessons for your children, and their children.  

The House Across the Street

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Irish, American
Age: 19
Occupation: USC Student
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/19/18
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

My informant, an Irish-American male, grew up immersed in Irish culture. He was excited to share his stories with me — especially because sharing stories is an important part of Irish social culture. I collected this story (which he learned from his father) from him while we sat on his couch:

 

“Back in Ireland, there’s this house across the street with an old man — and he’s a rat bastard — he’s a piece of s***. He used to be an IRA [Irish Republican Army]. He would beat his wife — his kids… and one day he was arrested and sent to prison. The day he got out, his whole family celebrated (as they do) with lots and lots of alcohol. So everyone’s drinking and he pulls out a Ouija board and someone in the room is like, “witchcraft it’s evil.” [the informant backtracks] Oh, and the guys name is Patty. [Back to the original story] He said, “no, no, no. It’s fun we used it in prison and it’s just a nice, fun game. Let’s try to see if we can contact our grandmother.” And so they they use it on on the table and they contacted his grandmother, whatever — and the grandmother was was also just a huge b***h when she was alive. Also abusive and terrible. And then someone across the room holding a beer says, “alright, well it’s been nice talking to you we got to go now. We’re praying for you.” But then he follows it with: “I don’t need your prayers where I am.” And everyone in the room s***s their pants. They scream they run. And after that, Patty was a much more secluded guy. He never really talked to anyone. One of his sons (that was never in) was there that night he went crazy. And they lived in the house next door because they’re connected houses over there. The son got up to go to the bathroom one night. And as he was going over to the bathroom he saw this ghostly white figure come across the hallway and he was a little disturbed… but, like, it’s Ireland so you kind of don’t really pay attention that much to that. And then his wife was in the room and she goes, “honey, who’s there? I just saw someone walk across the doorway.” And the husband says, “oh my God! I just saw someone walk across the hall. That’s really creepy.” And so they sort of, like, bless themselves, and go to bed. And this was in the house directly next to it [the Ouija board event] — because the houses are connected. the figure would come out of the wall that that they shared with the other house. And, you know, ever since since that day when when they used the Ouija board legitimately the sun doesn’t shine on on that house on the street. Like I said: hardly ever.”

 

My informant added that his dad told him this story first, and then he went to see the house from the story. He says it’s true that the sun doesn’t shine on the house. Even on days where the sun is fully illuminating the houses around it, this house is still shrouded in shadow.

 

Analysis:

Because my informant did not share his belief in the dark magical curse the Ouija board left on the house, he probably sees it as a legend attached to the house. His story takes place in the real world, but the events may or may not actually be true. I personally find it to be a fun story to tell at a social gathering. I can picture my informant being told the story by an active bearer (his father), and becoming a passive bearer until he shared the story with me when I interviewed him.