Tag Archives: story

Taiwanese story: Chang E and the Elixirs of Immortality

Nationality: Taiwanese
Primary Language: Taiwanese/Mandarin
Age: 76
Occupation: Retired, former teacher
Residence: Taipei, Taiwan
Performance Date: 24 March 2024

Tags: Taiwan, story, chang e, immortality, moon, mid autumn festival


Once upon a time, there was a beautiful woman named Chang E. She was the wife of Hou Yi, a legendary warrior and archer who had shot down 9 suns in another story beforehand. As a reward for shooting down the suns and ridding the world of eternal heat, the gods gave him 2 elixirs of immortality. Hou Yi wanted to take the elixirs together with his wife so both of them could become immortal, so he put the two elixirs at his house and entrusted them to his wife. As Hou Yi left to deal with other business one night, one of his apprentices heard of the elixirs, and, out of jealousy and anger, snuck into his house to steal them for himself. Chang e was inside the house and saw what the apprentice was trying to do, so after a bit of a scuffle, Chang e, in a last ditch effort fueled by fear and adrenaline, drank both of the elixirs at the same time. Hou Yi returned to his house just as this happened, and ran to see his wife float up towards the moon. Unable to reach his wife in time, Hou Yi mourned the loss of his wife on the moon, and later made a habit of bringing out moon cakes and other food that she loved, in remembrance of Chang e and to let her know that he was still looking out for her.


C. is a born and raised Taiwanese citizen, and has told her fair share of stories to her children and grandchildren alike. This story is one of the most famous and commonly known stories in Taiwan and most other East Asian countries, and told me this story alongside the story of Hou Yi due to their interconnection.


Along with the story of Hou Yi, this is one of the oldest stories in Chinese (and thus Asian) folklore, so a couple of details are changed depending on the version. Details like the type of food/drink the immortality elixirs were, Chang e’s motivation, the aftermath of Chang e going to the moon, whether a rabbit was involved, and more all vary with different retellings. Overall, this is a good example of a common story with various differences being made by various different storytellers over time, and how a story becomes a festival/tradition due to the eating of moon cakes and such during the Mid-Autumn Festival.

“Johnny, I want my liver back…”

Genre: Folk Narrative – Ghost Story


One day a boy named Johnny is told by his mother to go to the butcher’s to get some liver for dinner. He takes the five dollars she gives him and heads off toward town, taking a shortcut through the local cemetery. When he gets to the butcher’s shop, Johnny is distracted by a stand of comic books, where the newest edition of his favorite series is on sale for only five dollars. Without thinking, he immediately buys the comic book and begins to read it, losing track of time until the sun begins to set.

Jonny realizes he’s made a mistake: he now has no money to buy the liver for dinner, and his mother is going to be furious that he spent it on a comic book! He has no choice but to hurry home, cutting again through the graveyard. But on his way home, just as he passes a freshly-dug grave, Johnny has an idea – a way to get a liver for free.

“What kind of liver is this?” his mother asks when he gets home and gives her the liver. “It looks old… you’re sure you asked for the freshest cut?”

Johnny tells her that he’s sure it’s fresh and it’s what the butcher gave him. Johnny’s mother finally accepts the liver and tells him to wait upstairs while she makes his favorite meal for dinner: spaghetti and liver.

While Johnny is waiting in his room, he begins to feel sick, thinking about the graveyard, the fresh grave, and the liver currently being prepared into spaghetti. When his mother calls him down for dinner, Johnny feels too sick to eat and tries to just go to sleep.

But late that night, once his mother has gone to bed, Johnny hears a low call…

Johnny, I want my liver back…

Johnny sits up straight in bed. The call sounds like it’s coming from the direction of the graveyard. He feels even more sick now and hides under his covers, but then he hears a thudding on the front door…

Johnny, I want my liver back… I’m outside your front door…

Johnny is crying now in fear, desperately wishing he hadn’t spent his five dollars on a comic book and instead had gone to the butcher’s.

He hears the front door creak open and then slow footsteps coming up the stairs, getting closer… and closer… and closer… Then there’s a rattling on his bedroom door.

Johnny, I want my liver back… I’m outside your bedroom…

Johnny runs to his closet and shuts the door, trying to hide but knowing it is too late. There is a sudden pounding on his closet door…

Johnny, I want my liver back… I’m inside your bedroom…

Johnny holds his breath. The closet door creaks open… and then…

AHHH! (the narrator screams)


“I grew up going to a summer camp near Lassen National Park and the camp led day trips through a bunch of subway tunnels. The tunnels were dark and cold and eventually led to a larger opening, where all the campers would gather in a circle and turn off their flashlights while the counselors told a ghost story. It was tradition to tell this story and the younger campers would always get scared, but it became a part of the camp’s culture. The story didn’t have an exact narrative ending, but it ended with the counselors suddenly turning on their flashlights and jumping at the campers while their screams echoed through the subway caves.”


This story has a pretty clear message to the listeners, who are primarily children: that dishonesty will only get you in more trouble and to follow directions. If Johnny had listened to his mother’s directions and spent his five dollars on the liver, nothing bad would have happened. But because he wanted to cover up his mistake of spending the money on a comic book, he ended up getting an old liver from a fresh body in the local graveyard and his actions came back to haunt him.

I also see this experience as a whole as a “rite of passage” for the participants in the summer camp described by the informant. Young listeners who are hearing the story for the first time will be hanging onto every word and will therefore receive the most shock at the end, when the counselors scare the campers. In contrast, campers who have heard the story before will know what to expect and may even join in on scaring the younger campers. The shared experience of anticipation, fright, and eventual laughter likely creates a sense of bonding/community within the group of listeners.

Laila and The Wolf

Original Text:

ليلى والذئب


Laila Wil Th’ib


Laila and the Wolf

My informant is from Lebanon and has experienced this narrative many times throughout her childhood and has passed it on to her own children.


The story describes Laila, the little girl, “preparing Kaa’k, a Lebanese type of bread and Shaye, a certain Arabic tea to take to her grandmother’s home as she is not feeling well” Once Laila is lectured by her mother about the rules of arab generosity and taught that she “must not listen to the words of others, specifically, not family” as they do not have the same values as their household and may hurt her” Laila is at an intersection in the path and has to choose whether to go down one covered with beauty and the other with darkness. “A hyena emerged from the bush and told Laila to take the path of darkness because there will be a surprise and that she must listen to her elder.” Yet, she continues to her sick grandmother in hopes of curing her with Laila’s love. Once she arrived, Laila had approached her grandmother’s bed and “kissed her forehead to show her love, but noticed it was fur, and that she had big eyes and ears.” Laila uncovered her ‘grandmother’ and revealed a wolf that had eaten her grandmother whole. Once Laila screamed, she alerted a watchman who then killed the wolf and cut open his stomach to save her grandmother” However, the hyena was the wolf’s friend a watched all this, as he planned how he was going to get Laila next”


This tale is merely an oikotype of the famous story of ‘Red Riding Hood’ and presents the tale with some changes such as the introduction of a hyena to the narrative in order to present more lessons in the story. The story was mainly “told to children at a very young age so that they could learn how to effectively live independently in a safe manner” as it has many rules such as ‘don’t listen to strangers’ and ‘respect your parent’s wishes’ or else worse will occur. It places an emphasis on the child being told the narrative as it serves as a lesson for when they are being dealt with “a similar situation to the one being told in the story.” Usually parents, specifically the mom would tell this story “before bed so that the children remember and dream practising it or at the beginning of the day, before they leave the house, especially to families who live in the city” because of the many incidents that occur there.


The mention of a hyena being part of the story reminds children that they must always be aware and stay safe because anyone may wish to hurt them. Although this may traumatize some children, it allows them to gain a harsh understanding of reality and ‘the way the world works’. When presented with the tale, I noticed a few differences between this and the Western-typical story. The changes in the story when speaking of the house customs, the food had been altered to fit the culture and Lebanese standard so that children have an easier time relating it to their own experience and point of view, presenting a more efficient approach to storytelling and lecturing. The middle east is seen to be more transparent in the manner that maturity is approached, they give children the chance to view the world in the brutal form that it is. Some countries are not blessed with the same safety as most of the Western world. This is presented through the violence and gore in the story of the wolf eating the grandmother as it prepares the children for the world they are going to be forced into.

The Ax Farmer – Tale

Context: R is a Korean American who was raised in Hawaii. She moved to Los Angeles to attend USC and is currently a freshman studying Computer Science. Her mom told her this story, and R herself has heard from multiple Koreans each with their own variation on what the tale sounds like. According to R, it’s a very popular folktale.


The story of the ax farmer begins with an axman who had a very poor quality ax. It was wooden and broken. He dropped in this lake one day, and there was a god living in the lake and the god appears with two axes in his hands, one gold and one wooden. The god asks the axman “Which one is your ax, the golden one or the wooden one?” The axman answers honestly with “the wooden one.” The god, impresses by the man’s honesty, gives him the golden ax.

However, there was another man listening to the ax man and god’s conversation. He then purposefully threw an ax into the lake and the god appeared. The god asks the man which ax is his and the man chooses the golden ax. The god knew he was lying, so he punished him. The punishment R never specifies, but she implies that the god severely punished the other man for lying.


Like any tale, the god and man interaction and the golden ax is clearly not real. There is no real lake that this story was at nor would there be a god living it who can give golden axes to passersby. But, due to the context in which these motifs are placed, the audience is able to learn a very real and applicable lesson about honesty and punishment. From Oring’s definition of a tale, the inherent falsehood of the narrative makes it easier to digest; the linear path the plot takes and the extreme contrast of the characters allow the logical and real-world solution to the story, the man’s punishment, to be impactful and relatable. From there, the two-dimensional and predictable story can be adapted into metaphor, and then motif and then life lesson. A god living in a lake and the existence of a golden ax are metaphors for a high power or authority in life and rewards. By pleasing the authority figures with honesty and good morals, rewards will be given. Lie to power or manipulate selfishly, the punishment will be severe and no such rewards will be yielded. Tales like these are usually told during childhood, so this tale gives a young and innocent audience a hard truth about living in society without it being overwhelming or stressful. The tale is blaring entertainment, yet perfectly subtle in the delivery of morality and ethics.


  1. Text
    Rindercella is essentially the story of Cinderella, but with some letters mixed up in some of the words.  For example, “Rindercella lived with her mugly other and her two sad bisters, and there was a very prandsome hince.” and, “at the pancy farty, Rindercella slopped her dripper!”
  2. Context
    Rindercella is a story I first heard in 2021, told by a “camp dad” at the summer camp I work at.  He told this story at our “big campfire” assembly and it was a huge hit.  I had never heard of the concept before, let alone knew its origin, I just thought it was hilarious.  I would think that the context that this joke/story is told is similar to my experience; an adult telling it to a group of kids, or even other adults.  I would think it would be incredibly entertaining to anyone, as the words are ridiculous and if the storyteller knows it well, it’s very impressive.
  3. Interpretation
    My interpretation is that Rindercella is an extremely entertaining take/revival of a classic story.  There’s a slight uncomfortable feeling when you’re listening to the story being told, because it feels like the storyteller is on the verge of a slip-up and/or saying a nasty word.  Nevertheless, Rindercella has its listeners both on the edge of their seats and doubled over in laughter.  The storyteller from whom I encountered this story told it with such a straight face and lack of mistakes, that I left feeling entirely impressed.