Tag Archives: sun

Mexican myth

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Mexican
Age: 54
Occupation: Restaurant worker
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 04/29/2020
Primary Language: Spanish
Other Language(s):

Main piece: 

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

Informant: A ritual that you have to do, no matter if you are Mexican, German, Chinese, American… it doesn’t matter what nationality you are. Everyone does this when they go up the first time. 

Interviewer: Wait what? Where?

Informant: Oh umm at the pyramids of Teotihuacan, the ones we’ve gone to in Mexico. 

Interviewer: Oh ok. I know what you’re talking about. 

Informant: When you go up the sun pyramid, you count the steps, all 365 of them and once you’re at the summit. At the top of the pyramid there is a circle etched in the center and a hole where your finger fits. When you’re there, you have to raise your hands towards the sky so that Quetzalcoatl, the sun god, fills you with energy, purifies you, gives you wisdom and fortifies you that year. 

Interviewer: And everyone does it? 

Informant: Ahhh! Don’t you remember when we went, we have pictures of us raising our hands. And the people around us were raising their hands towards the sky. All the people, doesn’t matter what nationality, sex, or religion… Everyone does this when going up the sun pyramid for the first time. 

Background: My informant was my dad. He was born in Mexico City as well. He knows pretty much every touristic area in Mexico because he traveled a lot in his 20s and 30s when he was a marathon runner. He’s taken me to the pyramids before, and after collecting the performance, he helped my mom find pictures of us raising our hands when we reached the summit of the sun pyramid. 

Context: I just asked my dad if there were any cool stories or myths he knew about for a project I’m working on. He asked “what do you mean” and I responded with “anything, a story or a myth” and he proceeded with the myth about the sun pyramid. The setting was in our backyard as we were taking a break from yard work. 

Thoughts: I was a kid when we went to the pyramids of teotihuacan and I remember going up a bunch of steps. The pictures helped me fill in some gaps but I never knew the hand-raising to receive energy was a thing. I thought we did it just as a pose or something, but after hearing the myth, I was impressed with it. It’s something that traces back to the Aztecs and something that tourists from all over the world do, so I found that pretty enticing.

A Cat Giving Birth

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Persian American
Age: 19
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 2/12/19
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Farsi


“They say that when the sun is out and it’s raining, a cat is giving birth. My mother would say it all the time, but I remember one time we were in the car and we were driving, I was a toddler. It’s raining and it’s sunny, and she would say, ‘Oh look, a cat is giving birth right now.’ I asked her, ‘How do you know, mom?’ and she was just, ‘It’s just true.’”


This conversation came when I was discussing the rain back where I am from, and this informant as well as another discussed their beliefs surrounding rain while the sun shines. The informant heard it first from their mother, when they were in the car and driving, as outlined in the description.


I found it interesting that I had two different people from two different cultures reflecting on this belief that there had to be something happening because it was raining and sunny at the same time. The closest thing I remember believing is that after a rain, or if there was a rainbow while it was still raining, there was a little leprechaun and a pot of gold at the end of it. My friends would make jokes about God peeing onto Earth, of course, but that was the most of it. I love that different cultures have different explanations, but I cannot begin to think what witches and rain and sun have to do with each other.


The Monk and the Mouse

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 18
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: April 25, 2015
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

The tale: “So this monk was sitting on the beach when a kite fly, which I don’t really know what that is, but he saw a kite fly carrying a mouse and the mouse fell on the monk. So the monk wrapped the mouse with a leaf and took it home and prayed that the mouse would turn into a girl. And the mouse turned into a really beautiful girl, and the monk and his wife adopted her, so she like grew up and um, when she was an adult the monk told her that she should get married. And he told her to choose a man to marry, and the girl said she wanted like the most powerful man in the entire world. The monk thought she meant that she wanted the sun, so he went to like look for the sun and he found the sun and asked him if he wanted to marry his daughter. But the sun was like there’s someone more powerful than me…it’s um this cloud that covers me up during the day. So the monk left the sun and went to the cloud but the cloud was like there’s someone more powerful than me too, it’s the…um…oh yeah, it’s the wind. Because it blows me around. So the monk went to find the wind but the wind was like there’s someone EVEN MORE POWERFUL THAN ME, it’s the mountain, because it doesn’t move when I try to move him. So the monk went to find the mountain and the mountain says that the rat is more powerful because he can dig holes in me. So the monk finally goes to the rat and asks him to marry his daughter, but the rat says that he can only marry a mouse, right? So then the monk prayed that his daughter would turn back into a mouse, which God answered, and the mouse and the rat lived happily ever after.”


The informant is Indian American. Her parents are both from India, but she was born in California. She’s not very religious, but she considers herself culturally Indian. When I asked her where she heard this story, she said “The story is from The Panchthantra, which is an Indian book of myths and stories, and I used to have a comic book version growing up.” So the story is clearly a folktale that was transcribed into authored literature, which then became many different versions, one of which was a comic book. It follows traditional oral tradition, the most prominent of which is only two characters in a scene. The monk only speaks to one person at a time. I think the message of the story is to remain humble. The young girl wants the most powerful husband in the world, but it ends up being a simple rat. And even then she cannot marry him unless she is reduced to her original state; so regardless of her transformation into a beautiful woman, and her wish for a powerful husband, she herself is humbled by her transformation and her final choice of husband. I think another message is that power is not where we’ll expect it, and there are many different forms of power. This tale is probably a good one to tell to children who become to over-arrogant.

Sir Sun and Sir Moon

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Korean
Age: 49
Occupation: Mechanic
Residence: Detroit, Michigan
Date of Performance/Collection: 3/20/2014
Primary Language: Korean
Other Language(s): English

햇님 하고 달님

The Informant:

He is in his late 40’s and works as a car mechanic. Born in Incheon, South Korea, he immigrated to the United States after he married in the late 1990s. He heard this story as a young child for a bedtime story from his mother.

The Story:

엄마가 가난하고 돈을 벌려고 떡을 파는거야 길 거리에서. 하지만 그 날에는 하나도 못 팔았어. 집으로 돌아가는중에 호랑이가 나타나. 그 호랑아가 노래를 불러 “떡 하나만 던저주면 안 잡아먹지.” 그래서 엄마가 떡을 하나 던져줬지. 그걸 먹고 또 노래를 불렀어, 똑같이, 떡이 없어질때까지. 떡이 없으니까 호랑이가 이렇게 노래를 불렀지 “팔 하나 주면 안 잡아 먹지.” 그래서 엄마 호랑이에게 팔을 하나 줬지. 그리고 하랑이가 이렇게 팔 두개 하고 다리 두개 다 먹었어. 결국엔 엄마를 조금식 다 잡아먹었어. 엄마가 사는 집에 도착해서 엄마 모습이로 변신한거야. 아이들한테 불렀지 “엄마다 문 열어라.” 엄마 목소리가 이상해서 아이들이 조심했다. 엄마 모습을 가진 하랑이한테 팔을 보여달라고했어. 아이들이 “우리 엄마는 팔에 털이 잆어요!” 라고 얘기했다. 그래서 그 하랑이는 팔에있는 털을 깎았어. 그렇게 천천히 아이들이 호랑이의 힘을 빼넣고 살았다.

There is a mother who needs to sell dduk (rice cakes) but she was not able to sell any. On her way home a tiger approaches her and sings out to her “If you give me one dduk then I won’t eat  you.” This is repeated until all of the dduk is gone. The tiger then says “If you give me an arm I won’t eat you.” After she gives him both arms he sings “If you give me a leg I won’t eat you.” And so the tiger devoured the mother piece by piece. The tiger approaches the house of the children and transforms into the mother. He calls out to the children to open the door. The children are wary because the voice doesn’t sound like their mother’s. They ask the tiger to insert its hand. It is furry. They tell the tiger that their mother doesn’t have any fur on her arm so the tiger shaved off all of its fur. In this way the children outwit the tiger and tires it out so that the children eventually capture it.

The Analysis:

The story is meant to tell a moral. How the mother is tricked into giving herself up the tiger, the tiger is then tricked into giving up its life for greed. The tiger could have been content with the dduk offered to him, but it was not and devoured the mother. In turn, karma of a sort comes back at him as he is captured when he attempts to eat the mother’s children. From his side, he is greedy and desires another meal after essentially eating two. The tiger happened to be cleverer than the mother and the children happened to be cleverer than the tiger. The morale of the story is that what goes around truly does come around.


A different version of this story can be found at: http://mirror.enha.kr/wiki/햇님달님. The story is in Korean and differs in many detailed aspects. The incident occurs at night in this different version instead of day time, the mother sells bread instead of dduk (rice cakes), and the ending is different. As this story occurs at night, it ends with the coming of morning (sunrise). The death of the tale synchronizes with the sunrise, and the redness in the sky is said to be the staining of the tiger’s blood.

Why Māui Snared the Sun

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Hawaiian, Chinese, Caucasian
Age: 60
Occupation: School librarian
Residence: Honolulu, Hawaii
Date of Performance/Collection: April 1st, 2013
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Hawaiian

A long time ago, the days were very short because the sun, Kalā, raced across the sky as he pleased. There were just a few hours of daylight before the lazy moon crept slowly across the darkness. There was only a little day and a very long night. At that time of the short days and long dark nights, there was a beautiful woman named Hina who lived on the island of Hawaii in a cave behind Rainbow falls. Hina was known for the fine kapa cloth she made from the bark of wauke and māmaki trees. Hina’s handiwork was prized in the community for making kihei, malo for the men, and a’u for the women. But because Kala raced through the sky, refusing to share his light and warmth, Hina didn’t have enough time in the day to dry her kapa. Now, the sun’s behavior wasn’t just a problem for Hina; fishermen didn’t have enough time in the day to catch enough to feed their families, farmers’ crops couldn’t grow without sunlight, and fruit wouldn’t ripen on the trees. Everyone was suffering. Hina had four sons, and the youngest was named Māui. He was a clever boy, quick and strong. Hina knew her youngest child was special, but Māui was only beginning to suspect he was capable of many wondrous things…

After so much time watching his mother struggle with her work and run out of time to dry her beautiful kapa, Māui decided he would be the one to capture Kalā and make him promise to slow down…

Māui started up the rough and steep slopes of the great mountain Haleakalā. It was a long, cold, and difficult journey. He was weary, and doubt slowly started creeping into his mind. Many times he thought about turning back and leaving things the way they were. But the thought of his mother and her hard work pushed him through the night and he realized that there was no journey back. He had to make things pono. He had to confront the mighty Kalā…

When he finally reached the summit of Haleakalā, Maui battled Kalā for his attention and with his special coconut fiber rope and stone adze from his mother, he snared Kalā and forced him to listen…

Māui and Kalā had a long talk about community and responsibility and the great honor in doing one’s work properly…

They agreed that during the summertime Kalā would travel more slowly across the sky to help the people of the world but that he could make his daily journey faster during the winter months so that he, and everyone else, could have more sleep. Kala kept his promise. Soon, crops were flourishing as they never had before. People had enough daylight hours to do their work and everyone enjoyed health and abundance; a great relief after all that suffering. Hina was finally able to dry her kapa properly, which meant that the cloth was even more refined and able to hold rich colors and intricate patterns. She made Māui special kapa clothing, the most beautiful that anyone had ever seen in all of Hawaii. Māui had many other great adventures, but this was probably his bravest deed—especially since he was a young man at the time. Māui distinguished himself as a great hero and a brave man by helping his mother with her laundry. But you see, everyone has responsibilities; Kalā’s kuleana was to bring light and warmth to all living things so the world could grow and thrive. He quickly learned to care about every plant and animal and person in the world. Because of this he became quite proud of his work and did it the best he could. He did it with honor and aloha.

How did you come across this folklore: “through research, these are favorite legends from my collection because I collect and shares mo`olelo/stories from the Hawaiian islands.”Other information: “These are well known folk tales/legends passed down from generations and written in the Hawaiian newspapers and several collections.”This story is often referred to as one of the “legends of Māui,” but this should be considered as more of a folk tale for its format and truth value relationship to people in the islands. It can also be considered as fitting into the myth genre, because it is using these kinds of characters and tales to explain the workings of the world (for example, the deal between Māui and Kalā aligning with/explaining the seasons). And the story is used to dictate behavior; people aspire to be brave, strong, heroic, and selfless like Māui, regardless of the truth/reality of the story itself.

For another version of this, see the book, Maui, How It Came to Be.

Kyselka, Will, and Ray E. Lanterman. Maui, How It Came to Be. Honolulu: University of Hawaii, 1980. Print.

Maui lassos the sun

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Japanese-Korean-Hawaiian
Age: 19
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: May 1, 2013
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

My informant was born and raised in Hawaii. He talked about one of the Hawaiian myths that he learned while growing up:

“There’s a story about Maui. One day, Maui’s mother was complaining that the days were too long, so the things she was trying to dry—cloth or something like that, I’m not too sure—were being damaged by the sun. So Maui went and got a rope made out of his sister’s hair. He climbed up to the tallest mountain. There, the stories differ in variation a bit, but the one that I learned when I was growing up said that as the sun was rising, he managed to lasso one of the sun’s rays and pull the sun into a shorter orbit. This made the days shorter. In another variation, which I don’t remember too well, apparently Maui’s blind grandmother was at the top of the mountain and he had to convince her that he was his grandson.”

The literal meaning of this story may seem rather nonsensical. It is hard to picture someone actually lassoing the sun with a rope made of human hair. Yet with myths, the literal truth is not the important part. Myths have a sacred truth; they are thought to have happened in a time and place beyond the “real” world. This particular myth explains why the days are not as long during some parts of the year. My informant remembers this myth because his parents told it to him growing up, and it was repeated at Hawaiian cultural events held at his school. It is told time and time again because it is rooted in the Hawaiian oral tradition and it connects older times to the modern day. One reason people retell this myth is to try to understand the culture of their ancestors and to remember their beliefs. In that way, they pay their respects to ancient Hawaiian culture as they respect the myth and tell it to future generations.

**For a written recording of this folklore, see the book How Maui Slowed the Sun by Suelyn Ching Tune. It is a published version of this same story; it was written and illustrated for children.