Tag Archives: tale

Beccaria Legends

‘In my little town of Beccaria in the central Pennsylvania mountains, we had a little church, and it was the center of our “so-called religious and social life” and so whatever happened in that church would be pretty powerful for me, even through my high school years as I think back on it. But what was a little different in this Evangelical culture that I grew up in was that every summer there would be something called “Evangelism Week”. There were these men who may not have even ever gone to seminary or bible school… But they had a certain amount of skill, and they were Evangelists. For one week we would go to church every night and they would preach. That preaching was always fire and brimstone… It was always how everybody in Beccaria was sinful, was bad, was going to go to hell for sure… everything that might be fun, like square dancing… or never mind any other kind of dancing… listening to country western music or wearing lipstick or makeup of any kind… having your hair permed or going to the movies… which was our main form of entertainment… That was all work of the devil. The devil was a very real kind of figure… a mystical evil legend and thing that was just ready to pop out in this 300-person population town. It was very real to me and very powerful to everyone in Beccaria. This has definitely affected me my whole life. I’m a very dutiful and prim person because of these tales told of the devil each Evangelism week. In the families that were pious, their children were damaged by that, like my cousins. I didn’t think about it as mystical when I was a kid, but it really was. But we would go… we would sit at it every year… every summer through high school. They would preach to us these tales in the pulpit and they would be very explosive, dynamic, and loud when they acted out these stories. It was always legends about the devil, nothing about Jesus or the “good parts of Christianity.” To think that I am almost 90 years old… it haunts me still… it’s as vivid to me as anything… it was the dark side.’ – VB

VB would hear these tales of the devil each summer growing up from groups of men who came to her little town of Beccaria, Pennsylvania. It was tradition for her family, and even her own parents grew up attending the same Evangelism week. This single week each summer practically dictated the way VB decided to live her life and how she wanted to raise her own children. The influence these tales and legends about the devil had on her practically consumed her whole childhood, and even decades later, she still thinks about it. She reminisced on the fact that after this week, she would refuse to go to any more Saturday night square dances, and even skip out on the Sunday afternoon movie showings, out of fear of damnation. It would take months for this influence to wear off before she would even consider going out to have a moment of fun. VB gave an anecdote that these preachings had a generational impact, her parents, grandparents, and even her cousins al felt affected by Evangelism week. As stated in the paraphrase of her story, she lives a dutiful life, raising her children to do so as well. However, she recalls that when her daughter married a “fun-loving” man, it truly changed a lot of her own perspective on religion and the way lives should be lived… allowing her to accept the fun times and move past the idea of entertainment being sinful.

My initial understanding of this story told by VB was that she grew up in a very small religious town, and with the Evangelism week was an opportunity for the church to instill fear into the townspeople to control their behaviors. This follows the stereotypes that I grew up learning about small “middle of nowhere” towns such as Beccaria Pennsylvania. However, a lot of religious folklore was present in Beccaria with this local tradition and annual ritual for the community. As folklore does, it brought the community together, sharing the same ideas and beliefs to all that would listen. Additionally, this story told by VB shows how oral tradition can shape beliefs of the entire community who listened, something folklore has been known to do. Additionally, much folklore has gestures and is performed, and as VB recalls, the preachers served a fiery sermon with animated gestures, practically making it into a performance. This folklore allowed the residents of Beccaria to shape their way of lives and have a collective experience together. While folklore is usually thought of in the sense of fairytales and mythical legends, it often can be used in a fear-mongering sense as it is here. Not only has this folklore been passed down from VB’s ancestors, but VB continued to spread this oral tradition to her own family, even though she was far from her hometown of Beccaria, no longer attending the Evangelism week.

Hanuman and the Mountain


NS: In the Ramayana, Lakshmana is poisoned in battle so his brother Rama tasks Hanuman with finding an herb that will save his brother’s life because Hanuman is the fastest of all the soldiers. The herb can only be found on a specific mountain that’s very far away, and Hanuman is scared he won’t be able to find the herb and bring it back in time because he isn’t sure what it looks like. As a solution, he carries back the entire mountain to Rama on the tip of his pinky finger. 


NS: Growing up, my parents told me tales from Hindu mythology; the tale of Hanuman and the mountain in particular was supposed to emphasize how devoted Hanuman was to Rama, an incarnation of the god Vishnu. This was in part to inspire that same devotion to Hinduism in me and my brother, but was also their way of telling us to stop being lazy (“if Hanuman could carry the whole mountain on the tip of his finger, you can do xyz!”).


I admittedly am not terribly familiar with Hindu mythology, but from this conversation it seems to be full of stories similar to this. Religious myths are often used as a way to understand the world and inspire faith in people. The Bible and in particular the Old Testament is famously a collection of such stories, designed to teach morals and the value in following the teachings of God. As a polytheistic religion, Hinduism splits those teachings into the acts and stories of service to varying gods in the pantheon, but they serve the same purpose.

Askeladden som stjal solvendene til trollet

Askelladen who stole the Troll’s Silver ducks

Informant: Askeladden is a folk hero who is the main character of a few different stories in Norwegian culture. This is the most famous story according to my Informant’s time growing up in Norway. The tale goes that there is a Troll with many riches and askeladden is ordered by his king to steal The troll’s silver ducks amongst various other riches. He also tricks the troll’s daughter to give him her knife which he uses to cut of her head. He feeds it to the troll who thinks he is eating askeladden and tricks him.

Context: My informant had the least to say about this story. He said he mostly just knew that askeladden is a hero in many stories this being one of them. He had a hard time remembering all of this story because he said it had been so long since he tried to remember them. I believe there is a chance that since he was growing up there was not a lof of significance at least with this story to himself and that is why he remembers the other stories better.

Analysis: It is hard to give a full analysis of this text using only information from my informant because of the amount of content relating to this story. Again this story is similar to tales we learn as kids in America with the hero tricking the main enemy and defeating him in order to gain riches or because of orders from the king etc… I guess that Askeladden is a hero type that does no wrong and that all Norwegian kids should strive to be more like him.

Ostenfor sol og vestenfor mane

East of the Sun, West of the Moon

Informant: This is a tale that is commonly known amongst the people of Norway. My informant told me it is like a common tale that would be told in the United States. Kind of like Snow White mixed with Cinderella. The story goes that there is a poor family with many kids. There is a white bear comes to the house of the family and offers riches in return for the most beautiful and youngest daughter of the family. The youngest goes with the bear to the castle. The bear turns back into a human but is called to his stepmother’s castle that is East of the Sun and West of the moon but has to marry her ugly princess daughter. The rest of the story is the youngest beautiful daughter must embark on a quest to save the bear prince and find true love.

Context: My informant remembered this story being a popular one in his town where he grew up. It was just a common story to know, everyone knew it just like Cinderella in the United States. It was hard for my informant to exactly pin where he first learned the story, but said it gets referenced in schooling somewhat often especially at a young age. My informant guesses it was his mother or an early grade school teacher who first taught him the story.

Analysis: The moral of the story from what I understand is that from the poor family’s perspective, they helped the bear but in return for riches. The story is also about the young girl’s journey to save the bear prince because he is in “danger” and she finds him and it is true love after all. These Norwegian stories morals and values are a bit hard to define especially because my informant has to remember them from a long time ago, in his head which is in Norwegian, then translate it to English so I could write them here. There was almost certainly parts of the story lost because it had been so long and due to translation.

The Chief and the Singer

Main Piece

“It must’ve been before I was in 5th grade — over the course of a few nights, my dad told a story to me, my brother, and my sister. In hindsight, it was very obviously something completely made up on the spot, but I think we were too young to realize.

Back home — ‘home’ referencing Nigeria, where my dad is from — there was an evil village chief. He was a vicious conqueror that took people’s lands, stole from the poor, and amassed a massive amount of wealth. Accordingly, his house was gigantic, and sat on a huge plot of land. One day, the chief captured a princess.”

(Informant MN then noted that he forgot if there was a reason the chief captured the princess, and assumes the story had minimal exposition).

“The chief held the princess in another building on his property. He planned to have her killed the next day. That night, the king was in his bed when he heard the sound of someone singing. He was confused, unsure of where the sound could be coming from, but soon realized the sound was coming from the princess’ cell. While he usually would have put a stop to it, the king instead decided to listen to the song. In fact, he was so taken aback by her voice that when the next day came, he decided to delay the execution until the next morning.

Night falls, and the voice returns. The king, again, is obsessed with her voice–rizz god!–and the next day, delays the execution even further.

This goes on for a while, and to be honest, the details fall away past that point. I think the king ends up marrying the woman, and there’s a sort of ‘happily-ever-after’ ending.”


Informant Interpretation: MN notes that “Nigerian parents do this thing where they tell you nothing about their childhood” and have “no photos of their upbringing,” especially as it pertains to things that happened while they lived in Nigeria. Thus, “you end up forming this fantasy-like [imagination] of what home was like for them,” and stories like this “feed into the fantastical imagery I have of that time and place. As roughly patched-together and made up as that story is, it’s as real as most of the made-up details about my dad’s confusing ass life that I call true.”

Personal Interpretation: I drew connections between this story and “One Thousand and One Nights”–an anthology frame tale that I don’t know well, but I recall contains a similar story about a brutal king and a storyteller woman, who he permits to live night by night as she tells him stories. To me, MN’s story read as an oicotypical variation of this concept, underscored by the fact that he changed between referring to one of the primary figures as “chief” and “king,” and the other as “princess,” “singer,” and sometimes just “woman” (though some of these changes may be attributable to memory). I also think MN’s personal connection to the story, belief that it was entirely made up by his father, and its role in shaping his childhood understanding of Nigeria makes the story feel like more than a tale to me–not a myth as it’s not something he claimed to believe in, but something that shapes his beliefs about a place in the real world. In that sense, it felt somewhere in the gray area between tale and legend.


Informant MN is a current student at USC studying Aerospace Engineering. He grew up in Redmond, Washington and lives at home with his siblings and Mom. He notes that this story was told to him a long time ago, and he has some “amount of amnesia about the particular details of [his] childhood.”

MN is Nigerian and male-presenting.