Tag Archives: transformation

Chinese promise gesture and accompaning phrase


“Here is a gesture that might be interesting. The gesture is for making a promise. I think the U.S.’ is very similar. You hook your pinky finger with your friend and touch your friend’s thumb.”

“But what’s different in China is that at the same time, you need to say ‘la gou shang diao yi bai nian bu xu bian.'”

“The two thumb touching is what we say like putting a stamp on the promise.”


FG is a student studying history and economics at USC. He is currently in a program in Ireland. He performed this folk gesture and folk speech to me through a zoom call. This piece of folklore is something that is performed many times by the informant when he was young.


This is a combination of folk speech and folk gesture. The folk speech has to go in combination with the gesture to make any sense. As a matter of fact, because this folk speech has been around for too long, part of the content doesn’t make sense anymore. “La gou shang diao yi bai nian bu xu bian,” or “拉勾上吊一百年不许变,” translate directly to “hook, hang, a hundred years no change. ” The “hang” part doesn’t make sense because as this piece of folklore spread in China, the original word for “shang diao”, or “上吊”, or hang, actually is a transformation from the homophone “上调,” which also is “shang diao,” but the meaning is very different. “上调” means the thumbs pull up and meet to put a red stamp on the things we want to promise.

On the other hand, another explanation is formed for the transformed version of “shang diao,” or “上吊.” People start to say that it means we keep our promises til we die. Because “上吊” specifically means a method of suicide: hanging on a rope. Folklore rationalizes itself with different transformations. It intrigues me when I think of the transformation and the rationalization of this particular piece.

The bee and the orange tree

–Informant Info–

Nationality: French

Age: 47

Occupation: Teacher

Residence: Los Angeles, California

Date of Performance/Collection: 2022

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): French

(Notes-The informant will be referred to as DK and the interviewer as K)

Background info: DK is a mother of 1 who was born in the United States and moved to France when she was young, moving back to the US in 2017. She notes that she was told this story all the time but has not heard of it once in the US, and when she has brought it up to other people, they have never heard of it.

K: Ok so, what’s the name of the folklore, how do you know of it, and what’s the context of the performance? Like when is it told, under what circumstances?

DK: It’s called uh..The translation would be The bee and the orange tree. It was always told to me when I was little, in like school, or my parents and people like that. It’s kinda like Cinderella, you know? It was told like that.

K: Yeah that makes sense! Uh whenever…whenever you’re read you can tell the story.

DK: Ok. The story goes that there was this princess called uh Aimée who was lost after a ship wreck. She drifted to a little island in her crib, where a lot of uh…ogre’s lived. They only took her in because they wanted her to marry their son when she got older, normally they eat people who come ashore. When she was uh 15 I believe, she was told she would marry that ogre but the thought of that disgusted her. She went for a walk along the beach and found a man, who was actually her cousin, but neither of them knew that or could uh…say that. After a little while, the man, a prince, discovered who she was because she had a locket with her name on it. The little ogre said it was time for them to marry, and she fled but hurt herself on a thorn so she couldn’t walk. The prince went to find her when she didn’t show up and got captured. I don’t really remember the details here so I’m sorry

K: Thats alright! Just whatever you do remember tell me, even if its confusing

DK: Alright, uh so Aimee managed to trick some of the ogres into eating each other and found an uh magic wand somehow. Using it, she made herself speak the prince’s language and he told her everything. She used the wand again to distract the ogres and flee, but one of them followed them using his…magic boots. She would use the wand to disguise herself and the prince each time the ogre came close. She turned herself into a bee and the prince into an orange tree and stung the ogre, and in the chaos, the wand was stolen so they were stuck like that. Later, another princess fell in love with the orange tree, who was the prince. Aimee stung her out of jealousy, and the other princess ribbed a branch off the tree to defend herself, causing blood to flow out of the wound. Aimee left to fetch balm for the wound. A fairy came by while she was gone and detected the enchantment on the prince, turning him back. The prince explained the situation, and when Aimme returned the fairy uh turned her back also. They returned home to her parents and got married. The end *laughter*.


Main Piece:

Interviewer: Can you tell me how your children get their names?

Informant: Yes. Traditionally, in our Native ways, someone may change their name 2-4 times throughout the course of their life.

Interviewer: You mean they would get nicknames?

Informant: No, they would change their names. When they are born they may be given a name that speaks to how their parents want them to be. But over time, there may be a defining moment or incident in their life that would cause them to be known by another name. This might be from an act of bravery, an accident, or just an unusual experience.

Interviewer: And everyone, including their family, would then call them by this new name?

Informant: Yes, especially their family. And this might happen a few times throughout their lives.

Interviewer: Do you have an “Indian name?” 

Informant: Yes, my name is “Atsiniki.”

Interviewer: What does it mean?

Informant: Story Teller.


The informant is a Choctaw man in his early 50’s. He was born in Texas and grew up in Oklahoma. He currently resides in Tennessee with his wife and children.


During the Covid-19 Pandemic I flew back home to Tennessee to stay with my family. The informant is my father. My dad and I decided to have cigars in the back yard and I asked if he could share a few stories regarding our Native culture. I’ve grown up learning about these many traditions but asked him to explain them as if sharing with someone unfamiliar with the culture.


Names are an interesting thing. They travel with us, shaping how we see ourselves and the rest of the world. They help build our reality and draw meaning within chaos. When we can name something, we come a bit closer to understanding it; or at least conceiving it a bit better. A lifespan shows movement so it’s interesting to see that reflected in names as well. Many people have nicknames or change their name to mark a new phase in their life, which shows the importance of identity that can be found in a name. 

Pueblo Wizard (El Salvador)

Context/Background: The informant is Salvadoran and Mexican-American who grew up in a household surrounded by folk belief and customs. One in particular regarded magic in her grandmother’s hometown. In this circumstance, the informant’s grandmother has told her the stories of a local wizard and different legends about who he possibly is and is able to become.


[Face to Face]

“My Grandma- she talks about a lot of things- but like, she talks about this man from her pueblo- the area she was born, who was kinda like a wizard, you can kinda say. And apparently, he would like, help heal people. Like one time, he told her to put like a cross under um, I think my dad who was like… drunk and gonna die on his back under the hammock and he would get better. This was an experience she had… and it was a story that he- this wizard- was like, she actually knows as a person, um, turns into a dog and scares people.”

KA: And where was she from:

“El Salvador, and it’s um… San Marcos specifically”

Introduced: The informant was introduced to this story through her Grandmother.

Analysis/Interpretation: I think this is an interesting dynamic because this story refers to someone who is real, but there is a legendary element to him which is questioned amongst local people expanding into a greater mystery when examining contrasting alter-ego types. I think it would be interesting to find out more both regarding how the wizard has interacted with others and what exactly his dog form symbolizes and what is done at that state.

The Turtle and the Shark

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. 


“During a time of a huge famine and starvation spread across Samoa a blind grandma and granddaughter were put out of there family because they were seen as kind of a burden. They decided to jump into the ocean to cast their fates upon sea because it was giving and caring. Magic turned them into a turtle and a shark. The grandma and granddaughter wanted to find a new home. They traveled for a long time and were constantly turned away from potential homes until they found the shores of Vaitogi. Vertigo had high cliffs and a rough coastline, the shores were occupied by a compassionate and generous group of people. The old woman and her granddaughter turned back into their human form. They were welcomed by the people of Vaitogi. They fed them and offered that they make this village their new home. The old woman decided to make it her home, but she felt a connection to the sea as if it were her home too. She couldn’t stay on land, so she told the villagers that she and her granddaughter had to go back to the sea. She said that they would make village waters their permanent home. She gave the villagers a song to sing from the rocks and a promise that when they sang the song she and her granddaughter would come to visit. They returned to the sea and turned into their turtle and shark forms. To this day, the people of Vaitogi still sing the song and many villagers will tell you that they have personally seen the Turtle and Shark. To each of them the legend is as alive today as it has been.”

The informant also told me that there is a song that goes along with the legend, he said that he doesn’t know it and only certain people in the village of Vaitogi are able to know the song.


This legend of Samoa is different because it goes against the Samoan value of family by throwing the grandma and her granddaughter out of the house. However, this legend depicts that it is hard to be accepted into the different samoan communities but when you are accepted they treat you as family and give you the upmost respect. This legend helps to show the culture of the people of Samoa and how they do things. The grandmother wanted to be a part of the ocean so she left the village that accepted her but lived in the nearby shores and visited only when a song was sang. Also, this legend shows the importance of animals in this society. The grandmother and granddaughter were both transformed into two common sea creatures, and shark and a turtle. The informant wasn’t sure why but it is important to the story. The informant said that this story originated in Vaitogi by its natives, but he heard it from his grandma.