Tag Archives: wolf

Master Dongguo and the Wolf


Y is my other parental figure of mine who grew up in China and is currently living in California. 

This conversation took place over a weekly phone call with my parents after I asked them about stories that they knew from China. 


Y: Master Dongguo and the Wolf – this is a little like the story, uh what’s the story? The farmer and the snake! Remember the farmer and the snake, the farmer found a frozen snake and put him into his, next to his chest inside his jacket and the snake was warmed up and woke up and bit the farmer and killed the farmer. 

Me: I don’t remember that one.

Y: It’s an Aesopp’s fable. Anyways, this one is a similar one but in Chinese. Master Dongguo is a teacher, who’s a little bit stubborn but not very wise. He felt he was a kind person and willing to help out people or anything because he thinks he should do the right thing because of whatever he learned. One day he was walking in a mountain and came upon a wounded wolf. The wolf was being pursued by someone who was, I think a hunter. The hunter was chasing after the wolf so the wolf asked Master Dongguo for the help. Master Dongguo was carrying a bag of book so he pulled out the books and told the wolf to get inside the bag and then he put some of the books into the bag to make it look like a bag for books. The hunter was able to catch up and see Master Dongguo. So he asked him if he saw a wolf and he lied and said he didn’t see a wolf. After the hunter left, he let the wolf out. The wolf was, at first, thankful but then he said oh if you’re such a kind person maybe you can do another good deed by letting me eat you because I’m hungry.

Me: Ah??

Y: And he also said, while I was in the bag, you put books on me and I nearly suffocated. I almost died from suffocation. So you need to compensate me-

Me: Ungrateful wolf (laugh).

Y: Yeah, so that’s why I said it’s like the farmer and the snake story. Anyways, Master Dongguo was upset so he didn’t know what to do. He actually told the wolf we should ask other people for their opinions so he went to a big tree and told the tree about the story and asked what he think. The tree said I was a big food tree and I was able to produce fruits every year for my owner, but after they ate all the fruits and I grew old and could no longer bear fruit, they decided to chop me down for the wood and make me into furniture. So what do you think the treatment I endured was unfair?

Because Master Dongguo said I saved him and he tried to eat me. And he said my experience was also unfair, so I can’t help you. So then they went along and saw a cow, and asked the cow for his help. And the cow heard the story and said sorry I can’t help because I was treated unwell by my owner. I- I helped to plow the fields and worked hard for many years and when I got old I couldn’t work hard anymore so my owner wanted to eat me. Okay? So I can’t help I have to run away.

And then finally, they came across an older man. An old man heard the story and said I don’t believe either of you. The bag seems awful small and I don’t think the wolf can fit in there. But the wolf said I curled up and hid my tail and I can fit just fine. He told the wolf I don’t believe your story either because I don’t know how the books made you suffocated, so I have to see for myself. So can you get into the bag and show me? So the wolf gladly got into the bag and the old man immediately grabbed the bag and tied it up-

Me: Ahh?

Y: He told Master Dongguo you need to kill him because he’s an ungrateful wolf.

Me: What’s the moral of the story??

Y: The moral of the story is don’t be kind to bad people, like…

Me: The wolf.

Y: The wolf. 


The informant immediately began by referencing a different fable in order to explain and preface this tale, which I thought spoke directly to the globalization and multiplicity that has been brought on even more by the printed word. This story is one that takes a more aggressive point in proving a moral, a warning to children and others to look out for people like this wolf. Additionally, this story has a bit of a humorous note at the end in which the other man is very blunt after tricking the wolf again. This story also echoes the stereotypical portrayal of a wolf as a creature that deceives humans and is planning on eating humans. It perpetuates this evil typecast of the wolf, even towards his savior.

“In bocca al lupo” – Italian Idiomatic Phrase

Description of Informant

AG (18) is an Italian-American dual citizen and high school student from Berkeley, CA. At home, she speaks primarily Italian, and spends her summers in Italy.



Original Text: In bocca al lupo.

Phonetic: N/A

Transliteration: Into the mouth of the wolf.

Free Translation: [See Collector’s Reflection]

Responses: (1) Che crepi. (2) Crepi il lupo! (3) Crepi.

Context of Use

The idiomatic phrase is the Italian equivalent of “break a leg.” However, unlike its English counterpart, in bocca al lupo solicits a response, which may be delivered in several different ways. The phrase is used in place of “good luck” when one is entering a situation they have prepared for (e.g. performance, interview, examination, etc.)— rather than luck, you are wishing someone skill.

Context of Interview

The informant, AG, sits in the kitchen with her father and the collector, BK, her step-brother. Text spoken in Italian is italicized, but not translated.


BK: So tell me about the saying.

AG: Umm so basically when someone has an event, or a test they need to take. Instead of saying “good luck,” which is buena fortuna, in Italy you would say “in bocca al lupo.” Which is, literally translated, “in the mouth of the wolf.” And I don’t know if it has something to do with, like, Little Red Riding Hood or wherever they got it from. But then, the person taking the test, or who got good luck’ed, they respond “che crepi.” Which means like, uhh, how would you translate che crepi? Like, “I hope he dies” or “that he dies”…

BK: Who is “he”?

AG: The wolf. Yeah, that the wolf dies. It’s not super translatable.

BK: What is the appropriate context for this phrase?

AG: I think anytime someone in English would say “break a leg.” Like if I have a dance performance, my mom wouldn’t say “good luck” because it’s not luck for me, I don’t need luck to succeed, I need, you know, to do well, myself. And so she would say “in bocca al lupo” instead.

Collector’s Reflection

Into the mouth of the wolf represents plunging into danger. Often, though, this does not mean physical or life-threatening danger. In the expression’s day-to-day use, danger means the risk of failing a social performance (e.g. interview, recital, examination). The response of crepi indicates the receiver’s acceptance of the wish of strong performance, and their own hopes of success. Killing the wolf is overcoming the obstacle/challenge successfully.

The strong distinction between a wish of luck versus a wish of skill is fascinating. Luck, for Italians, is reserved for moments where circumstances are out of one’s hands (e.g. acts of God). Skill is up to the individual and their preparation. In English, you will often hear the skill-based equivalent, “break a leg,” spoken in the same breath as “good luck.” Though English speakers may understand the difference between luck and skill, their idioms conflate the concepts, while Italian speakers are very strict in their separation.

The Tale of Hukma and Hukamiya

Main Body:

Informant: This is a story I heard from my Grandma. And it’s called Hukma and Hukamiya. So Hukma and Hukamiya are a brother and sister. And they were farmers. So Hukamiya would take care of the house and Hukma would go every day to the farm, in their land.

Interviewer: They didn’t have parents?

Informant: No, they’re not in the story. So Hukamiya will cook for her brother and he will take the food with him to, um, the farms. So Hukma loved khichdi(rice and lentils) so she would make khichdi for him and he will take it. So one day when Hukma was, um, he sat down to eat his lunch, there was a wolf.

So the wolf said, “I’m going to – I’m about to eat you.”  So Hukma says, “Instead, why don’t you share my food?” This is where I get a little fuzzy on the story. So the wolf says, “Sure, either I eat you or I’ll eat the food” or something like that, y’know? And so Hukma says, “Fine, eat my food” obviously. So he gives the wolf his khichdi. And the wolf says “तू हिला मेरी पूक्षिडी, मैं खाऊ तेरी खीचडी” (too hila meree pookshidee, main khaoo teree kheechadee).

Interviewer: *Laughs* So the wolf essentially says, “You wag my tail, I eat your khichdi?”

Informant: Yeah

Interviewer: So does “You wag my tail” mean “You annoy me” or “You excite me” or something?

Informant: You know, I don’t really know, it just rhymes. It used to be so funny for us, when we were little. And for you when you were little. I used to tell you this story. So, poor Hukma will take his tail and –

Interviewer: Oh so the wolf’s telling Hukma that “You have to wag my tail.” It’s a command.

Informant: Yeah exactly. So then the wolf eats his khichdi. So this happens a few times. And then poor Hukma will come home hungry. And then his sister is like, “This is not good. You have to eat, this wolf is bullying you.” I think it’s a story about bullying, basically. But anyway, then Hukamiya is like, “We have to get rid of this wolf, this bhariya(wolf).” So then what they do is the next time the bhariya comes and tries to grab his lunch, Hukma says, “Hey, you know what? My sister has made really good food at home. So instead of this plain old khichdi, why don’t you come to our home and we’ll serve you?”

So the wolf agrees and they both go to the house where Hukamiya had made a lot of food. So they invite him inside the hut and there’s a stake in the ground inside the hut. So they tie a rope and they tie the, uh, the wolf to the stake. So the wolf is like “Why are you doing this?” And Hukma responds by saying “Oh we’re tying you here so you won’t be disturbed. You can just rest and stay in one place and enjoy your food in peace.” So the wolf, he’s stupid, he says OK. I guess he’s more interested in food. 

And then Hukma comes in with a big stick, big oiled stick. And so the wolf asks, “Why do you have this stick in your hand?” And so Hukma says, “Oh I’m just guarding the house.” Then they put the food in front of him and as the wolf starts eating, Hukma just starts beating him up. *Laughs* And then they beat him so much and then the wolf runs off. And he cries “हाय हुकमिया, धोका कर दिया” (haay hukamiya, dhoka kar diya) (Oh Hukamiya, you have betrayed me!

Interviewer: Why Hukamiya, specifically?

Informant: Oh now I remember! Now I remember. Man, I’ve forgotten this story. It was not Hukma the wolf used to bother, it was Hukamiya. So she used to go out to the fields in the afternoon to give her brother lunch. So on the way the bhariya would accost her and take the food. So then the brother finds out because every day he’s like “Why are you bringing such a little amount of food?” So she tells him. So the brother tells Hukamiya to invite the wolf over and then he dresses up as Hukamiya. And then beats him up after doing all that stake stuff. And then the wolf finds out it’s Hukma which is why he cries out saying that Hukamiya betrayed him. So he was bullying the girl who was weaker and then the older brother comes and beats him up. And so the wolf runs off and never comes back. 


The informant is my mother, an Indian woman who was born and raised in northern India (Delhi) and moved to the US over two decades ago. This story is one that she was told by her grandmother and mother. It’s also a story that she apparently frequently told me when I was little.


I am back home due to shelter-in-place. One night when my family was sitting in the study I asked my mom if she had any folklore samples I could add to the archive. This was one of the ones she shared with me.


There are a lot of interesting things going on in this story but what sticks out to me is that it’s kind of like a flip-flopped version of Little Red Riding Hood. You could think of Hukamiya as Little Red Riding Hood, a girl who runs into a wolf. Yet, in this story, it is not the wolf that dresses up as a grandmother, but Hukma (who fills the role of the hunter) who dresses up and disguises himself as his sister. The sequence of the wolf asking about the stake and Hukma giving an answer and the wolf asking about Hukma’s stick and Hukma giving an answer brings to mind a similar sequence in Little Red Riding Hood. The one where she remarks “What big eyes you have” and the wolf replies, “The better to see you with.” And then she says “What big teeth you have” and he says “The better to eat you with”, etc. Both tales end similarly though, with the wolf either dead or beaten and driven away.

Three Little Piggies- Bedtime Story

Main piece:

“There is the story about the three little pigs. They are brothers and there is a lazy lazy one, a lazy one, and a hard-working one. They build three houses. Each one builds one house, all out of different materials. One of them built it really quick and was like ‘yeah whatever’, the other one worked a bit harder, but not super hard, and the last one worked really really hard on it and made it out of bricks. When the big bad wolf came the house of the super lazy pig that made it out of straws and sticks blew off, and the other sorta lazy pig’s house also blew off, the only house that protected them was the house made out of bricks.”


Context and Analysis:

I asked my informant a 21-year-old female if she recalled any folk stories. The informant narrated to me the story of the “Three Little Pigs.” She claims this was a bedtime story told to her when she was a child. She believes the story speaks to the rewards of doing hard work and applying dedication. The informant identifies a lot with the story for her dad was a very charismatic storyteller, so as a child she was very invested in the lives of the little piggies and this story really stuck with her. She remembers her feeling of terror vividly knowing the wolf was approaching the houses of the first two piggies and they were going to blow away. The informant explains how having this story be such a large part of her childhood has taught her hard work and dedication. She will forever remember the hard work the third pig put into his house and the rewards that came from it.

I too remember hearing a version of this story as a child and agree with my informant on the interpretation. There are many versions of the story, but the meaning ultimately remains the same. The story emphasizes the rewards of hard work. The first two pigs did not do a good job of building their houses, and because of this when the wolf came to test their houses they fell apart. The last pig worked really hard and put a lot of effort into building his house making it the only house left standing between the three pigs.  I believe this story is a great tale to teach children about the value of hard work. 

By having the middle pig who did not do a bad job, but didn’t do a good job I think the story also addresses mediocrity. If the middle pig had put in a bit more work into building his house, it would have probably been successful in protecting him from the wolf. This highlights the importance of following through and putting in the full effort as opposed to just “good enough.”  

The use of animals makes the story more entertaining for children because it adds a sense of fantasy and simplicity by using non-human characters. Non-human characters are more relatable and flexible as a tool for storytelling because the author can make them do whatever he pleases. Having pigs be the main characters also makes the kids more invested in the story since talking pigs with houses are unusual and new to them. I think the use of three is also important to note as it is a prominent number in storytelling. Having a trio creates a pattern making the story more memorable and emphasizes an idea. 



The Boy Who Cried Wolf- Children Story

Main piece: 

“There was a boy who was a shepherd. The boy would get very bored watching the sheep all day, so he decided to yell out that there was a wolf amongst the sheep one day. All the villagers came in a hurry to find out that there was no wolf. The next day the shepherd boy did it again. And the villagers came running, only to find that once again there was no wolf. On the third day, the shepherd boy was watching the sheep, and a wolf came. The boy yelled out to the villagers, ‘there is a wolf! Help! there is a wolf!’ but this time no one believed him, and the wolf ate all of his sheep.”

Context and Analysis:

My informant is a 21-year-old female. I asked her to narrate to me a commonly known story she is familiar with. The informant narrated to me the story of the “Boy Who Cried, Wolf.” She claims this was a bedtime story told to her when she was a child. My informant believes the message of this story is that “if you lie people will catch on to it and then they will not believe anything you say ever, even if it is true.”

I agree with my informant’s interpretation of the story. The story of The Boy Who Cried wolf is often used to teach children about the dangers of lying. The story follows the plot of a boy playing around with the kindness of the village and the sense of community that made them reach out to help when the boy was in danger. Because of this when the boy was actually in danger, the villagers no longer believed him and did not come out to help. I think this story also emphasizes the fragility of community awareness and support. Most communities are known for caring for one another and wanting to help other members of that community, however, this bond takes work on both sides. Each member of the community must participate in making it strong. By tricking the village, the boy broke this bond and therefore he was excluded from the community. I think many times people take these communities for granted and do not put in what they are getting from it. This story does not just warn about the dangers of lying, but also about preserving the trust within a community.

I think the use of three is also important to note as it is a prominent number in storytelling. The boy cries out to the villagers three times. Having a trio creates a pattern making the story more memorable and emphasizes an idea.