Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: Mar 13, 2019
Primary Language: English
Context: The informant is a Chinese student in USC. The collector interviewed the informant (as GL) for tales. The informant then presented a creepy story in English told by his grandfather as a bedtime story. His grandfather is from Chongqing, an inland city in China.
GL: Okay so, there were two kids. They wandered in the woods. And then they met their granny in the woods for some reason I can’t remember. So they came back home with their granny. And their granny was like, “Okay. You two should take a bath and then we can sleep together.”
Somewhere late at night, the elder sister woke up. She heard some cracking sounds. It came from their granny. So she asked, “Granny, what are you eating?”
Granny said: “I am eating candies.”
And then, you know, some ray of moonlight shone in. The girl saw a lot of bloody intestines and flesh and stuff laying on the bed. It’s a creepy story. She figured out that her granny was eating her little sister.
So she asked: “Granny, do you want some candies of different flavor?”
Granny was like, “Sure.”
So the girl took a heated, some sort of claws (Collector’s note: he probably meant tongs) from the fire place. (Collector’s note: he probably meant that the girl used the tongs to attack her granny)
And then the girl was like, “Granny, do you want some water to cool down?” and Granny was like “Yeah Sure”. And the girl took some boiling water and killed the Bear Granny.
GL: I think it is a pretty prevalence story from where I came from to scare the kids.
Collector: What do you think is this story trying to tell kids? To respect their granny? (in a joking tone)
GL: I had really complicated feelings when I first heard the story. I guess the purpose my grandparents told this story was, you know, I kept asking for bedtime stories before going to sleep, so they wanted to scare me off so they could do their own stuff.
Collector: Do you think it is a typical Chinese story or just a story in Chongqing?
GL: I think it is not typically Chinese but a lot of people from that area (Chongqing) have heard of that story.
Collector: Have you ever told this story to other people before?
GL: Yeah, I told this story to one of the kids in elementary school because he thought I was weird.
Collector: How was the effect?
GL: He was freaked out. (laughing) Yeah, he was freaked out.
It is weird that adults tell kids creepy stories as bedtime stories.
I think the story involves an archetype of evil old ladies. But unlike those evil witches in Western tales, this demonic old lady is the grandmother of the protagonist, a dear one in the family. The Bear Granny reminds me of what Professor Thompson said in class that there is a belief in Japan that old people in the family will turn into ghosts (monsters) when they are too old. Maybe this is something common in East Asia. But the tale also resembles the Little Red Riding Hood.
I searched for Bear Granny in Chinese, and saw some articles saying that Bear Granny is popular in Chongqing and Sichuan area. It is called “熊嘎婆 [Mandarin in pinyin: xíong gā pó, literally: Bear Granny]”