I’m in the process of researching some background/inspiration material for my PhD project, gathering myths & stories. If you have one, please post a comment, send me an email, FB message, note (tag me), whatever.
I’d really love to hear (or be linked/referenced to) your favorite stories/myths from when you grew up, wherever you’re from. To get started, here’s mine:
I grew up in New Mexico, on the banks of the Rio Grande. For generations, farmers along the river have diverted its waters into irrigation ditches for their crops. As the city of Albuquerque grew up around these small settlements, these ‘deadly ditches’ also served as population weeders – NM is prone to sudden bursts of rain, which send torrents of floodwater coursing through these irrigation and other drainage ditches. If you happen to be in one, say fishing for crawdads (for our yearly crawdad races at the Harvest Festival), you’ll be swept away, drowned.
But as a kid, you don’t quite understand why they’re so deadly. It’s not raining where you are, but hundreds of miles away. You can’t see the water coming. And crawdads are rad.
So to keep us away, they warned us of La Llorona (for you gazpachos, that’s pronounced La Yo-ro-na, emphasis on the ro), the wailing woman. All over the Southwest and Mexico they have varying tales about La Llorona, but the one I heard was Rudolfo Anaya’s Aztec legend:
She was an Aztec woman, and served as a translator when the Spanish conquistadors invaded the Americas. She fell in love with a Spanish general, and they married and had two little boys.
The little boys were all she lived for, particularly as her husband was often off campaigning, and her people ostracized her for joining the enemy that was corroding their people and their culture. She taught them the ways of the Aztec, their religion, their teachings.
Until her husband was called back to Spain. He would return, he said, without her. He would take his sons, sending them to Spanish schools, never to return to their homeland.
This broke her heart. As a final battle between her husband’s army and her people raged around her, she snuck her boys out in the middle of the night, down to the water. Rather than allow them to be taken away from her, she drowned them in the lake, their cries covered by the fighting.
As soon as they were gone, she realized the horror of what she had done. She screamed for them, reaching to them, trying to bring them back. But they were both dead.
She swam out into the lake, to the middle, and dived under, never to emerge again.
Now she roams the waterways, the rivers and creeks and lakes, searching for her drowned sons. She weeps for them, and if she encounters other children, she drags them under the water, trying to keep them with her.
Definitely scary enough to keep me away from the water, even now.
Okay, your turn. Anyone who has a story or myth from their culture, childhood, where you live, where you’ve traveled, please share!