Saturday, August 05, 2006

La Llorona

Desert soil isn't made to cope well with water. Sun it can take - soaks it right up and happily bakes itself hard and dry. Rain water though can't find a place to stay. The hard land just runs it right off again.

So if you're a kid in the desert you're taught pretty early to stay out of arroyos and gullys. Keep away from anything that looks like a ditch, manmade or otherwise. Rain miles and miles away can fill a ditch without a moment's notice.

There are two ways of getting this lesson home. First, scientifically describe the run-off process. The teacher explains that in our area there are mountains and hills that collect the water and send it hurtling downward where it will scour away anything small and two legged stupid enough to skateboard or paddle in the ditch. Those might not have been the exact words, but that was the gist.

Then the whole class goes to the library where the librarian turns off all the lights and gathers the kids in a circle back in the reading area. The librarian is pretty creepy even in full illumination, so shivers are already gathering on small spines. In a low voice she begins the horrible tale of La Llorona, the ditch witch.

Naturally half the class has already heard the story from uncles and aunts looking to terrify the next generation as one traditionally does. This group pipes up with various additions and expansions on the story, so for those who haven't heard it yet things get a little muddled.

Here's what I ended up with:

La Llorona was a beautiful old woman. With lots of white hair. And yellow teeth and green fingernails. And she had two small children. That she ate. No she didn't, she pushed them in the ditch. No she didn't, she was walking by the ditch and they fell in. And they drowned. But they cried. No they didn't, they were dead. So La Llorona was so sad she threw herself in the ditch. No she didn't, the villagers were angry so they killed her. No they didn't she died of sadness because she was so beautiful. And now she walks by the ditches and snatches children who play in the ditches and she kills them. And eats them. No she doesn't, she warns them not to play in the ditches because you could die. And there were blooooooody footprints (I especially remember this bit because most of them agreed but no one seemed quite sure where the footprints came from). And that's why you don't play in the ditch. I know. My auntie told me.

It made a great impression on me, that story. I didn't believe in La Llorona, but I sure learned a lot about uncles and aunts. Fortunately mine were all a fair distance away.

And I still want to know what happened with the bloooooody footprints.

2 comments:

child 2 said...

i heard a complete story without any no, it wasn'ts. it went like this
La Llorona was a beautiful old woman. she lived by a large ditch where the children liked to play. she warned the children away from the ditch because she was afraid they would drown. one day, there was a HUGE flash flood and her children were swept away. she threw herself in after them, and was drowned.
to this day, she haunts the ditches dragging in the children to see if they are her own so that once more she can be with them.

For Kirk said...

Dang. No blooooody footprints.