Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Legend of La Llorona

Yesterday I discussed my search for La Llorona, the legendary weeping woman who is supposed to seek out and drown children in the night.  When I began to research La Llorona, back in the 70s, what surprised me was how widespread the story was, even though I couldn’t find a definitive tale provided anywhere. It was all part of legend, or stories people had been told. Her legend had been passed down from generation to generation. There were a few old books that told about her, but again, it was all supposition and legend. No one had any actual record of who the woman might have been in real life or if such a woman ever existed. That is true even today. I can find a variety of references online about the legend, but whether or not she was a true historic figure cannot be determined.

The oldest story of La Llorona appears to go back to the days of the Aztecs in Mexico. In those stories, she was said to be a  beautiful  young woman who fell in love with a handsome warrior of great wealth.  She was supposedly very vain and he had to pursue her for a long time to win her love. Eventually they married and she gave birth to two children.  But after a few years he decided he didn’t want her anymore and he went looking for another wife.  In anger she drowned the two sons he loved.  
In other versions the story is much the same but the man is a Spanish Conquistador who eventually spurns her for someone else. In fact there is also a story that La Llorana was originally the woman who was interpreter for Herman Cortez, the Spanish conqueror who defeated the Aztecs.  In one version she didn’t drown her children but was so sad about losing her husband that she didn’t pay attention and the children accidentally drowned.

In later versions, the man became a rich rancher who owned many cattle and much land in the Southwest. But they all have the same tragic ending. He leaves her and her children die. Whether they were drowned by her or just fell in the river by accident differs in various stories. In some versions she must search for the children before she can enter heaven. In others she has realized what she has done and she tries to find them. But she is still a cruel woman, because the belief in many of the stories is that she drowns the real children she finds because they are not hers.
What has amazed me so much about this story is that it is so similar in so many ways in so many areas. And to think it has been spread for years, long before the days when everything was written down. It has been passed down through the years mainly by people telling their children and passing it on. Yes, it is on the internet now and was in books, but it was originally passed down by word of mouth. It was told in Mexico and yet it was also in Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. But it was always a Mexican or Hispanic woman.   

The story was well known to both my mother and father, told to them as children, even though they grew up separately.  Both lived in the same general part of southern Colorado. However, even some of my friends in California had heard of her and the legend.
And some people have sworn that they have seen her or heard her near rivers – much like the woman who told my college friends and me the story.  She is said to moan and weep as she prowls the river banks, and that is what people say they hear or they claim to have seen a tall long haired woman in a flowing white gown.

Many people hadn’t heard of it until it became one of the “monsters of the week” on the NBC television show Grimm several years ago. In that story, the creature was a woman who was killing children at the forks of rivers, three at a time. She was eventually vanquished.
La Llorna has also appeared in movies in various forms, so the legend lives on.  

One more personal note – our family seems to have only humorous  encounters.  When my sister read yesterday’s blog, she reminded me that her own experience with the weeping woman was just as frightening  and just as silly. We lived near the Arkansas River while I was growing up and then moved to a point where the Arkansas actually meets the Purgatory River or the River of the Lost Souls.
We were living near farm land and the first week we were there she began to hear crying in the night. It was downright scary, and it wouldn’t stop. Her immediate thought, of course, was La Llorna. Our dad didn’t seem to notice or pay any attention even though he worked late at night. She was scared for a week, until he finally took her for a drive and showed her the peacock farm located down the road. To this day she hates the sound of those birds. I remember that sound and if La Llorna cried in the night, it would have resembled the call of the peacock.

So be careful near water… especially if you’re in the southwest.
I hope you’ll check out the other blogs on the Snarkology Halloween blog hop. You could win a prize!

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