All the sugar skulls are starting to sparkle and glow around Houston! I was inspired to mine Mexico and the Amercian Southwest for my story treasures this month. Joe Hayes was a wonderful local storyteller here in Texas who left us a great legacy of Hispanic stories he collected and retold, mostly from New Mexico. I am a huge fan of his books The Day it Snowed Tortillas, and also The Coyote Under the Table.
The kids had such fun hearing “If I Were an Eagle,” which is just a hands-down straight-up classically awesome fairy tale: a giant, kids on a quest, magic and changing into animals. The kids had a lot of fun designing “costumes” for the animals they would like to turn into and then acting out the story in their own way.
I’ve also really wanted to tell La Llonora for a couple of years. I have hesitated because the story is… very scary. I asked Mexican and Latino friends if they heard the tale as kids, and if hearing it traumatized them. All of them had grown up with the tale, but didn’t seem any more damaged than I was by “Hansel and Gretel.” That is, it was rather deliciously scary, but nobody was in therapy because they heard it.
Much scarier seemed to be El Cuco, who is sort of like the Mexican boogeyman. He doesn’t have a narrtive story, but seems to be sort of this mysterious essence of malevolence that will simply come and GET you if you are bad. My friends said he is used as a scare tactic to make kids behave in some families. He seemed really threatening, so I’m going to stay away from telling that one.
Why would I tell scary tales to children? I believe fairy tales in their original scary forms have their uses. Kids can encounter darkness and fear in stories in small doses that they can handle, in a safe and protected environment. When fear comes in real life (and it always will), kids have already had an emotional dress rehearsal, so to speak. Fear is not quite so scary. They already know dragons can be overcome, and Lloronas can be escaped.
I’m including some YouTube links of Joe Hayes storytelling these spooky tales (I will tell them a bit differently, but he really is a master!)
NOTE: Mr. Hayes was performing to elementary school-aged children. I would strongly advise these videos for kids of 5 or 6 years and older. If your child is highly sensitive, I would preview first.