Monday, May 31, 2021

The beauty of kindness (Folktales of Chinese minorities 4. - Manchu)

A Népmesék nyomában a világ körül kihívás folytatásaként belevágtam a kisebbségek és bennszülött népek meséibe. Elsőként a kínai kisebbségek kerülnek sorra. A korábbi bejegyzéseket itt találjátok, a Facebookon pedig itt követhetitek nyomon a sorozatot.

The Volume of Manchu 
Classical myths of China's 56 ethnic groups
Li Xueqin & Pan Shouyong 
New Buds Publishing House, 2013.

This book is part of a 12 volume series that features myths from all 56 ethnic groups in China (I will probably read more volumes for the challenge later). It is a thin, richly and gorgeously illustrated book that contains six stories. The short introduction talks about the cultural importance of myths, and the opportunity of the series to introduce them to young Chinese and English-speaking readers. At the end of the volume we get a short chapter and pictures on Manchu culture and history. 


Since there are only six stories in the book, all of them very beautiful, I decided to consider all of them highlights.

The most beautiful tale in the book was The Forest of Happiness, in which a mute, lonely girl fell in love with a kind huntsman. When people's gossip tore them apart, the young man found his lover again with the help of a magpie. Kind magpies also starred in the tale Weaver Girls, where two birds transformed into humans to help out a poor old woman. 
The origin story of the wula sedge was a sad tale about a boy who sacrificed himself to save his younger brother from freezing to death. From his grave grew the sedge that can be woven into warm shoes. Similarly sad but beautiful was the legend of Echoing Waters, in which a father mourning his daughter filled the rivers with heartbreaking song.
The legend of the fairies of Mount Changbai was the origin story of the Manchu people. A heavenly fairy descended to earth, ate a berry and got pregnant, so she decided to stay and raise her son alone. He eventually became the ancestor of the Manchu, in the area north of Mt. Changbai where their original home was.
The story of Lady Red Silk took an unexpected turn. She was the most beautiful woman in the world, who also made herself gorgeous clothes from feathers. She asked all of her suitors what the most precious thing in the world was, and since no one answered correctly (a prince, for example, said power), she continued living happily alone by a lake.

Who's next?
The Uighurs

Monday, May 24, 2021

Falling in love with Hui folktales (Folktales of Chinese minorities 3. - Hui)

As a sequel to the Following folktales around the world reading challenge, I decided to start reading minority and indigenous folktales. First up are the minority peoples who live in China. You can find previous posts here, and you can follow the challenge on Facebook here.

Mythology ​and Folklore of the Hui, A Muslim Chinese People
Shujiang Li & Karl W. Luckert  
State University of New York Press, 1994.

The Hui are a minority group defined by their Muslim religion; they number approximately ten million. However, sometimes the name Hui is used for other Muslim ethnicities in China (e.g. the Salar, Dongxiang, or Bonan people). Although this group is defined based on religion, they are still officially an ethnic minority (because the People's Republic of China organizes everything in non-religious terms). I learned all this from the book's detailed Introduction, along with the history of the Hui from the earliest hunter-gatherer times all the way to the 1990s. The authors even noted which eras are reflected in which folktales throughout the book. After the Introduction there is a chapter of more than 70 photos with comments, illustrating Hui life and culture. 
Each tale comes with footnotes, as well as information about the source, the name of the teller, and the name of the collector. There are more than 100 stories included, organized into thematic chapters (such as animal tales, origin stories, tricksters and fools, etc.). I am still at the beginning of this reading challenge, but I already have a new instant favorite.


There were so many fascinating tales in this book, I don't even know where to start. This is gonna be a long post...

There was an exciting legend about How Adang brought fire to the people. I love fire theft tales, and this one had a lot of great elements, including the part where people first encountered fire during a volcanic eruption, and Adang taming the first wild horse. The story of Bogota Mountain was also connected to origins: a shepherd acquired a magic Mountain Raising Peach and a Mountain Propping Stone, which he could use to lift a mountain and get under it to seek agricultural treasures. I loved the origin legend of Yanqi horses, which featured a brave young man who lured a dragon stallion out of a pond to start a bloodline with his mares. He was helped by the wisdom and support of his home town's diverse community: Mongol, Kazakh, Uighur and Hui elders gave him good advice on how to succeed.
Of course there were several dragon stories. Lilang and the dragon was about a selfish dragon who would only bring rain in exchange for copious gifts (such as asking for pork from a Muslim village). The clever hero and the villagers managed to trap the dragon and forced it to change his ways. The legend of the North Pagoda was about a dragon king's fight against his own troublesome son, and featured all kinds of exciting magic items.
I shed some tears over the tale of the Number One Scholar Pines: two brothers were too poor to attend school, so they studied in secret; when they were banned from doing so, they both died from heartbreak. After their death, however, they returned to take the state exams, and brought much pride to their grieving family. I also adored the legend where the Hui army decided to go around a valley where skylarks were nesting - and they have been friendly with the birds ever since. The most beautiful origin story, however, was that of the Winding river. It was about a soldier who deserted the army of Genghis Khan and joined the refugees to live a more peaceful life. In the end, he even sacrificed his life for the community.

This was not the only tale that highlighted the virtue of selflessness. I also loved the beautiful legend of The Phoenix and her city about Yinchuan, in which a phoenix turned a desert into fertile land, and turned herself into a city and a river to keep her people safe. In the story of the Rhinoceros Care an immortal exiled from Heaven atoned for his mistakes with the help of his children, a hero named Naxigaer gave his life to save people from an earthquake, and the wise doctor Ma Ahong used his medical knowledge to help a young couple elope together.
I especially liked the moral of Abudu and the devil, where the hero could only defeat evil when he was fighting for his community. When he tried to repeat the victory for selfish reasons, he failed. Another touching legend repeated this sentiment, explaining why the Hui hang teapots in their doorways on special occasions. It was about a window who gave up her own life by passing the protective sign to her neighbors.
The story of the golden pheasant was a classic monster-killing tale, while in Xueda and Yinlin two heroes, a boy and a girl set out to find two components of a cure that could save their people. There was also a story that explained how a servant from the heavens taught people about the benefits of tea.

I loved the tales that featured magic items, such as the Water Pearl ("there are only two real treasures, water and fire"), or the Wind-calming Needle. These items usually looked like ordinary objects, and only those with deep knowledge could recognize their real value.
The book had multiple legends about the famous admiral Zheng He, who lead the Treasure Fleet in the 15th century. I haven't realized until now that he was Hui too.


There were several variants for the story of Adam and Eve (Adan and Haowa) based on the Quran, and embellished by storytellers. In one it was Adam who picked the fruit; in another everything in the world was created from Adam's life force as it leaked out of his head after an injury. In a third, the 73rd child of the couple (!) flew to the heavens on a dragon to meet Allah. I encountered a legend that also exists in the Hungarian tradition: the first couple first had sex on the ice of a frozen river, which is why women's butts and men's knees are always cold. My favorite, however, was the story where Eve cut up a pink cloud to create the first flowers.
There were multiple cool versions in the book for the tale of the man in search of his luck. In one, Yishima visited the sun's mother and returned with advice on agriculture; in another a man named Musa made the journey and returned wealthy. Horse Brother was a lovely version of the three kidnapped princesses (complete with a cat peeing on fire), the snake box was an Aladdin tale, while Luguma was one of those creepy stories where a hero has to fight his evil, man-eating sister (in this case, she was a black wolf). The golden sparrow was a beautiful tale that reminded me of the Bird of Happiness from Tibet.
There were multiple legends about the emperor Kangxi who visited his Hui subjects in disguise (as many other legendary wise rulers do). When people tried to tell him lies about the Hui, he wanted to see the truth with his own eyes, and in the end it was the gossips who got punished. Another wise ruler was Governor Yimamu, who solved multiple mysterious crimes in clever ways.
One resident trickster was Litte Kalimu, who tricked an evil landlord; another man named Abudu played spectacular pranks on rich people. I was especially happy to encounter a female trickster too, a wise woman called Sailimai, and a version of the classic "hungry clothes" folktale with an unnamed hero.

Who's next?
The Manchu people

Monday, May 17, 2021

StorySpotting: Weather wizards and cloud pirates (New Amsterdam)

StorySpotting is a weekly or kinda-weekly series about folktales, tropes, references, and story motifs that pop up in popular media, from TV shows to video games. Topics are random, depending on what I have watched/played/read recently. Also, THERE WILL BE SPOILERS. Be warned!

Where was the story spotted?

New Amsterdam, season 3, episode 11 (Pressure drop)

What happens?

Dr. Iggy Frome, New Amsterdam's resident psychiatrist, runs into an interesting case: a young man who insists that he can control the weather with his mind. A self-proclaimed "weather nerd", Iggy convinces him to get a scan, hoping to find an explanation for the delusion. While waiting for a scan, he jokes that the man either has a tumor, or "he is a tempestarii." When Dr. Kao asks him what those are, he says "medieval wizards who could control the weather."
(Obviously the guy turns out to have a medical condition in the end.)

What's the story?

Let's say up front that Dr. Frome uses the Latin incorrectly: tempestarii is the plural of tempestarius, storm-maker. We know of these strange medieval wizards from the writings of Agobard of Lyon, a 9th century archbishop who wrote a treatise titled "On Hail and Thunder." And no, that's not the title of the next Thor movie.

According to Agobard the people around Lyon claimed that storms, hail and thunder were raised by storm-makers. These wizards were in league by the people of Magonia, a magic land of sky pirates. Magonians sailed in the clouds on their ships, and under the cover of the storms raised by tempestarii they stole the crops from the fields.

While the good archbishop Agobard rails extensively about the stupidity of people who believe such things, I gotta admit I love everything about this. I am predisposed to: weather wizards are an integral part of Hungarian folklore. I blogged about them here but I want to add some more info.

Hungarian weather wizards are called garabonciás, derived from the Italian word for necromancy. They are mortals who gain their magic powers by going to a secret wizard school abroad, usually in Italy or Transylvania (eat your heart out, JK Rowling). After they complete their studies, they all have to sit on a spinning wheel of fortune, and one of them has to fall down and die so the others can gain their powers. 
And you thought your graduation was tough.

Garabonciás wizards most often deal with the weather. They can summon storms just like the tempestarii. They usually wander from village to village, asking for milk, eggs, bread and other simple foods. If people are rude to them, they create a storm to punish them and destroy the crops. In one story, the garabonciás turns eggs into hail, and milk into clouds. They can also travel inside storm clouds or even in whirlwinds. While they sound terrifying, they are actually often helpful: they can protect villages from hail, and deflect magic storms summoned up by witches.

The garabonciás' most common features are his book and his dragon. The latter are usually aquatic creatures that bring storms when they fly up into the sky. Garabonciás use their magic book to summon up these dragons, tame them, and ride them, creating raging storms, lightning, and thunder. People often called storm clouds 'dragon's tail'. Some believed the wizards ride the dragons to Africa, where they sell their cool meat for protection against the heat.

Garabonciás beliefs lived on well into the 20th century. Some famous Hungarian writers and poets - Petőfi Sándor, Csokonai Vitéz Mihály, Jókai Mór - were rumored to have been garabonciás. Also, in the early days of bicycles, people tended to claim anyone riding a strange metal contraption at breakneck speed had to be a garabonciás too. Makes sense to me.


When someone asks you for a cup of milk or a bite of bread, don't refuse them.

Tricksters and inventors (Folktales of Chinese minorities 2. - Zhuang)

As a sequel to the Following folktales around the world reading challenge, I decided to start reading minority and indigenous folktales. First up are the minority peoples who live in China. You can find previous posts here, and you can follow the challenge on Facebook here.

The Zhuang live in Southern China and other countries of Southeast Asia. They are the largest ethnic minority in China, with almost 20 million people.

At Grandfather's Knee 
Zhuang Folk Tales from Wuming 
Bwz Licuh & Margaret Milliken 
Min zu chu ban she, Peking, 2001.

The stories in this book were collected from the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, inhabited by the largest community of Zhuang people (app. 14 million). The tales were written down straight from the oral tradition as part of an international project aiming for the preservation and promotion of minority languages. The storytellers told their tales in front of a live audience, and the collectors preserved some of their interactions with the listeners. The book is trilingual (Zhuang, Chinese, English); every story comes with the name and origin of the teller. The 36 stories are organized into thematic chapters (children's stories, traditional values, battles of wits, etc.), and accompanied by the black-and-white illustrations of a Zhuang artist.


There was a lovely story about a stubby tailed carp raised in a barrel by a lonely old woman until it grew so big she had to release it back into the river. People made fun of her for not having children - so ever since her death, Stubby Tail has been returning every year with wind and rain to care for her grave.
In another, more exciting tale a village headman and his son fought two giant serpents that had been living in a temple, demanding pigs and pregnant women to eat.
There was a legend about how the famous engineer Lu Ban invented the saw by observing the legs of grasshoppers and the serrated edge of silvergrass. Another realistic story told of how people learned to make fire by hitting rocks together. One legend claimed rice used to come to people's houses when it was ripe - until the first farmer's wife chased it away because she was not finished cleaning yet. Ever since then, people have to go to the fields to harvest the rice. The best origin story, however, was that of the dung beetle: the Jade Emperor sent the beetle to the people with a message that they should eat once every thee days. The poor beetle got the message mixed up and told us to eat three times a day instead. Ever since then, it's his job to clean up the excess excrement. Yikes.

Zhuang wedding, image from here


The tale type of the fairies' gift here was combined with the story of someone exchanging a useless thing for increasingly more useful ones. It was about two brothers, one mean and one kind. The mean one got his nose stretched out, and his brother erased it back to size... then a little more, so elder brother ended up with no nose whatsoever.
The kind and unkind girls were sisters too; the elders, hard-working sister grew rich, while the youngest, rich sister grew poor, but in the end the kind sister showed her that she could be redeemed through generosity. In another tale the kind brother grew rich because he sold is magically fragrant farts - and when the mean brother tried to repeat the trick, he obviously failed.
There was yet another story about how the animal calendar was created (and why the cat was left out), and also a chain tale with animals passing blame around. The latter ended with the conclusion that everything was the rooster's fault for not helping his wife with the chicks. The judge slapped him, and ever since then the rooster's face has been red.
The resident tricksters were a clever boy named Gam Lo, who answered a greedy mandarin's impossible questions, and a poor man named Gungcei who made a fool out of his rich in-laws in several tales. A third trickster, Lu Sandong lost the battle of wits in the end. There was also a clever servant who solved riddles set by his master - even guessing that the master's head weighed exactly three pounds and six ounces.

Who's next?
The Hui people. 

Monday, May 10, 2021

Getting started on China (Folktales of Chinese minorities 1. - Han)

As a sequel to the Following folktales around the world reading challenge, I decided to start reading minority and indigenous folktales. First up are the minority peoples who live in China. You can find previous posts here, and you can follow the challenge on Facebook here.

Note: I am aware that he Han are not a minority; they are the majority people of China, making up more than 90% of the population. I wanted to start with them anyway, because the book I previously read for China in the challenge did not contain any Han tales at all. 

Chinese Folk Tales
Louise Kuo & Yuan Hsi Kuo
Celestial Arts, 1984.

This book contains Han and minority tales, 35 total, out of which 21 are Han, and the rest are Yao, Zhuang, Mongolian, Tibetan, etc. I will include those in upcoming posts, and in this one I'll be focusing on the Han stories.
I chose this book because many folktale collections reference it, and I came across the title so much it felt like a classic I should read. It has an introduction that talks about Han and minority cultures and storytelling traditions, and every story comes with its own introduction that puts it in cultural and historical context. It mostly treats minorities with respect, although there are some very questionable comments in some of the notes (such as minorities overcoming their "primitive superstitions". Um.). There are a few black and white illustrations.


The tale of the first storyteller was an obvious highlight for me. It was about a prince who was born blind and abandoned in the woods. Animals and fairies raised him and taught him the art of storytelling. Later on he refused to return to court, traveling the world instead and sharing pieces of his pipa (lute, see left) with people of other crafts.
The story of the official and the hermit was also quite interesting. They were good friends in their youth, and when they met again many years later,both believed that the other one's profession was more meaningful...
There was also an amusing and clever story about a boy who eavesdropped on the new year offerings and prayers of people, and found out many of them were praying for disaster so that they could grow rich. The boy tricked them all, and publicly shamed them for their greed. In another story a wise magistrate decided an argument about a rich man's will by putting the punctuation in the correct place.


The role of the clever maiden was played by a clever wife here, while the kind and unkind girls were replaced by kind and cruel women. The latter were rewarded (or punished) by a sparrow. I was also familiar with the story of the blind men and the elephant from India, and the tale of the wise magistrate who gives a poor man the purse a rich man accused him of stealing. There was, once again, a tale about why the sea is salt (because a salt-making magic item sank into it). 
From trickster tales, the story of the ungrateful animal made an appearance, featuring a scholar, a wolf, and a wise old man.

Who's next?
I plan on going by number of population, so the Zhuang people are next.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

I read a folktale collection from each country in the world, and this is what I learned

Historic moment: I finished my Following folktales around the world reading project! I started it almost exactly five years ago, in early 2016. The idea (inspired by this challenge) was to read a folktale collection from every single country around the world.

I can't believe I made it!

Let's see the numbers first:

I read folktales from 200 countries.

I started with China and arrived in Mongolia in 5 years and 1 month (I started blogging in English a little bit later in the challenge, hence the discrepancy in the posts).

I read more than 10,284 folktales (these are the ones I counted, but there were books that contained multiple tales per chapter). 

There were 12 countries from where I could not find complete books. In these cases I read articles of folktales, or looked up stories on the Internet (Barbados, Guinea-Bissau, Burundi, Chad, Djibouti, North Korea, Belarus, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Mozambique, Tuvalu, Uruguay). If I happen to find books for them later on, I'll include them (recommendations welcome). I did find tales from all of them in the end; Burundi was the hardest one, I could only locate one single myth.

For three countries I read epics, because I could not find folktale collections (Guinea, Kosovo, Senegal)

The number of tales by continent:

Europe: 3859

Africa: 1642

Asia: 1542

Australia and Oceania: 1211

Central America and the Caribbean: 1124

South America: 756

North America: 150

I read the most stories from these individual countries:

Hungary (756) (one of our country's first folklore collections)

Papua New Guinea (602) (half of the 1001 Papua New Guinean Nights)

Dominican Republic (304) (each tale came with several variants)

Italy (200) (Calvino's classic collection)

Latvia (164

Australia (157) (I'd like to circle back for more)

Honduras, Suriname, Argentina (150/country)

You can find the complete list of countries and posts here

What did I learn from all this?

Tricksters are everywhere (even North Korea)

I barely read any collections where tricksters did not appear. They seem to be the most universal archetype of folktale characters around the world; where there are stories, there are tricksters, bringing their favorite pranks and antics over and over again, from tar dolls to tug-o'-wars to cunningly exchanged punishments. It's a trickster's world out there.

The most popular tale types are not the ones Westerners would think

The Western (mostly European) folktale canon has its big classics and favorites, mostly based on Grimm and French fairy tales: Cinderella, Snow White, etc. Many people tend to think these are the most popular stories around the world - but after 200 countries I see things differently. Cinderella is not even in the same ballpark as some other tale types you wouldn't think of right away. I was not keeping an exact count, but here are some of the most common stories that kept popping up over and over and over again:

The Kind and Unkind Girls (or boys) (see: Frau Holle) (ATU 480)
Magic Flight (you probably know it as Master Maid) (ATU 313)
Animals running a race (Tortoise and the Hare) (ATU 275)
Extraordinary helpers (commonly known as The Flying Ship) (ATU 513)
The gift of the little people (where a friendly person is rewarded for participating in the fairies' song, but a mean one is punished) (ATU 503)
Aladdin (a.k.a. the lost magic item) (ATU 561)
And, obviously, tricksters. 

You can find parallels in surprising places

I was sometimes stunned to find almost identical tales separated by great cultural and geographical distances. A dragon story popped up in Switzerland and Bhutan, but nowhere in-between. A witch tale appeared in Kiribati and Angola. I found a legend in the Philippines that I knew as a Native American story. The list goes on and on, but the point is: stories can travel incredible distances, and they often pop up independently from each other in very similar forms. Human imagination is a wonderful thing.

Some countries are luckier with folklore collections than others

In the case of some countries I had a very hard time finding a folktale collection in any of the languages I read (English, Spanish, and Hungarian, but I can also read Italian and German very slowly). History left its mark on folklore collections. Nation-building movements valued (and sometimes took advantage of) tradition, while war, colonization, and genocide often wiped out stories as well as people. In the case of some smaller countries it was a matter of sheer luck: the birth of one person who fell in love with stories, and spent their life collecting and preserving them, kicking off a folklore movement in a time when traditional tellers still carried the old tales. Hungary in particular is lucky in this regard. You walk into any used book shop, and you will find shelves of folktale collections. Our collecting started shortly after the Grimms, and our struggle for national independence boosted folklore studies early on. Not all countries are nearly this lucky. 
(Wherever I could support new publications and collection projects, I tended to buy books with this in mind.)

There is an endless supply of folktales, but not all are equally fun

As a storyteller, I have a subjective opinion of tales: there are stories I fall in love with, and others that are forgettable or don't really speak to me. There are types I love more than others, and obviously the ones I noted along this journey were the ones that I personally found the most fascinating. This challenge proved what I already knew about folktale collections: if a book has more than two stories I fall in love with, it is an exceptionally good book. There were a few collections that were especially memorable for the high number of amazing stories, but usually there were one or two tales per country that really stuck with me. This is nothing out of the ordinary, it's just the human nature of the storyteller. This is why we have to read a lot to expand our repertoire.

There is more!

I could talk a lot more about this challenge, and my experiences and adventures with it. If anyone is interested, hit me up :)

Where to next?

I have been wondering for a while about what I was gonna do once this challenge ended. And now, here we are. I was always aware that political borders don't often mean cultural borders, and that there are many rich cultures and traditions that I skipped along the way. I want to make up or these omissions, and start a new challenge where I read minority and indigenous folktales around the world! Right now, I'm feeling like starting with Chinese ethnic groups, but I'd also love to circle back to Siberian indigenous peoples, as well as indigenous groups of North and South America and Australia, and some European minority groups as well. 

Stories just go on and on...

Monday, May 3, 2021

A to Z Reflections: Tarot Tales

I can't believe April is already over! It feels like the whole month consisted of two Saturdays. Or maybe it's just me. A to Z 2021 is done, and even though I only had half the posts written ahead of time, I managed to finish all of them. Yay!

I ended up selecting folktales and legends for 46 cards of the tarot deck (which is 78 cards total). I might finish the rest at one point. I am especially proud that I managed to include stories from six continents, although with more research the deck could get even more diverse.

You can find the page with all my Tarot Tales posts here. I had a little over 11,700 hits in April, which is pretty good. The most popular posts were A, C, B, E, and P. Every post received somewhere between 30 and 10 comments, from visitors who kept returning all through the month. I really enjoyed the visits and the comments, thank you all!

I could not visit as much or as often as I usually do. Pandemic fatigue has been hitting me hard, sometimes I can barely get up, and I had writing deadlines. I'm still catching up. I really enjoyed following several blogs this year, here are some of my favorite themes (in no particular order):

Herbal medicine embedded in a science fiction story (Tea, Sigh, Create)

Imaginary places A to Z (Black and White)

Dante's Divine Comedy (My Magick Theater)

Ludic Lexicon (Deborah Weber)

Greek mythology (with excellent book recommendations) (The Great Raven)

DC characters and their background stories (The Confusing Middle)

How to write technobabble for science fiction (Storytellergirl)

Poetic styles from A to Z, with original poetry examples (The Versesmith)

Steampunk Mythology (Alicia Hawks)

WWI (Sarah Zama)

Ichigo Ichie (My Ordinary Moments)

Thank you all for visiting, commenting, and for writing such interesting things! You made this month awesome even in the middle of the pandemic fatigue. :)

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Crocodile island (Following folktales around the world 200. - East Timor)

Today I continue the blog series titled Following folktales around the world! If you would like to know what the series is all about, you can find the introduction post here. You can find all posts here, or you can follow the series on Facebook!


Legends and poems from the land of the sleeping crocodile
Cliff Morris
H.C. Morris, 1984.

A small, but super fascinating volume. It is a bilingual edition (Tetum-English), containing mirror translations, so it was only a hundred-odd pages to read. The tales have all been collected by people who were born and raised in East Timor and then moved somewhere else (Australia, Portugal, etc.). Each story came with a short introduction about the teller. The English translation was a bit odd at times, but it was still an enjoyable read.
The book starts with short poems that seem like proverbs, and each of them is explained (which is lucky, because I would not have drawn "don't sweat the small things" from "pigeon hiccups in the jungle, fruit remains"). 
By the way, in case you were wondering, this is where East Timor is located:


According to the origin myth of the island, Timor was originally a young crocodile, saved by a human boy from death, who turned into an island as a thank you to people. Crocodiles appeared as helpers or heroes in multiple stories, and only attacked people who deserved it.
The tale of Bui Iku was haunting: a girl was locked in a house built in a mango tree by her six brothers, and only the youngest cared for her. When she got pregnant from a divine prince her five brothers killed her, but her lover brought her back. Their child was born among the stars, and returned to earth to punish the evil brothers, and reward the kind one.
There were two legends about how Christianity arrived to Timor, both from the perspective of the native people. They claim the "holy man" of the white people threatened to drag the whole island to Portugal if they did not convert; he put an anchor into the seashore and pretended to pull it with his ship. In that moment, the earth shook, and everyone was scared into converting... While the story was told as a positive thing, it does carry some of the pain over colonization. 
There was a fascinating twist on the "stolen bride" tale type: a boy spied on the seven daughters of the Sun, and tried to kidnap the youngest to make her his wife (this is a common folktale motif). She, however, fought back: she flew up into the sky with her attacker, burned him, then threw him down.


The most interesting connection was the story of Joao the Gambler (John in English). The hero was taken to a castle by a giant bird he had to feed on the way (he used his own flesh for the last few bites). It was  Master Maid story where the giant's daughter helped the hero fulfill tasks, and turn into various things during a magic flight scene. It was a common tale type, but with nice local colors: one of the "impossible tasks" was to find mangos out of season.
The tale of the sacred machete also reminded me of European tale types; here the hero was helped by three giants, and revived by them when his enemies killed him. There was also a Cinderella story (Daughter of the sun), and a magic tablecloth type tale (Bui Kiak and Mau Kiak).
It is not very surprising to see European connection, given the colonial history of the island. However, all the familiar stories merged nicely with the local culture, flora and fauna. In addition, burning the skin of animal husbands (snakes and eels) was an actual solution in these tales, while in European stories it is usually presented as a mistake.
There was a version of the magic fishhook story that I knew from Japan: in the story of the sick princess a man lost a hook borrowed from his brother, and had to descend into the ocean to find it. He managed to locate the hook in the mouth of the Sea King's daughter.

Where to next?
We are done! I'll take a short break, write a summary of this adventure, and start a new challenge...