To Weep, To Kill: The Haunting Folklore of Cruel Mothers in Mexico and Scotland




Canales, Laura Victoria

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Mothers do not simply pass down traits like eye color or the sound of one’s laughter—they pass down stories as well. Cultures from all over the world have their own respective stories and legends that engage with motherhood, and sometimes, these legends have more in common than originally thought. In both Mexico and Scotland, two countries with a shared history of conquest and control, folktales of cruel and murderous mothers have been in circulation for centuries. In this thesis, I will take a look at folklore from these two regions and attempt to trace these stories back to their historical roots by analyzing versions of the legend of La Llorona through the poetry of Gloria Anzaldúa and the Scottish ballad tradition of infanticide as exemplified by the ballads “The Cruel Mother” and “Mary Hamilton.” I will use different facets of trauma theory, such as the psychoanalytic work of Marianne Hirsch and Cathy Caruth and Anzaldúa’s concept of conocimiento, as frameworks to read and understand this folklore in its historical context. I believe these legends function as a manner of giving voice to those who have been historically silenced, and by placing a spotlight on these two cultures, I hope to amplify those voices and connect us to the stories that mean something to us.


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