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La Llorona ("The Weeping Woman") is a legendary ghost prominent in the folklore of Latin America. The myth sometimes takes aspects of an urban legend and is present all throughout Hispanic culture, even reaching Spain. According to the tradition, La Llorona is the ghost of a woman who lost her children and cries while looking for them in the river, often causing misfortune to those who are near or hear her.
Although several variations exist, the most basic story tells of a beautiful woman by the name of Maria who drowns her children in a river as a means of revenge because her husband left her for a younger woman. She soon realizes that her children are dead, so she drowns herself in the river.
Challenged at the gates of Heaven as to the whereabouts of her children, she is not permitted to enter the afterlife until she has found them. Maria is forced to wander the Earth for all eternity, searching in vain for her drowned offspring, with her constant weeping giving her the name "La Llorona" (the crying woman). She is caught in between the living world and the spirit world.
Parents often use this story to prevent their children from wandering out at night. In some versions of this tale and legend, La Llorona will kidnap wandering children who resemble her missing children, asking her children for forgiveness and drowning these other children to take their place. People who claim to have seen her say she appears at night or in the late evening by rivers or lakes in Mexico. Some also claim to have seen her in Antigua Guatemala. Some believe that those who hear the wails of La Llorona are marked for death but those who escape in time are not so marked, similar to the Gaelic banshee legend. She is said to cry, ¡Ay, mis hijos! ("Oh, my children!")
La Llorona is also sometimes identified with La Malinche, the Nahua woman who served as Cortés's interpreter and who some say was betrayed by the Spanish conquistadors. In one folk story of La Malinche, she became Hernán Cortés' mistress and bore him a child, only to be abandoned so that he could marry a Spanish lady (although no evidence exists that La Malinche killed her children). Aztec pride drove La Malinche to acts of vengeance. In this context, the tale compares the Spanish discovery of the New World and the demise of indigenous culture after the conquest with La Llorona's loss.
Beyond the Aztec sphere of influence, in the mythology of the Chumash of Southern California, one of the nunašɨš (creatures of the other world) called the ‘’maxulaw’’ or ‘’mamismis’’ is identified with La Llorona. It cries up in the trees like a newborn baby and its cry is an omen of death. The ‘’maxulaw’’ is described as looking like a cat with skin of rawhide leather.
Outside the Americas, La Llorona bears a resemblance to the ancient Greek tale of the demonic demigodess Lamia. Hera, Zeus' wife, learned of his affair with Lamia, and then forced Zeus to give up the relationship and punished Lamia by forcing her to eat her own children. Out of jealousy over the loss of her own children, Lamia preys upon human children and devours them if she catches them. In Greek mythology, Medea killed the two children fathered by Jason (one of the Argonauts) after he left her for another woman.
The legend of the Llorona also appears in Slavic folklore. The White lady is a reoccurring myth in towns of the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Sighting have been attributed in Plzen, Czech Republic and Smolenice, Slovakia. The town reports several apparations of the white lady of smolenice during the summer months.
In popular culture
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La Llorona appeared as the first antagonist in the pilot episode of the TV series Supernatural. Sarah Shahi portrayed Constance Welch, The Woman in White who, after discovering her husband's infidelity took the life of her two children by drowning them in a bathtub at home and soon after, took her own by jumping off a bridge into a river. Her ghost was known to haunt the Centennial Highway, hitchhiking unknowing motorists, mostly men, and killing those who she deemed are unfaithful. Sam Winchester destroyed her ghost by smashing his car into the house where she used to live. Finally facing the ghosts of her children, The Woman in White was destroyed by her own guilt from killing them.
La Llorona briefly appears in the 1973 Mexican film Leyendas macabras de la colonia.
La Llorona is mentioned and appears in several episodes of "El Chavo del Ocho" and "Chapulin Colorado", both comic series written by Roberto Gómez Bolaños, the "Chespirito".
La Llorona appears as the main antagonist of the Mexican animated film La Leyenda de la Llorona. Here, La Llorona is portrayed as a more sympathetic character, with her children's deaths coming as an accident rather than at her own hands.
La Llorona is mentioned in the 2003 film "Chasing Papi" starring Sofia Vergara, Roselyn Sanchez, Jaci Velasquez, and Eduardo Verástegui. Her screams can be heard when Thomas (Eduardo) is under stress or confronted by the three women in his life. La Llorna's image is shown a few times in the film too.
The song "She Turned Into Llorona" appears on the 2003 Manic Hispanic album Mijo Goes to Jr. College.
The story of La Llorona has been turned into a short comic book story by Love and Rockets writer/artist Gilbert Hernandez. La Llorona is also one of the various names used by Hopey and Terry's punk band in Jaime Hernandez's Mechanics series.
La Llorona appears in Josh Walker's 2014 novel, Luke Coles and the Flower of Chiloe where the Llorona is the mark of one of Luke's hunts.
La Llorona also is a short film to be released in early 2015.
La Llorona is the basis for the "monster of the week" in the fifth episode of the second season of Sleepy Hollow entitled "The Weeping Lady".
La Llorona was the name of a sculpture of a sunken ship at Burning Man in 2012.
Fear Farm,a local haunted house attraction located in Arizona,has a themed attraction named "Legends". This attractions description references the tale, and even used to be named "La Llorona" before its name change.
- La Llorona (song)
- La Llorona (1960 film)
- The Curse of the Crying Woman (1961 film)
- The Cry (2007 film)
- Mama (2013 film)
- Ghosts in Mexican culture
- Bloody Mary (folklore)
- White Lady (ghost)
- Baobhan sith
- Leannán sídhe
- Samodiva (mythology)
- Pontianak (folklore)
- De Aragon, Ray John (2006). The Legend of La Llorona. Santa Fe, NM: Sunstone Press. p. 4.
- ed. Blackburn, Thomas C. ‘’December's Child: A Book of Chumash Oral Narratives’’ p. 93
- Folklore: In All of Us, In All We Do. University of North Texas Press.
- Theoi Project: "Lamia"
- Aristophanes, Peace
- Radford, Ben (2014). Mysterious New Mexico. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. p. 228. ISBN 978-0-8263-5450-1.
While the classic image of La Llorona was likely taken from an Aztec goddess named Cihuacoatl, the narrative of her legend has other origins. As Bacil Kirtley (1960) wrote in Western Folklore, "During the same decade that La Llorona was first mentioned in Mexico, a story, seemingly already quite old, of ‘Die Weisse Frau’ (‘The White Lady’)—which reproduces many of the features consistently recurring in the more developed versions of ‘La Llorona,’ was recorded in Germany"; references to "Die Weisse Frau" date back as early as 1486. The story of the White Lady follows a virtually identical plot to the classical La Llorona story.
- Perez, Domino Renee, There Was a Woman: La Llorona from Folklore to Popular Culture
- Mathews, Holly F. 1992. The directive force of morality tales in a Mexican community. In Human motives and cultural models, edited by R.G.D'Andrade and C. Strauss, 127-62. New York: Cambridge University Press.
- Ray John De Aragon, The Legend of La Llorona, Sunstone Press, 2006. ISBN 9781466429796.
- Belinda Vasquez Garcia, The Witch Narratives Reincarnation, Magic Prose Publishing, 2012. ISBN 978-0-86534-505-8
- The New Mexican La Llorona
- Handbook of Texas Online A summary of the tale.
- Supernatural TV Series - Season 1 - Pilot Episode Woman in White Episode
- Grimm TV Series - Season 2 - Episode 9 - La Llorona Episode
- La Llorona in League of Legends
- Mama Watched Me Sink 2014 song by Kate Vargas
- La Llorona, 2015 short film
- Leyenda de la Llorona The complete story in Spanish