Our Work is Our Play!
Today’s spook is just in time for telling spooky stories on Halloween – and La Llorona, the Weeping Woman in White, takes the cake in terms of frightening fear fodder.
There are multiple stories that explain the origin of La Llorona. In one story, she drowns her children in a nearby river for a lover she plans to leave her husband for – only to find him gone without her the next day. In her grief and madness, she takes her own life, and, as punishment for her heinous crimes, is left to wander the world over in spirit form, forever searching in vain for the souls of her children she murdered. So she wanders, seeking out her children, and taking those who are resemble her children that are left alone or unattended by their parents near the river as substitutes – often killing the children in the hopes of bringing them into limbo with her.
Another story is more attuned to grief instead of madness. A woman is bathing or washing clothes by the river, while her children play nearby. Suddenly, an unexpected storm roars up, and wind, rain, and thunder crash down in droves around them. In the storm and the confusion, the woman’s children fall into the river, and are pulled into the current, drowning quickly. The mother manages to keep on the shore, calling for her children through the howling wind. When the storm passes as quickly as it came, the mother realizes her children have been swallowed by the river. In her grief, she dives in after them, hoping to save them – and so ends up drowning herself, pulled away by the current. Now, she wanders, crying out for her children along the riverside. She often mistakes children left alone for those she lost long ago, and so she takes them in her watery arms, often drowning them. When she realizes what she’s done, La Llorona wanders, weeping for the children she’s lost again, and goes on searching.
Yet a third story focuses on fury, instead of woe or insanity. A woman’s husband plans to murder his family for his mistress and their illegitimate children, and begins with his children born from his wife. The mother and wife discovers this, and races to stop him at the riverside. But she arrives too late, and finds her husband and his mistress after they have drowned her children. Sobbing at the cruelty and the loss, she rushes at them and plunges both of them into the river. The husband, however, is not deterred, and gains the upper hand quickly, drowning his wife in the river before leaving with his mistress. Months later, the husband, the mistress, and their children together go down to the river together, for some reason or another. When they arrive, they find the angry, weeping spirit of the murdered wife waiting. She drowns the husband and mistress, and then takes their children in her rage as well. But her anger has grown too great at this point to be quenched; so she wanders, forever searching for the neglected children who wander by her river’s banks to take into her arms. After all, no one deserves children if they cannot look after them properly or protect them from the dangers of the world – just as she failed to do so many years ago.
And a fourth story focuses on the children at fault, not the mother. One day, when a mother was washing clothes by the riverside, her children were playing carelessly in the shallow waters. She warned them to stay away from the deeper parts of the river, as the current would pull them in and kill them without a second thought. But they did not heed her warning. As they played, they edged deeper into the river – and before they knew what happened, the current pulled them in. They cried to their mother to save them, so she dived in after them, and was swept away in the river as well. But she could not reach her children in time, and they were pulled under before her eyes. She broke down into tears at the sight as she was pulled down as well, weeping over her children’s loss and furious that, had they heeded her warning, all of them would still be alive. And so in limbo she wanders along the deadly river, frightening away all the children that wander too near to her river and too far away from their guardians, in the hopes that if they will not heed their parents’ warnings, then they will listen to her instead. Sometimes she will even help children who are lost regardless of any warning to the river, in that she helps to ferry their souls to Heaven’s Gates, so that they may know the peace that forever escapes her.
These are all variations of La Llorona that I have come across in my life, and there are countless more that exist, each varying in minor details across Mexico, Latin America, and the southwestern United States. But all have this in common: a woman wanders weeping for the children she has lost to the river, seeking others to fill the hole they left behind – sometimes murdering them in the hopes of their souls wandering with her, other times scaring them away so that their parents will never know the pain she feels forever. Anywhere you go in these places you will find variations – some mention storms, others mention lovers, and even a few mention spells and curses. But the base is always the same.
What version have you heard told?