Imagine being a young child, and having your parent tell you the story of a ghost of a woman who would target “bad” children. The immediate attitude adjustment would be astonishingly quick. This woman is known as “La Llorona”, and her story has many different iterations, but I will be focusing on the one used as a disciplinary tool for kids. La Llorona is definitely one of those monsters who will give you the heebie jeebies once night falls. Her story told to me as a child described her as a beautiful woman. A man would then meet her, but this man had money and status, which she lacked. His parents did not approve of her, so they went behind his parents’ back and had children together. However, this man did not stay loyal to her and when she found out about his disloyalty, she threw her children into the river in blind rage. When she realized the horrible deed she did, she threw herself into the river as well, hoping to set things right. Alas, when she met the gates of Heaven, she was denied entrance. Instead, she was cursed to walk alongside riverbanks to find her children. Since then, there has been stories of a woman in white crying out, “!Ay, mis hijos!”, at night along rivers’ edges. The kicker was that she would kidnap little children because she thought they were her own, but would then drown them just the same as she did to her kids.
The story of La Llorona was interpreted and showcased in the television show Grimm in their ninth episode of season two titled “La Llorona”. In this episode, she is indeed a woman in white who kidnaps children and would then drown them in a river. However, this La Llorona would strike only on Halloween, and would kidnap her victims in the daylight and drown them exactly at midnight. I would say that in order to be a good representation of La Llorona, she must be a woman in white who shows up at night and fall under theses five and seven of Jeffrey Jerome Cohen’s Monster Culture (Seven Theses); which stated that the “Monster Polices the Borders of the Possible” and “The Monster Stands at the Threshold . . . of Becoming”. There is also the cultural background of La Llorona that she, according to An Van Hecke, “is undoubtedly the symbol of the Mexican sadness and suffering as a nation, due to the Spanish conquest.” However, there is no representation of this cultural background information in any of these media iterations, so I will automatically dock points due that absence. Given all that, this version did portray La Llorona as a beautiful woman dressed in white, but she came out during the day, which hurts her story. She did represent a sort of “police” for the areas around rivers, and was a monster that could strike one as possibly existing. So in turn, I would give Grimm’s La Llorona a 5 out of 10. Not good, not great, but not too bad either.
One of my criterion was that La Llorona must be a woman in white who would come out at night. This is because the image of a beautiful woman weeping by the river, would seduce any curious child who has not been told to run away from a situation like this and to instead, call an adult or the authorities. In this episode of Grimm, her crying does seduce one child into walking into her hands, but in the other two cases, she was a sort of “jump-scare” monster, where she would just appear out of nowhere and would grab these kids—no seduction or trickery required. In one case, one of the kids was with her friends and as her friends are running off, the child turns around and there La Llorona is. That strays too far away from the original story. Which when coupled with the fact that she attacks during the day, just does not stay consistent enough with the original to be a good representation of La Llorona. Even in another iteration (this time, a film) where their La Llorona shows up on Halloween as well, La Leyenda de La Llorona does in fact have her as a woman in white who strikes at night. I believe La Llorona must be a beautiful woman in white and come out at night because that plays with the notion that she must not be harmful since white is seen as pure and she does not come off as menacing if she is beautiful. In addition to that, there is also that eeriness that comes with darkness. Having a monster that looks harmless, set in a scene that is known to be a common fear of mankind makes her that much more effective (especially in the case of ignorant, curious, and caring children). In Grimm, maybe they set her attacks in the day to create more suspense (since it is a drama TV show after all), but I don’t feel like that represents La Llorona well. She still is a scary monster if she attacks in the day, but as La Llorona, it makes her less believable
This TV show’s iteration of La Llorona did a good job of adhering to the fifth thesis that Cohen has provided, which was that the “Monster Polices the Borders of the Possible”. Cohen states in his book Monster Culture, that “the monster prevents mobility… [and] to step outside this official geography is to risk attack by some monstrous border patrol…” (12). In the episode, it is clear that La Llorona is that border control that will attack if you enter her “territory” which is the areas around rivers. This La Llorona, however, did not represent the consequences of curiosity and discourage certain actions all too well. The kids she kidnapped weren’t very curious to find La Llorona, she just kind of appeared and took them. In one instance, the father of a child was the one who approached the cry, leaving his son alone. Which is what led to his kidnapping. Although still effective, this version does not affect a child as much considering the child did not do anything, but instead could work to whip parents into being better guardians. The YouTube video, “Ghost Guide: Beware the Cries of La Llorona – Ghost Story Time // Something Scary” (SNARLED), did a better job of showing La Llorona as a policing figure of all riverbanks. They portrayed her as always snatching up children and men that reminded her of her ex-lover, and bringing a lifetime of misfortune unto the men and death unto the children. The YouTube video and Grimm both portray La Llorona as a monster who could be seen as a sort of border patrol for areas near rivers, but Grimm’s iteration was not focused on enough character/background building to build a scary police-like figure who would pounce on those who were too curious or were doing bad things. Much of the focus was on the detectives of the show, rather than the monster they were investigating. It really hurt her effectiveness, and did not do her justice as the scary river-border control monster in the dark that she is.
Lastly, all three of these versions of La Llorona fall under Cohen’s seventh thesis, which was that “The Monster Stands at the Threshold . . . of Becoming”. This thesis basically says that monsters are our fears and that we create them. We can try to forget about these monsters, but they will come back. In the TV show, La Llorona definitely plays up to the idea that monsters are our fears, seeing that, as stated before, one parent got their kid kidnapped by leaving him unattended. I think it is fair to say that a parent’s greatest fear is for something to happen to their kid. So in this show, the fear La Llorona takes advantage of is exactly that. She takes children who are left unattended, leaving parents and families distraught. In addition to that, in the show, she is told as always showing up around Halloween, but she always slips away. In fact, one of the detectives has been following the case of La Llorona for years and has never caught her. This is the one criterion that I feel Grimm did a good job of adhering to. Obviously, kidnappers are a real predatorial category, so that makes La Llorona more of a real possibility in our minds. Although the original story makes her more believable because we don’t know what lives in the dark, which makes La Llorona that much scarier. This version still makes her a real threat of reappearing and captures our fears effectively, regardless of her daylight attacks.
All in all, this television show’s iteration of La Llorona does its job of making her seem like a believable monster, but lacks the background and distinct characteristics that make her who she is. La Llorona is a monster of curiosity and embodies the human fear of the darkness (the “unknown”). Grimm does not really make her seem like a monster who will take advantage of your curiosity as a child. Nor does it have La Llorona as a monster of the night because even though she drowns the kids at night, she does a lot of her kidnapping all throughout the day. Watching this episode as a kid would not scare you too much, because the story building is not that strong. However, maybe if you are a parent or soon-to-be parent and believe in ghost stories, this episode will have you clinging onto your children for a while to make sure nothing happens to them. This version is still effective, but for different reasons, which is which I give it a 5 out of 10. She’s represented well, but is missing some key components to being a “good” La Llorona.
Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. Monster Theory: Reading Culture. University of Minnesota Press, 1997. This book contains a series of monster theses inside of it that explains what makes a monster, a monster. Those seven thesis lay a blueprint of sorts to abide by when making or analyzing a monster. I use two of these theses in my essay to compare Grimm’s La Llorona to the original story of La Llorona that I know. I would say it is a credible source because it is a published book and cites the sources used.
“La Llorona.” Grimm, NBCUniversal Television Distribution, 2012. This episode centers around the monster that is La Llorona. In this episode she is portrayed as a woman in white who has slipped through the authorities’ hands too many times. I use this episode as the primary version of La Llorona that I will me evaluating. I would say this is a credible source because it is a published television series.
Rodriguez, Alberto, director. La Leyenda De La Llorona. Ánima Estudios, 2011. This movie revolves around three main children, where one gets captured by La Llorona and the other two try to get him back. They face many hardships along the way and learn the story of La Llorona. I use this movie as a reference of another way La Llorona was perceived and shown as in the media. I would say it is a credible source because it is a published movie, distributed in Mexico and the United States.
SNARLED. “Ghost Guide: Beware the Cries of La Llorona – Ghost Story Time // Something Scary | Snarled.” YouTube, YouTube, 30 Sept. 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?v=xFnwLLVOtok. This video gives its take on the story of La Llorona that they knew. They told her as a revengeful woman who snatched kids at night at threw them in the river just like she did to her own kids. I used this source in my essay to also show another version of La Llorona in the media. I would say it is a credible source because it is a retelling of a story on YouTube.
Van Hecke, An. “Hybrid Voices in the Borderlands: Translation and Reconstruction of Mexican Images in Rudolfo Anaya.” Confluencia, vol. 29, no. 2, Spring2014, pp. 61-69. EBSCOhost, libproxy.lib.csusb.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=95787548&site=ehost-live. This was a criticism of the works done by the author Rudolfo Anaya and his use of Mexican legendary and mythological characters. She goes into the history and different versions of La Llorona in this criticism. I used this source in my essay when stating what the cultural background of La Llorona was. This is a credible source because it is in an academic journal.