It’s late at night. There is rain pouring down, thunder making the whole city tremble and gushes of wind as cold as ice passing by. You suddenly hear a woman screaming loudly, sobbing and moaning in pain. The urge of concern and worry begins to overwhelm you at the sound of this woman’s tears because you are yet unaware of what exactly is going on. Then it suddenly becomes clear once you hear that somber voice saying, “Hay mis hijos! Oh, my Children!” It is the sound of the Llorona weeping for her lost children and you are now consumed by fear because you now know what is to come once you hear her cries for help. Hide your kids because she seeks to find or replace her children, the ones she murdered by drowning in the river long ago. She was instantly filled with regret once the deed was done. Her ghost now haunts these rivers for she has to wander around, calling out for her children to come back to her. Since she can’t find her children, she latches onto other children and is known to take them away, forever, in hopes of fulfilling that void. Basically, by latching onto these children she has the capability of finding them regardless of where they are. Once found, she lured them in with her tears and agony, brings them close, burns them just with her touch and kills them. At least that is how she is portrayed in the newest movie, The Curse of the Llorona which does a terrible job of keeping up with her original storyline which was quite disappointing for those of us that grew up with this story. Nonetheless, this is the story of la Llorona.
La Llorona is a cultural figure in storytelling tradition. A petrifying monster with her innocent children, known to be the most terrifying image all around. Not only does it make every child’s nightmare come true, but it hits a soft spot for every parent based off of their greatest fear, being a ‘unfit’ parent. What makes this such a jaw dropping story is the fact that this monster is a mother, the one person a child should be able to count on and trust with their life no matter what. Her story is told a bit different all depending on the cultural background or the purpose in which you are telling the story. Some tell this story to children at a young age and claim that la Llorona only comes to collect children that don’t behave properly in hopes of making them respectful and be more ethical.
Jeffrey Jerome Cohen is an English professor and director of the Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute at George Washington University who edited, Monster Culture (Seven Theses). The purpose of these seven theses is to help us analyze a monster, understand how a monster came to be and what exactly makes it a monster. I would categorize La Llorona with his first thesis, “The Monster’s Body Is a Cultural Body.” It states that, “the monster is born as an embodiment of a certain cultural moment” and “the monster’s body…incorporates fear, desire, anxiety, and fantasy, giving them life”(Cohen). Her story came about in order to raise this fear and anxiety in kids as well as pressure on mothers. To be good parents otherwise you will be cursed by God.
It is said that la Llorona was actually a lady named Maria, the most beautiful of her village. She had high standards of finding a man, most handsome of all. Someone that can match or level up to her beauty. In the article, La Llorona from the Don Quijote website, they explain the different versions of this story because from this point on is where the story is changed a bit. Once she found her dream man, she marries him and has two boys. In some versions, they say she had three, but it is most commonly said that she had two. The first few years of their life together were good up until she began to notice the indifference from her husband. Some say her husband cheated on her with a woman from a higher class which led her to drown her kids in order to get back at him by taking away his most prized possession. The most common version of the story, she is said to have drowned her kids with her own two hands while other say she allowed them to go into the river and she just watched them as they drowned. Instantly filled with regret, she decided to kill herself too. When she reached the doors to heaven, without her children, God turned her away and told her that she will now spend her life roaming the rivers to find her children (Don Quijote).
In the movie, The Curse of La Llorona, she is portrayed as a demon in a dirty white dress with a veil covering her face. Seeking children to make her next target. It begins with children suddenly hearing her weep and as they look around she then presents herself. Having the capability to suddenly be face to face with the child and grabbing them by the arm causing them to feel a burning sensation leaving what seems to be cigarette burn marks. This then causes her to latch onto the children and once it hits midnight, it is her haunting hour where she seeks to find the child she has latched on. Once the child is found, she seems to leave them in a trance where they are completely mesmerized by her voice and completely in her control. She lured them in, takes them where there’s lots of water and drowns them, just as she did to her own. Which then leads to many kids coming up dead and leaves people questioning the whole situation due to being unaware of la Llorona.
In the original story, la Llorona was filled with rage so she murdered her kids in hopes of seeking revenge towards her husband for leaving her. Yet, once she kills them she instantly regrets it and her cries are of lamentation. As where in the movie, she still has the same motive to kill her children, but she does not present the same remorse. She still seems to be portraying the same vengeance and bitterness except that now it is towards other parents. As if she is trying to give off to other parents that same pain she is feeling for the loss of her kids by taking away their kids. Almost as if she believes that they deserve to lose their kids as well. Which causes her to be portrayed as this vengeful demon trying to cause this traumatic harm on families.
Since the story varies a bit on the exact cause of her drowning her kids, the movie went with the most common story which is where the husband cheats on her with a woman of a higher class. Throughout the movie, it seems as if the only motive she has is to get back at everyone. She drowns her kids to get back at her cheating husband and she attempts to kill other kids, in hopes of sharing that sense of loss, emptiness and bitterness with other parents. La Llorona portrays jealousy through the movie as a constant emotion as where in her story, there is more pain behind her actions. Yes, there is still vengeance, but it’s as if she just allowed her pain to consume her which led her to respond the way she did only resulting for her to repent. The original story ends with her going to the gates of heaven and God turning her back to try and find her kids leaving her ghost wandering around feeling remorse for the rest of her life.Yet, the movie completely lacked in presenting her remorse due to the fact that in the movie she is more of a demonic spirit going around haunting everyone.
The purpose of this story is to make sure that kids continue to stay ‘in check’ and not act up. It is a story told to cause fear which makes it certain for kids to listen to their parents or elders telling these stories. Just as the popular Screen Rant’s movie review editor, Sandy Schaefer says in her review of the movie, “The Curse of the Llorona is a Conjuring movie”(Schaefer). Making this more of an entertainment for the horror lovers rather than actually sticking to the storyline. It just causes fear within the parents of them losing their children. The children in the movie of course are afraid as well, but who wouldn’t be afraid of being taken by this crazy evil spirit? There was no exact cause as to why these children were chosen by her to be her next victims which makes the pressure fall completely onto the parents. It focuses more on the parents as a warning to be responsible parents for they are the only ones that can protect their kids from her.
All in all, the movie dedicated only about ten minutes of its time to explain the storyline, but took their own path with it. The movie would have been far more interesting if they would have incorporated a bit more of that suspense and allowing the movie to take place in a small village in Mexico where there were kids playing by a river and were disobeying their parents when suddenly they came across this creepy woman in a white dress calling out to them. Just as Schaefer says in her review, “those who’re fans and/or were raised on stories about the famous latino folklore specter may want to check their expectations” because the villain “amounts to little more than a standard Conjuring movie monster”(Schaefer).
Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome, editor. “Monster Culture (Seven Theses).” Monster Theory: Reading Culture, NED – New edition ed., University of Minnesota Press, 1996, pp. 3–25. JSTOR,
“Donquijote.” DonQuijote, www.donquijote.org/es/cultura-mexicana/historia/llorona
The Hairpin June 30, 2014. “La Malinche, La Llorona, La Virgen: My Mother’s Ghost Stories.” The Hairpin, 1 Aug. 2017, www.thehairpin.com/2014/06/la-malinche-la-llorona-la-virgen-my-mothers-ghost-stories/.
Schaefer, Sandy. “The Curse of La Llorona Review.” ScreenRant, Screen Rant, 19 Apr. 2019, screenrant.com/curse-la-llorona-movie-reviews/.
“The Wailing Woman.” History Today, www.historytoday.com/miscellanies/wailing-woman.