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La Llorona: The Weeping Woman

Updated on November 15, 2019
Yamuna Hrodvitnir profile image

Yamuna tries to use her study of history and her own experiences to create meaningful and informative articles.

An Ancient Tale

The tale of La Llorona has been told in Central America for centuries, a heartbreaking legend which predates the colonization of the Americas. “La Llorona” is the Spanish name given to the lost soul of a woman doomed to wander the earth for eternity in her suffering, which translates to “The Weeping Woman.” She is often referred to as “The Woman in White,” or “The Crying Woman” as well, but whatever name she is given, La Llorona’s tale serves as a reminder of what horrible things we can do when we are overcome with pain and sorrow. Her story is very, very old and has been told innumerable times by countless people, so the details vary from source to source. Some say that she can be found along a deserted road, while some say she waits beside lakes or rivers, but wherever you may meet La Llorona, you will know her because she will be wearing a white dress and her sorrowful wail will echo through the night.

Heartbreak and Haunting

According to the legends, La Llorona was once a beautiful young woman and mother, living out a simple life. She grew to distrust her lover over the years as he pulled away from her and became ever more distant. After a while, she found out that her lover had been unfaithful to her, turning his back on her and their children. Overcome with grief, rage, and sorrow, she suffered a psychotic break and lost control. One night, she took her children from their beds and slaughtered them. Some stories say that she stabbed them to death with a dagger, and others say that she drowned them in a nearby lake or river. Having destroyed the living reminders of what she and her lover once had together, she then killed herself. Depending on the tale, she slit her own throat, stabbed herself in the stomach and cried as she bled out, or she dove into the water and was killed by the impact or drowned in the current. The atrocious act of infanticide and the shame of suicide prevent her soul from passing on. Upon her spirit’s attempt to go on to the afterlife, she was asked where her children were, and she could not reply. She returned to Earth to wander and search for the bodies of her children, but she cannot find them. She weeps eternally, begging for her children to come back to her, and for their forgiveness. Some versions of the legend suggest that any woman who kills her own children and dies in a similar manner will become a Weeping Woman much like the first.

Warnings have been uttered across the centuries to any who may hear the cries of a woman in the night. If you hear the wailing of a Weeping Woman as you travel at night, you must never follow them. If you come upon La Llorona, run away as quickly as possible. Her presence is said to bring misfortune or death. Contemporary retellings often say that she intentionally leads unfaithful men away from their path and kills them, hoping that she can get revenge for the way that her lover wronged her and to prevent any more women from having to do what she did. It is also said the she will lure away children, kill them, and try to take their souls with her to the underworld in place of her own.

Popularity

Many folktales from around the world refer to the ghost of a woman doomed to wander the earth. Similar tales are common to indigenous peoples in the Americas and to regions of Europe. Scholars have drawn many similarities between La Llorona and mythological entities and goddesses, and even Lilith from Christianity. Her malevolent nature paired with the way that her screams and cries warn of her presence makes her very similar to banshees, as well.

La Llorona, or The Weeping Woman has been fairly popular in film, being showcased in several movies and television shows. She appears in the movies The Curse of the Crying Woman (1961), and J-ok’el (2007). She has also appeared in the TV series' Supernatural, and Grimm.

© 2019 Yamuna Hrodvitnir

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