“The pecan groves of Las Cruces, NM are plenty worrisome during the day. For most of us used to living in the desert any large cluster of trees is freaky and unnatural; the proverbial mote in God’s eye. At night the pecan groves take on a life of their own and you have to be careful to avoid the irrigation ditches that pop out of the landscape with no warning.
We had just stumbled across one of those tiny irrigation rivers, nearly falling in and laughing at ourselves in the moon light when her hand tightened on mine. Four hundred feet away, was a woman leaning into the water and wailing. Even considering she was wailing in the dark pecan grove, something was just … off … about her.
I tugged Alyssa’s hand, that mischievous bit of chivalry still left in me demanding I go help the woman. Alyssa stood fast, ‘Don’t go,’ she whispered. ‘Don’t move. Don’t breathe.’
‘She might need our help,’ I whispered.
‘No one can help her,’ Alyssa said with a scared glint in her eye. ‘She died years ago and now she wanders the Earth looking for her lost kids. The kids she drowned.'”
Like all good stories, the story of La Llarona starts in Mexico City.
Wait, that’s not entirely right.
It starts with a young woman named Maria who falls in love with a man in Mexico City. It’s not the Mexico City part that makes it a good story, it’s the falling in love part that makes it a good story. She is, of course, beautiful. The most beautiful woman in the world according to some sources. It’s that same tired meme that pops up in all these stories; the woman is drop-dead gorgeous and the man is the most handsome man who ever graced the planet. Just once I’d like to see a morality tale like this where the guy was a goober and the woman was just a generally nice person. Maria is usually not referred to as a nice person; she’s often described as stuck up and snooty.
Back to Maria, though. The problem is Maria has children and, in her eyes, they’re an obstacle to her being with the man she loves. Deciding that logic will drive her actions she drowns her children in a river and heads out to meet her new life with her exciting new man. So she’s crazy hot and generally crazy.
Here’s the problem though, the proverbial monkey wrench that gets casually chucked into her plans: he’s not interested in her. Continuing her logical reasoning she drowns herself in the river. And there the sad and alarming tale of Maria ends and the tale of La Llorona begins.
Upon reaching the pearly gates a destitute, depressed, and probably drenched Maria faces Saint Peter. The old saint asks her where her children are. At this point Maria shows her first bit of rational thought and, rather than just looking around and mumbling “they’re here somewhere,” she admits the truth. The pitiable thing about this young woman is it took her death before she finally confronted her wrong-doing. Saint Peter, being the affable chap that he is, doesn’t immediately condemn her to Hell for her misdeeds. He tells her she can’t enter Heaven without her children and sends her ghost back to find her lost children. At this point the girl who was Maria becomes the ghost La Llorona, the Weeping Woman, condemned to haunt the rivers forever looking for her drowned kids. The kids are probably smart enough to hide from her; she did kill them after all.
La Llorona is said to haunt rivers, searching endlessly her children and generally scaring the bejeezus out of people.
For the most part the sad tale of La Llorona is a morality tale and it can be difficult to see her as a monster. Someone whose circumstances moved beyond her control, sure, but the monster part can be a difficult pill to swallow. Bear in mind, though, La Llorona proved herself capable of drowning her own children for love in life and plenty of tales tell of her abducting children and trying to pass them off as her own. Wise old Saint Pete hasn’t fallen for the trick yet, but she keeps trying. That right there makes her enough of a monster for all intents and purposes.
There are plenty of variations on the story that have been passed down through the ages but they all follow the same basic story: beautiful young woman kills her kids and has to spend eternity looking for them.
As far as story telling goes, the legend of La Llorona has been passed down for generations. She’s been in movies, books, oral stories, pictures, and nightmares. I’ve never used her in a story, but I find her tale fascinating.
Size: Her ghost is the size of a normal woman
Speed: Generally reported as slow
Attack: Fear and the capability to kill kids
Special Abilities: She’s a ghost with a crippled moral compass
Armor: None, but regular weapons can’t touch her
Environment: Haunts rivers
Alignment: Arguably leaning toward the evil side of the spectrum but she can’t be too bad since St. Pete didn’t send her straight to Hell