La Llorona is the legend of a woman who has lost her children, and who can be heard, and sometimes seen, weeping in the night. La Llorona (the name means “She who weeps” in Spanish) is in most stories said to be Mexican, although sometimes she is a woman who lived in the American Southwest. As with most urban legends, there are many variations of La Llorona, but the central plot remains intact: The woman has lost her children, usually because she herself has killed them because she wants to marry a man who doesn’t want any children. She is so anguished over the depressing circumstances that she kills herself as well, and is thus doomed forever to roam her native land, weeping and wringing her hands. Sometimes she is said to be searching for her children, and sometimes she is said to appear only as a warning to those who see her.
Here is a typical version of the La Llorona legend by Proserpina (email@example.com):
“Sightings abound throughout the Southwest. Supposedly she drowned her children in the acequia (irrigation ditch,) and now she roams the ditches looking for her, or any, children. Usually the story is told with the intentions of keeping kiddies away from the ditches, so they won’t drown.”
The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits by Rosemary Guiley tells a more traditional Mexican version, which occurs in Mexico City around 1550. According to legend, an indian princess fell in love with a Mexican nobleman. The nobleman promised to marry her, but betrayed her and married someone else instead. The ultimate result of this bit o’ treachery is that the princess murdered her children in a fit of rage, with a knife given to her by the nobleman. Afterwards, she wandered the streets crying for her children, and was eventually hanged for her sins. Since then her ghost has been searching for her children.
Another interesting feature of the La Llorona legend is that it appears to have merged with the Vanishing Hitchhiker legend. La Llorona is reported by some to hitch a ride on a road near to the place where she drowned her children.
Following are reader comments I have received over the years.
La Llorona (1)
Date: Mon, 21 Dec 1998 08:27:48 +0200
From: stella (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Hello, I’ve been lurking quite a while. I am usually shy, and it’s hard for me to start talking with new people; but I have heard a story about La Llorona, different from your versions. It keeps bothering me. So I wonder if anybody of you knows it and can some details. It goes like this: It all happened in Mexico. A beautiful girl called La Llorona fell in love with a wealthy Spanish gentelman. He owned a factory on a river. The factory polluted water and killed the fish.La Llorona was from a poor family. She drank the water from the river – no filters at home. La Llorona began to live with her beloved but things didn’t go too well. She got pregnant and gave birth to twins who were blind and deformed hands. She was in despaire and drowned her children so they don’t suffer. When the children were dead she committed a suicide and every night her ghost is seen on the banks of the river looking for her children.
La Llorona (2)
Date: Tue, 27 Jul 1999 14:49:29 -0700 (PDT)
From: Ligeia (email@example.com)
Subject: la Llorona
I was just reading your ghost stories FAQ and wanted to share a version of the La Llorona ghost story/urban legend that you have posted. The La Llorona story is one that I have heard before in several versions, always involving a woman of Spanish/Mexican/Hispanic/Latino/Native Amercan heritage. While reading your faq, I made realized that I’ve read a version of the La Llorona story in which the woman is German.
The story I read was about the haunting of a particular building or palace in Germany (I don’t remember which one) where a white lady is supposed to roam. The story of the white lady is that some 400 years ago she was a beautiful widow wtih two small children, & a member of the Royal Court. She and the eldest son of a very important and titled family had fallen in love, but he told her that he could not marry her because there were two pairs of prying eyes constantly watching them. She assumed he ment her two children.
So that night she took a long golden pin and killed both of her children, pushing the pin through the ear and into their brain. When her lover found out, he recoiled in horror, and explained that he was talking about his parents, who didn’t approve of their relationship. When she found this out, she went completely insane and killed herself.
Ever after, her spirit roams the palace halls, looking for her children & her lover. That’s the story as I heard it. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. 🙂
La Llorona (3)
Date: Tue, 6 Jun 2000 12:29:17 -0700 (PDT)
yourname Kathryn O’Neil
Since I live very near the border between Texas and Mexico, I have learned many of the local legends from both sides of the border. One of the most popular is the story of La Llorona (pronounced La-yeh-roh-na). According to legend, La Llorona was a local woman who had many many children, but no husband. (This is typical of the area) She had a lover, but he did not want her because of her children. He did not like children. In order to please this man, La Llorona drowned all of her children in one of the drainage canals in the area. I have never heard what happened to this unhappy woman in the end, but they say that if a child is walking alone at night near a canal or other source of water, that she will take him away and drown him. Supposedly, several young children have dissappeared in this manner. While I am not really a believer in ghosts, this story told by a friend of my younger sister gives me chills. She is a very Christian girl (as am I) and had no reason to make this up.
Her name is Julia, and this is her story. Julia is 18 or 19 now, but when she was younger (maybe 7 or 8) she and a friend had been playing together at the house of another friend. Well, they had played for a while, and when it was time for them to go home, they walked together since it was evening, and Julia was not allowed to walk home alone at night. Well, the girls got to the place where they had to separate. Julia begged her friend to walk all the way home with her, and have her mom drive the girl to her house. Unfortunately, the girl refused, and Julia was left alone to walk the remaining block or two in the dark. She went very fast, hoping to get home before the sun set completely and she got into trouble, but it was too late. As the last rays died on the horizon, Julia was right next to a canal. From the canal, she heard a high pitched, unearthly voice shreiking HER NAME. Terrified by a voice calling her that did not sound human, Julia took off running as fast as she could. She told me that she could hear something running behind her, and something heavy hit her on the back. She almost fell down, but managed to keep her feet, and got home safely.
Julia never said that she thought it was La Llorona, in fact, she never drew any conclusions about the experience except that it was terrifying. This could be explained as the overactive imagination of a little girl alone in the dark, but maybe it was not. Maybe something did come out of that canal that night. Anything is possible, but I would not want to walk past a canal late at night alone…
La Llorona (4)
From: “Connie Huante” (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Subject: Here’s another version of La Llorona…
Date: Thursday, October 09, 2003 10:49 PM
Here is a nother version of La Llorona, as told to me by my grandmother when I was a small child…
La Llorona was a beautiful and vain widow, whose husband died unexpectedly when he left old Mexico on business, leaving her with two very small children to care for. However, being left with virtually little to survive on, she ended up working nights at a local tavern. One eveninng, a black carriage led by several black horses drew up to the entrance of the Tavern. Everyone turned toward the door, waiting to see who would come into such a humble town in such a luxurious carriage. La Llorona, who had been talking to one of the locals felt her heart stop beating when in entered the most handsome man she had ever seen. He had piercing blue eyes, fair skin and black goatee. He removed his tall black hat and silk cape, revealing underneath an evening suit made of the finest cloth, and thick mane of jet black hair. He turned in her direction and their eyes locked. It was instant heated attraction. He smiled seductively, revealing glorious white teeth, and beckoned her over to his table. The music became thunderously hipnotic and the room spun as she felt herself float toward him.
He told her he was a nobleman on visit from Spain and would be returning within a few weeks. He asked that she come to him each night — exclusively — at the tavern. She agreed.
The continued to see each other each evening. She became completely seduced by his looks, manner and wealth.
One night he informed her that he would be returning to Spain in a couple of days. She was devastated. He took her face into his hands and said, “I want you to come with me and live like a queen, as should be.” She instantly agreed, but then he raised his hand and said, “There is just one thing. Your children cannot come. Bringing a woman with children into my life would be a questionnable stain on my prominent position. I cannot afford to have people start gossip.” She didn’t know what to think. He rose to his feet and told her he would give her the night to think about it. If she agreed to come, then he would meet her at 9PM in the tavern the next night, and they would be married the following day.
La Llorona went home that night and lay in bed not knowing what to do. However, she knew in her heart she could not let him leave without her, thus denying herself the chance of living like a queen. A glorious dream she had longed after. After all, why else would God have made her the most beautiful woman in Town, if not to marry into nobility some day. She had thought of dropping off her children at the church, where they might be raised in the orphanage, but then it occurred to her that everyone in town knew her and her children well, and feared that word of her abandoning her children would find its way back to Spain and cause her and her love problems. She knew what she had to do. She took her two infant children in bundled blankets, walked out to a well a distance from her house, and there, mercilessly let their bodies fall into the well. She walked away at first as if nothing had happened. But then the wind began to blow quite strong and she thought she heard the loud wails of a baby. She covered her ears and ran back down to her house.
The next night, she met with the nobleman in the Tavern. She whispered to him what she had done, and seemed somewhat anquished, but the nobleman gently raised her from her chair and merely said, “You did what you had to do. Now let me keep my promise. You will come with me tonight and we will be wed in the morning.” So La Llorona entered his beautiful carriage and they travelled to the mansion where he was staying. When she entered the huge palace like house, she was curious to see that there were no other people there to tend them. It was only dimply lit in some parts, but dark for the most part. He turned to her and said, let’s go upstairs to my chamber. They climbed several flights of stairs, and once in the chamber he turned to her and asked her, “Before I marry you, will you promise me that you will give yourself to me completely? All of you… your mind, heart, and soul?”
“Why yes, of course — anything for you” she replied.” They embraced, and kissed, but as they kissed, she noticed he was starting to laugh. It got louder, and louder as he held her closer and tighter, and the room seemed to spin swiftly and go red… then she looked into his eyes — and they too were as if lit by fire.
“You have given yourself to me completely and there is no turning back.” He said with a menacing smirk. Then she heard clicking sounds on the floor, and when she pushed herself away, she saw that he had hoolves for feet, and a tail… and on his head horns. It was him. She had given herself completely to Satan himself. She began to lose her mind and screamed a horrifying scream, then turned to the nearest window and jumped out, shattering the glass and falling several stories below. She died instantly. Her soul was lost for all eternity.
…And it said that late at night in that part of old Mexico, you can still hear the loud screams and sobbing of a woman, followed by sinister laughter, and then the faint wailing of a small baby…
La Llorona (5)
Subject: another version of La Llorona
Date: Thursday, July 08, 2004 8:14 PM
La Llorona is one Luisa Marquesa Del Llano, who bore children, one boy one girl to one Nu o De Montesclaros. He tried to take the children with an order from the viceroy of New Spain (now Mexico) instead of turning them over she stabbed (not drowned) them.
My question is those involved were members of the nobility, early spanish settlers. Hasn’t anyone tried to search for records (since they were nobles some mention of them should be available in Spanish archives) to at least verify whether these people existed. Also she was hanged for her crime, there should be records of her trial and excecution.
La Llorona (6)
From: “Alberto Ruis” (AL_7_9_6@msn.com)
Subject: La Llorona
Date: Monday, October 18, 2004 8:38 PM
Another version of La Llorona is that La Llorona fell in love with a handsome man and they loved each other and married each other and had 3 children. Later on the husband fell in love with some other woman and left the family to go off with this woman. When La Llorona heard she was so sad she had nothing to live for so she was going to kill herself and take her children with her. When she did she went up to the gates of heaven but her children weren’t with her. She met god and god told her that she could only enter heaven when she comes back and finds her children. So she goes weeping and searching for children.
Subject: La llorona
Date: Sunday, May 30, 2004 10:51 PM
Many people here in the U.S. believe in La Llorona. December of 2003 I went to go visit my family in Zacatecas, Fresnillo its in Mexico. I kind of believed in La Llorona, IM a 14 year old girl who believes in those stories. When I was over in Mexico I asked my cousin Christina about La Llorona, she is also 14. She told me that she was real. She said that the reason why La Llorona wanders around in the middle of the night is because she is looking for her children. The story is that she drowned her children because she loved this guy but he wouldn’t be with her because of her kids, so she killed them. So now she wonders around in the night looking for them. My cousin, and my aunts and grandparents say that if a child sees her and La Llorona sees the child she will think that the child is one of her kids and then she will kill them. My cousin says that she heard and thinks she saw la Llorona and she closed her eyes and she started to pray. She said that La Llorona disappeared and nothing happened to her. But in times she says she hears her crying for her kids, saying “o mis hijos” (Oh my children). I also heard her once in the middle of the night, or it might have been my imagination, I doubt it. I started to panic and then cried. That’s the only time I heard her and I hope no one ever comes across her.