There are many different versions of this story. All of them agree that La Llorona was a beautiful woman who married the man she desired. Here is where they begin to vary though. Some of them take place in New Mexico while others have no specific location, just taking place in the Southwest. In some of the stories the man was wealthy forcing them to keep their marriage secret1 - until he is forced to marry another by his status, in others he was fickle leaving her for another woman, and in yet others he was merely a poor man that she had fallen for. All the stories involved the drowning of La Llorona's children in one of several ways.
- She drowns them because her husband has been paying more attention to them than her - placing the final nail in the coffin with his announcement that he will marry another woman.
- She drowns them because she has fallen for a man that seems to want her but not her children. After drowning them she comes to him in her blood-stained nightgown to show him what she has done for him. Horrified he turns her away.
- She drowns them in a fit of grief after their father is forced to marry another woman.
- She is a prostitute that aborts her children into the river.
- Her husband insists that he doesn't have the money for children and drowns her babies as soon as they are born- while she is too weak to do anything about it. This version has the shared trait of the husband being cursed as well.
After the error has been realized La Llorona drowns herself in grief - or is killed for her crimes by her community. The exception being the last version mentioned where even though she was weak she followed and tried to stop him from drowning her child. She jumped into the water after it even though she couldn't swim, then several days later her husband jumped in after her driven mad by her wailing her despite the fact that he also couldn't swim. Once she has been drowned as well she becomes one of the restless dead - some versions suggest that she was challenged at St Peter's gate2 as to the whereabouts of her children. She wanders the world looking for her children … or looking for replacements. The new children invariably being drowned as well.
Game and Story Use
- Perhaps children have been disappearing and the PCs are paid to find them.
- Perhaps they are paid to put the ghost to rest.
- Perhaps they are paid by someone that sees proof of her existence as a wonderful tourist draw to get that proof.
- Maybe someone is using her legend to keep people away from whatever they are up to.
- The New World of Darkness sourcebook Urban Legends ties la Llorona into the Bloody Mary legend and uses the backstory of the drowned babies (and their physical remains) as an avenue of attack against the ghost.
- Easily re-hashed into other settings - Medea from Greek mythology murdered her children to exact revenge on their father.
- Actually, one parent killing their children to punish the other seems disturbingly common.
- If you have PCs determined not to live up to their social obligations, they too can play a part in this story.
- When re-hashing, feel free to add local colour - make La Llorona a nun or other professional celibate (or give that role to the children's father - or both parents), or modernise it by having her be a compulsive aborter of her pregnancies.
- For a really dark idea, perhaps any parent guilty of the blood of their own children risks a similar fate - given the modern prevalence of abortion, some communities could be riven with infanticidal hungry ghosts…
- Potentially she could even be attracted by suitably aggressive child-custody disputes.
- This also has shades of much earlier child killing ghosts, often derived from infanticidal mothers or those dead in childbirth, but including female demons such as the lilitu and abyzou.