Friday, 29 June 2012

Okay. I've never blogged before, so I have no idea how this is gonna go. The idea of this blog is to talk about Brazil - it's culture, language, and colloquial language, as well as anything anyone is wondering about.

I'll start this post with some basic introduction to Brazilian folklore, as some of it is very different from the traditional more commonly known European stories. We do have the Grimm stories as well, although some details and character names are different.

We have more characters than specific stories about them, although they are often included in pop culture, such as the classic Monteiro Lobato children's book series “Sítio do Pica-Pau Amarelo” (The Yellow Woodpecker Ranch) or in the wildly popular Turma da Mônica comic books, both of which I will blog about at a later date.

Keep in mind details in folklore vary from area to area – these are the versions I grew up hearing about. If you ask someone from a diferent state or even a diferent family from the same city some of the details of these creatures could vary, and both versions are equally correct.

Also, I am aware some of these may not be all that politically correct nowadays. But folklore is folklore. It's old and doesn't make all that much sense half the time, let alone follow political correctness.


Boitatá is a giant snake made of fire that lives in rivers and punishes anyone who sets fire to forests.

Two representations of  Boitatá


Literally, “The Stomper”. She is a mean old woman spirit that stomps on people's bellies as they sleep and thus gives them bad dreams and causes them to sleep badly. 

                    A Cuca

The Cuca is somewhat equivalent to the European boogeyman (though the official translation of boogeyman is “bicho papão”). She is a witch/spirit monster that steals away bad children and takes them to her lair to eat them. She is described as looking like an alligator or reptilian creature of similar appearance. It is a recurring antagonist in Monteiro Lobato's classic stories, which I will go into further detail some other time. 

The Cuca from the Sítio tv series

                                                                            A Mula-Sem-Cabeça

Literally, “The Headless Mule”. She is a woman who laid with a (Catholic) priest and is thus cursed by God to remain a monster as punishment. They are depicted as being a headless mule that has fire blazing out of where the head should be. One can break the curse by successfully putting a bridle on her – though how one is meant to do that when there is no head to put the bridle on I have no idea. They are said to roam the countryside at night searching for unlucky travellers to haunt.

                                                        Iara/Mãe D'Água

The Turma da Mônica rendition of Iara

Mãe D'Água means "Mother of the Water(s)". Iara is a mermaid who rules over the rivers and is the protector of streams and rivers as well as the creatures that live within it and near it. Like most mermaids, she enchants men and then drags them down to the watery depths to their death.                                                           
Iara charming her victim

The Caipora is a nature spirit similar to Curupira. It rides a wild pig and protects the forest animals. Like Curupira, it is angered by over-hunting and poaching.

Caipora from the 1990's TvCultura children's show
Castelo Rá-Tim´Bum

                                              Saci Pererê

The Saci is the most symbolic folklore creature in Brazil. He's a mischievous trickster that likes to cause trouble, like braiding a horse's mane or making milk go sour. He looks like a young black boy with only one leg who wears a red cap and likes to smoke a pipe. The Saci travels inside a mini tornado-like dust cloud. You van capture it by throwing a strainer or sieve into the dust cloud. Once you have captured the Saci you must take away his red cap. While it is in your possession the Saci must do what you tell him. Recently the 31rst of October was made “Dia do Saci” (Saci Day).

This version is from a famous comic strip series in Brazil 
called "Turma do Pererê" by cartoonist Ziraldo.

                                                                                        O Boto

A Boto seducing a young woman.
Literally, “The Porpoise”. The Boto is somewhat similar to the Irish Selkies. He is a porpoise by day and at night becomes a handsome young man, who then goes into town and seduces young women. You can tell a Boto from a human because they always wear a hat to hide the blowhole that remains in the middle of their forehead as a remnant from their porpoise shape.

                                                 O Curupira

The Curupira is a nature spirit in charge of caring for the forest. He looks like a little boy, except his hair is made of fire and his feet are on backwards. They are neutral towards humans if you are hunting for food, as hunting like this is part of nature. If you are poaching, however, or hunting merely for sport, the Curupira is a being you most definitely want to avoid. The feature of his backwards feet is important because he uses his feet to make tracks leading away from the animals and right into danger, such as cliffs or bogs.

                                              O Lobisomem

Literally, “The Werewolf”. “Lobis” is derived from “Lobo” (wolf) and “homem” (man). Actually, the English equivalent is the same but in reverse: “Were” is an old word for “man”, and “wolf”... well, that's pretty self explanatory. In Brazil they are usually depicted as the European werewolf, such as Lobi in the Turma da Mônica comics. 

Lobi, the werewolf from Turma da Mônica's  spinoff comic series Turma do Penadinho.
However, the Brazilian traditional “werewolf” is a giant pig, with ears that cover its face. It might seem silly, but this probably comes from countryside areas where they raise very large pigs, which are indeed very vicious and will readily kill any children (and the occasional adult) who happen to fall into their pen.
No matter whether depicted as a wolf or pig a werewolf is always the seventh son born to a family with six daughters.

This is the only creature that I know a specific folk story about. I was told this tale by my friend's mom, whose family comes from a little town near our city. It goes more or less like this:

Once upon a time a family who had six daughters had a son. As such, he was a werewolf. He was not aware of this, since his eldest sister had died before he was born.

Every full moon he would sneak out of the house, hang his clothes on a peg by the pig pen and jump in. He would roll around in the straw, and become a giant, vicious pig with ears so big they flopped over its eyes, and all you could see was its gaping maw of glistening teeth. It would roam the countryside, eating any creature unlucky enough to cross its path.

His wife was also unaware of his condition. One day, she went to visit a friend for the day and took her infant son with her. She ended up staying longer than expected.

Stay the night,” her friend offered, “It'll be dark soon.”

But the woman declined, sure she could get home safely. She left, and she was three thirds of the way home when she heard a rustling noise up ahead. When she called out, no one answered, but the noise staedily got closer and closer. Suddenly, she saw it: a giant ferocious pig was running straight at her.

She quickly swaddled her son to her back and ran to the nearest tree, climbing as fast as she could. As she did so, however, her son started to slip from the sling. She realized this a moment too late, and could only watch in horror as her son fell from her back and straight into the pig's awaiting jaws. The pig stayed surrounding the tree until near daybreak, when it turned and ran back the way it had come.

She waited until daylight before climbing down, wondering how on Earth she was going to tell her husband about their son's death. When she arrived home her husband greeted her at the door. When she looked up, he was smiling at her. In between two of his teeth was a wisp of red flannel, just like the one she had bundled up their son in the night before.”

If you think that story's creepy now imagine hearing it for the first time at age 8, in the dark, with only a flashlight. O.o;;;

Alright, there we go. My first ever blog post. I feel so proud....