Sunday, April 9, 2017

The richness of the rainforests (Following folktales around the world 20. - Brazil)

Today I continue new blog series titled Following folktales around the world! If you would like to know what the series is all about, you can find the introduction post here. You can find all posts under the Following Folktales label, or you can follow the series on Facebook!

Brazilian folktales
Livia de Almeida, Ana Portella, Margaret Read MacDonald
Libraries Unlimited, 2006.

Much like the other volumes of the series, this book was very well researched, well balanced, and presented by practicing storytellers (the editing still needs work, though). It contains a wide range of stories, both in terms of folk genre and in cultural origins, reflecting the rich diversity of the country itself. There is a concise introduction, notes and sources for all the stories included, and even some recipes.
A quick, but educational and enjoyable read. And some lovely stories.


Among the indigenous myths and legends, the Creation of the Amazon River stood out to be for its beauty. It told about the love between Sun and Moon that could never be, and how the Moon cried the Great River in her grief. I also re-read an old favorite of mine, the Tupi myth of the How the night came to be, where people got the Night enclosed in a coconut from the Great Snake, but the unusual noises from inside (crickets, frogs) made them open it too soon, and they all turned into monkeys.
This is Cutia
In the animal stories, Jaguar was once again usually on the receiving end of things. In one tale, he was killed by Turtle who jumped on his head from a tree; in another, Cutia pretended to be the King of Termites by covering himself in honey and termites, in order to trick him.
I was especially pleased with the "Scary Tales" chapter. It is not usually my favorite genre, so I was pleasantly surprised by how many of them stuck with me. I loved Devil in a Bottle, where a jealous husband left his wife to the Devil while going on a trip - but the wife tricked the Devil into a bottle, and did whatever she wanted. Creature of the Night was darker and haunting: A girl was courted by a mysterious stranger, but her dog kept him away from her, even after she killed it in frustration. Another girl barely got away from the Beetle Man she married - he turned into a large black beetle every night, and killed animals. There were two kibungo legends, brought over from the Bantu traditions: The kibungo is a monster that kidnaps people in the pouch on its back, and eats them. In one tale, a girl was rescued by her brave grandma; in the other, a boy who was friends with the birds managed to save his whole community.


Guaraná fruit
The Story of the Guaraná bore a certain resemblance to another well-known myth: A girl was exiled from an idyllic, lush forest because she had been seduced by a snake... The end of the story also echoed many myths around the world where a new plant is born from a buried body (in this case, the eyes, which makes sense, when you look at the guaraná fruit). I was reminded of North American Coyote stories by Crab with the Flying Eyes, where a crab could make his eyes fly out of his head and look around - but when Jaguar tried the same trick, her eyes were eaten by fish, and Buzzard had to make her new ones. Familiar from other South American traditions was the Party in Heaven, where Turtle snuck into a party for birds, hidden inside the guitar of Vulture - but she was discovered, and made the return trip a lot faster...
It was surprising to encounter a tale of Arab/Persian origins - The Cockroach's Wedding. What was not surprising, however, was that most "Tales of Enchantment" were familiar from European traditions (e.g. Louse skin, Kind and Undkind Girls, Dancing Princesses, Frog Princess, etc.); although all of them had their local spin and flavor.
And, obviously, there were tricksters. The local guy is called Pedro Malasartes (distant cousin of Pedro Urdemalas from Spanish-speaking countries). The Tar Doll was also a common motif that appeared here, echoing many African and American trickster stories. There were many familiar ones in the "Death Tales" chapter - such as the very well known Tía Miseria, and a Brazilian version of "Meeting in Samarkand."

Where to next?


  1. ooo i did love your fairytales series last year and will definitely be keeping my eye out for more of these posts! That fruit sure does look lush and you can see the eyes. Wow. :O

    Joy @ THE Joyous Living

  2. You are so knowledgeable about this subject matter, I find your whole blog fascinating! I'm sure I'll be revisiting often to brush up on folktale themes, as I'm writing a story focused on groups with only am oral culture, and you've already given me so many ideas! Thanks!
    Jamie Lyn Weigt | Writing Dragons Blog