Gringoes > Culture > The Gringoes Guide to Brazilian Folklore and Myths (Part 1)
The Gringoes Guide to Brazilian Folklore and Myths (Part 1)

By Pedro Souza, Staff Writer
March 5, 2016

Brazil is a country with a very rich folklore. Originally inhabited by hunter-gatherer tribes, the national mythology and folklore is still imbued with tales that have been passed down generation after generation from ancient times. When settlers came, the tales and myths of Europeans and Africans mingled with the native mythology to create a unique folklore that is ingrained in the culture of Brazil. As an introduction to Brazilian folklore, we have prepared this guide.

Saci Perer: Probably the most recognizable Brazilian myth, the Saci Perer has been depicted in countless movies, cartoons, comics and other forms of media. The Saci even has a national day, which is the 31st October. No one knows exactly the origins of the myth, but experts believe that it originated from the indigenous people of the south of the country, migrating later to the north. In the north, the myth of Saci was strongly shaped by African influences. Nowadays, he is depicted as a one-legged black boy that wears a red cap and is always smoking a pipe. According to legend, he rides around on dust devils and enjoys playing tricks such as letting animals loose, misplacing things and tying knots in manes and hairs. Supposedly, an offering of cachaa or tobacco pipe can stop his antics. Despite his liking for pranks, he is also said to be a connoisseur of forest herbs, and in some places it is said that one should ask the Saci for permission before collecting herbs. Folks also say that if the Saci decides to chase you, you can escape by crossing a stream, as water makes him lose his power.

Curupira: Another staple of Brazilian folklore, the Curupira is a mythical creature with European and West African influences. According to the legend, the Curupira is a red-haired dwarf with his feet turned backwards that inhabits the forests of Brazil. In most versions of the myth, he rides around on a pig and makes a high-pitched whistling sound, which can drive his victims to madness. He is said to be a guardian of the forest, preying on hunters that take more than what they need. He confuses his victims by placing traps and confusing them by leaving tracks with his backwards feet. Legend goes that if being chased by a Curupira, one should leave a tied knot in a vine, which will distract him. In some places, hunters asked the Curupira for permission before going out hunting.

Boto Cor-de-rosa: The Boto Cor-de rosa is a cetacean found in the Amazon river and known in english as the Amazon river dolphin. According to the folklore of the North of Brazil, the Boto has the power of transforming himself into an attractive human male. Legend says he joins the "Festa Junina" (June parties) disguised as a human male wearing a hat to hide the hole on top of his head. In this form, he is said to seduce and make love to women, disappearing into the waters when morning comes. This is why in some parts of Brazil people will call a child with no father a "child of the boto".

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