Mar 31, 2007

Brazilian Folktales by Luís da Câmara Cascudo

This book had been sitting on my shelf ever since I first visited Brazil two years ago, and as often is the case, I now wish I had read it sooner. It was a fast read - only 21 shortish tales from different regions of Brazil - and it seems to be good introduction to Brazilian folklore. But it left me wanting more.

These stories are like nothing else I've read before, and they have the landscape they're set in deeply engraved in them. Even when there are familiar folklore elements, they have a very local flavour: there was a story, "Cobra Norato" that was reminiscent of the Northern Europe Lindworm tales - to rid a young man of a spell that turns him into a snake, the heroine has to get him off the snake skin and them burn it. There was also a story that reminded me of the Legends of Ys - a city of supposed sinners was flooded as a form of punishment, and those who now live in the area can still hear the cocks crowing at the bottom of the lake.

These stories are a mix of historical and colonial elements, supernatural beings, Christian influences and old native beliefs, and the result is certainly very unique.


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