Apr 3, 2007

Brazilian Native Folktales by Alberto da Costa e Silva

This is an interesting collection. However, I have to say it pales in comparison with other folktale collections I've read recently, namely Penguin's North American Trickster Tales. The problem with this book is that the sources of the stories seem to be mostly late 19th century/ early 20th century clergymen's or anthropologist's notes. And they seem to have tried to keep the stories as "genuine" as possible, but there's a patronizing attitude that comes across quite clearly, especially in the annotations, with expressions like "savages", "primitives" or even "the child-like intelligence of these simple-minded people" popping up much too often for my liking. There's also the fact that the attempt to keep the stories "genuine" ended up, with very few exceptions, sacrificing narrative flow.

However, I'd still say that this collection is worth reading. The stories are interesting, and there was one I particularly liked: Tahina-Can, a Eros and Psyche-ish story about two sisters and an elderly husband who secretly turns into a vigorous young man in the daylight.


  1. I've read a varied collection of fairy and folk tales over the years but not yet looked to Brazil. Your reviews have inspired me to seek some out though, thanks :)

    Heh, if you are looking into other collections, beware the Russian tales, they are a horridly pessimistic bunch.

  2. Do seek some out, they're quite wonderful and unlike anything else.

    The collections I read were in Portuguese, so I'm not sure of what's available in English, but there should be some good ones out there.

    I'm actually almost done reading a Russian collection - it was quite a contrast, yes. I'll post my thoughts in the next few days.


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