Brazilian folklore is a very extensive subject. It includes stories, legends, dances, superstitions and religious rituals, either brought to the land by the Portuguese, the Africans or already present in its native cultures. All of these manifestations are quite peculiar to each culture and different in each region of Brazil.
By learning about the folklore of a country, it is possible to understand the people and part of their history.
Among the most popular characters of the Brazilian folklore are:
It has great fiery eyes, by day almost blind, but by night it sees everything. According to the legend, Boitatá was a big serpent which survived a great deluge. To save itself, it entered a cave and rested in the darkness for centuries, so that its eyes grew. After it left the cave, it went through the fields looking for the bodies of animals to eat, but sometimes also attacked people and animals.
In a traditional Amazon River myth, at night an Amazon River Dolphin becomes a handsome young man who seduces girls, impregnates them, and then returns to the river in the morning to become an Amazon River Dolphin again. Local legends also state that the Dolphin is the guardian of the Amazonian Manatee.
In Tupi mythology, the Curupira is a male supernatural being that guards the forest. He usually takes the form of a boy with (literally) flaming hair and green teeth. His most startling characteristic, however, is that his feet are turned backwards, in order to protect the forest from the destructive habits of man, since he confuses hunters who may try to follow his tracks. He happily tolerates those who hunt for food, but is infuriated by those who hunt for the pleasure of it and will lay traps and confuse them so that they become eternally lost in the forest.
Iara (Tupi for "queen of the waters")
A mermaid that lives in the rivers, and sings to careless travelers, who become enchanted. She then drowns them. This myth is present in several cultures, but Iara is how Brazilian Indians called her.
Is a character of the Brazilian folklore. In most tales, it is the ghost of a woman that has been cursed by God for her sins. Condemned to turn into a fire-spewing headless mule and galloping through the countryside from Thursday's sundown to Friday's sunrise.
Perhaps the most well-known Brazilian myth. Saci is a black boy, with holes in the palms of his hand, a single leg and magical powers, who smokes a pipe and wears a magical red cap that enables him to disappear and reappear wherever he wishes. Considered an annoying prankster in most parts of Brazil, he will nevertheless grant wishes to anyone who manages to trap him or steal his magic cap.
Present in June Festivals, emerged in the beginning of the 18th century, originated from the sugar mills and cattle ranches of Northeastern Brazil. It is referred to as Boi-Bumbá or Boi-Calemba, Boi-de-Reis, Boi-Pintadinho. In the folkloric festival of the City of Parintins (about 300 km from Manaus) in the State of Amazonas, the bumba meu-boi gathers thousands of people who watch and participate in the dispute of two bulls represented by a red one, and a blue one.
The carnival is one of the major Brazilian feasts, with different characteristics and forms of celebration in several regions of the country, with the parades of samba associations and crowds gathered on the streets. June feasts in their turn, have huge bonfires, typical dances, music and food, present in the major Brazilian tourist destinations such as Caruaru, Campina Grande and Parintins.
Sources: (contents in portuguese)
National Centre for Folklore and Popular Culture
Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE)