Author Archive
Childhood
Legends

The Legend of Saci Pererê: a Brazilian Legend

Informant: The legend of Saci Pererê is a one-legged man who lives in the forest, and he loves to play tricks. He has a magical red cap where he can disappear wherever he wants and reappear wherever he wants. He loves to play tricks and he loves to steal kids’ toys and set animals loose, really he just plays tricks on everything. If anything inside of a house goes awry, it is said that it is Saci Pererê’s fault. Also, the legend says that when Saci Pererê does a spin dance, it is the cause of every forest tornado. The only way to capture him in this swirl is to throw a rosary into the tornado. The legend says that if you come in to steal herbs or destroy the forest, Saci Pererê will come after you with his tricks if you don’t get his permission before you take herbs, as he is an expert on herbs and medicines. The legend is meant to scare away people who came to ruin the forest.

Context: The informant grew up in Brazil and heard this legend during her childhood, which is how the informant felt connected to it: it brought the informant back to their roots in Brazil. This is the way in which the informant interprets the legend: they interpret it in the context of hearing about it and growing up in Brazil. The interview took place in a typical, face-to-face, storytelling situation with the informant.

Analysis:

The Legend of Saci Pererê contains all of the characteristics of a traditional legend: it takes place in our world, in this case, in the forest, it has questionable truth value, and it is about questions about factuality and wondering what is real. This legend has great entertainment value for Brazil: it is a legend that has been passed down through generations in that it is a legend that protects the forest, and the informant even said that there is a National Day for Saci Pererê on October 31; this conveys how popular this legend is in Brazil. However, there is a greater cultural significance for this legend: the legend of Saci Pererê ultimately states how Saci Pererê is protecting the forest through his antics and jokes when people come in searching for herbs. This brings in the issue of bioprospecting, where big pharmaceutical companies hire researchers to go to indigenous cultures around the world, see what herbs and cures they are using, and steal these and put them into their medicine, stealing all of the royalties without giving proper credit to the indigenous cultures. The legend of Saci Pererê is a folkloric way of coping with this travesty: there is a character in the legend who offers protection from this. It is a way for the Brazilian people to offer themselves comfort against the huge pharmaceutical companies who have stolen from them. In this way, it shows how legends can be protective for the people who believe them: it provides comfort, security, and identity for the Brazilian people, and this is applicable to many other legends as well. Therefore, the Legend of Saci Pererê not only has great entertainment value for Brazil, but also offers comfort and protection from the negative effects of bioprospecting.

Annotation: For another version of this legend, see p. 391 of Carvahlo, Leonardo F. B. S., et al. “Teaching Brazilian Folklore through Video Games: a Way to Motivate Students.” Nuevas Ideas En Informática Educativa TISE , 2015, www.tise.cl/volumen11/TISE2015/385-396.pdf.

 

Earth cycle
Myths
Narrative

Myth of the Creation of Seasons in Maui

Informant: The ancient Hawaiian myth of Maui straining the Sun is basically that Maui is an ancient chief and his mom was complaining that the days were not long enough because her kapa, which is like a cloth made out of bark, didn’t have enough time to dry in the Sun, so he took his sister’s hair and made a rope out of it and used it to lasso the Sun’s rays. When he caught the Sun with the rope that he made, the Sun was begging for her life and they came to an agreement that the days would be long in the summer and short in the winter, and so that’s the Hawaiian story of how seasons happened.

Context: The informant is a USC student who is from Maui, and has lived in Maui their whole life. They heard this story growing up on Maui, and they remember it because it is the myth of how their home was created. To the informant, this piece is reminiscent of home and the place in which they grew up; this is how they interpret it. This piece was performed in a traditional, face-to-face, storytelling interview, where the informant told me the story and I recorded it.

Analysis:

This narrative piece of folklore is a myth, and it is very indicative of the genre of myths as it is a creation story for a specific location, in this case Maui, taking place outside of this world (in the sky), as it involves the Sun. This myth is intended to tell the story of the creation of the seasons of the island of Maui, and it tells the story from beginning to end, involving the primary character of Maui, whose interaction with the Sun leads to the creation of the world as they know it in Maui. This conveys not just how this story is a traditional myth in that it displays the characteristics of traditional myths: that it is sacred truth, has no relation to our world, and is a creation story that sets up the weather seasons of everyday life, but to me, it also conveys how myths relate to the physical characteristics of the location they are placed in. The climate of Maui is tropical and therefore very sunny, so it only makes sense that the Sun is a central part of this myth about Maui. The physical characteristics of the location observed by the people of Maui translate into their myths, and this is very indicative of a characteristic of myths that I have noticed throughout this class: myths often reflect the world surrounding them in ways that may not have been previously thought of, such as climate, geography, physical surroundings, etc. I know that I did not realize how much this aspect contributed to myths until interviewing the informant and analyzing the story of Maui, and it conveys the way in which geographical locations affect myths. This myth gives a way for the Hawaiian people to pass on the story of the creation of seasons through generations, in a way that sounds familiar to them because of the characteristics that come from the geographical location they are in. This conveys how this myth can create a sense of identity among the Hawaiian people, through the commonalities they will recognize in this myth. Overall, the myth of Maui conveys both a traditional and nontraditional way of analyzing the myth.

Annotation: For another version of this myth, see Chapter XVI, Section 1 (Kalakaua, 63-65), “Hawaiian Mythology, Chapter XVI, Maui the Trickster.” Ulukau,

www.ulukau.org/elib/cgi-bin/library?e=d-0beckwit1-000Sec–11en-50-20-frameset-book–1-010escapewin&a=d&d=D0.18&toc=0.

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