Story – Brazil

Saci- Perere

“Esta e uma lenda que se originou no nordeste do Brasil e foi influenciado pelos indios que povoavam naquela regiao do pais. A estoria e sobre um jovem negro, que usa um chapeu vermelho, fuma cachimbo e tem apenas uma perna. Ele perdeu a perna numa briga de capoeira, que uma danca de artes marcias originado pelos escravos de plantacoes de cana no
Brasil. A caracteristica sobre este menino e que ele e travesso. Ele e notorio por entrar nas casas das pessoas e roubar coisas. Ele assombra os viajantes nas florestas, e rouba as coisas pessoais deles. Ele faz as travessuras apenas por brincadeira e nao machuca ninguem. Esta lenda tem passado por varias geracoes e hoje Saci-Perere e uma personagem destacada durante o Halloween Brasileiro. Alem disso, ele aparece como personagem de varios livros infantis.

This is a tale that originated in the northeastern part of Brazil and was influenced by the Indians who inhabited that part of the country. The story is based on a young, black kid who wears a red hat, smokes a pipe, and has one leg. He lost his leg in a capoeira fight, a martial-arts dance started by the slaves on the plantations of Brazil. The thing about this boy is that he is troublesome. He is notorious for breaking into people’s houses and stealing. He roams through the forests, scares people, and steals their personal belongings.  He does this for fun and doesn’t cause harm or deliberately hurt anyone. This tale has been passed on over generations now. Saci- Perere is a popular figure during Brazilian Halloween (is marketable and commercialized). Also, this boy appears in popular children’s story books.” –Peter Wen


My father does not have personal connections with this popular Brazilian tale. He moved to Brazil when he was five years old and wasn’t exposed to as many Brazilian fairytales or legends since his parents grew up in Taiwan and engaged him in a different cultural environment. He heard about it through the grapevine and in the media tailored to the younger crowd. The story’s origins are crucial to understanding Brazil’s history of colonization. Back in 18th century Brazil, African slaves would tell stories of this popular Brazilian character to scare little children. While Saci played tricks on people using his magical red hat, he was also the brunt of practical jokes. It was common to see Saci trapped in a glass bottle, which emulated stories of Arabian mythology. The Muslim’s occupation of parts of Portuguese territory influenced the circulation of the story. The oicotype has travelled through several regions in Brazil and adapted to local cultures. One variation says the story was partly influenced by Christian folklore and that Saci symbolized demonic forces (different from our traditional perception of “demonic” and more along the lines of innocent troublemaker). At the very least, he has become a marketable product in both merchandise and children’s tales, especially around the time of Halloween. The image of the one legged black boy with holes in his hands and a red hat has become an iconic figure in the world of children’s tales.

Perhaps children can identify with Saci, who is both mischievous and good-hearted. One cannot help but sympathize with Saci’s one leg and decrepit physical state, which may symbolize the poverty that exists in Brazil. Perhaps, Saci represents the lower class who is further disadvantaged by his physically handicapped state. It comes to show that despite certain setbacks, Saci and other handicapped, underprivileged individuals in his situation can still move forward and live a normal life. He is a relatable character who can provide inspiration to those who struggle physically or financially (he always seems to make ends meet). At the same time, those who don’t struggle still delight in his good-hearted, harmless nature and take comfort in his perseverance.