Story – Brazil

Umba- meu- boi- “Beat up Against The Ox”

“A traducao do titulo e bater contra o boi. Durante a colheita de cana de acucar no Brasil, um fazendeiro rico comprou um boi e deu de presente a sua filha. O fazendeiro contratou para a sua filha um gerente para tomar conta do boi. Um dia, a mulher do gerente, que estava gravida, estava ansiosa para comer uma lingua de boi. Entao o gerente deu um jeito de roubar o  boi e matou para atender o desejo da mulher. Passado um tempo, o fazendeiro descobriu que o boi foi morto e assim contratou imediatamente um page para tentar ressuscita-lo. O fazendeiro ficou com muita raiva do gerente, mas entendeu as razoes dele de atender os desejos da mulher e assim o perdou. No fim, o boi e ressucitado. Esta estoria aperece em pecas e musicas  no nordeste do Brasil.

The title translates to “beat up against the ox.” During the Brazilian sugar cane harvest, a rich farmer purchased an ox and gave it to his daughter as a gift. The farmer hired a ranch manager to take care of the ox for his daughter. One day, the ranch manager’s pregnant wife was craving ox tongue. The manager managed to steal the ox and kill it for his wife. Later, the farmer found the dead ox and immediately found a spiritual doctor to resurrect the ox. The farmer was angry with the manager, but understood his reasons for getting the ox tongue for his wife. The farmer forgave the manager. This story has appeared in plays and songs in Northeastern Brazil.” – Peter Wen


My dad did a lot of travelling in Northeastern Brazil and learned about this tale in a craft fair during one of this travels. Out of all the three folktales he shared with me for this project, this one has been the most meaningful to him. The moral of the story is that one will do everything in his or power for loved ones, whatever the cost or sacrifices may be. The ranch manager killed the ox for his wife knowing the potential consequences, such as losing his job and the farmer’s trust if he found out. In the end, however, the farmer finds out but does not punish him. My dad can relate to the ranch manager since he has always supported me and my brother through the good and bad, as cliché as that sounds. This is not to say that he has always “killed the ox” to help us; rather, he guides us in the right direction without giving us the answer or solution. In this way, we can learn through our own experiences.

There are many mythological references in this story that reflect contemporary Brazilian culture. The farmer’s treatment of the ox, particularly the resurrection, is religious and sacred. The idea of lower mythology, proposed by Manhardt, comes into play in this story. Manhardt proposed that the harvest served as a foundation for various folklore and that people paid homage to trees, spirits, and animals. The folk peasants of the Northeastern region evidently had a deep appreciation for nature, which probably sprung from their Catholic background (Brazil is predominantly Catholic). Another cultural hallmark of this story is the ox tongue. After all, meat is a major part of one’s diet in Brazil. Brazilians are fortunate enough to have great yearlong weather conducive to a good harvesting season and well bred cattle, which again confirms their strong tie to nature.

In regards to the ox tongue, it is common for Brazilians to eat almost every part of the cattle. It explains why the Brazilian barbeque, or Churrasca, has become so popular among local Brazilians and tourists. Depending on the region of Brazil, different parts of the animal are served. At the end of the day, whatever parts are leftover are given to the homeless. Since the ranch hand and wife were hired by the farmer and probably came from a lower class standing, the ox tongue probably represents lower class food.  Regardless, the ranch manager’s forgiveness signals an understanding for the common man who needs to make ends meet. Through these references, the story does a good job reflecting Brazilian cultural attributes.