Residence: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/22/19
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Portuguese
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.
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.