Brazil was occupied by hunter gatherer tribes centuries ago. In fact, evidence indicates that there were human civilisations occupying this part of South America as far back as 9 000 BCE (Before our Common Era). These ones had many tales that they passed down through the generations. Gradually, as South America was colonised and inhabited by other cultures from the 16th century onwards, the folklore and myths became infused with influences from the African slaves, Portuguese settlers, and other European folklore (from places like Poland and Germany, for example). The saints that have existed through the ages have also left their mark on the folklore of Brazil.
Of course, there are also modern traditions that have mingled with the folklore of old to evolve and shape these into newer, more current tales that children and the young at heart continue to enjoy.
There are dozens of well-known figures within the Brazilian folklore. Just some of these are:
• Alemoa – this ghost is placed on the Fernando de Noronha Island and is believed to be the ghost of a blonde (therefore German-like) woman. She seduces wreckless men and then carries them to their death.
• Besta-fera – this beast is believed to be Satan the Devil.
• Boitatá – this serpent has the horns of a bull and huge eyes of fire and slithers through open fields after nightfall. The locals believe that looking at its eyes will blind you.
• Boto – this fairytale dolphin is believed to morph into a handsome man and seduce hapless girls.
• Bumba-meu-Boi – this ox continues to feature in Brazilian mythology. The tale is often celebrated with song and dance.
• Caipora – this refers to spirits within the jungle that come out of their lodgings in the trees at night to haunt lost travellers and wanderers.