As with most myths and legends, Brazilian folklore reflects several aspects of the country's history and culture. As such, many myths have roots in European legends (mainly from Portuguese folklore, but immigrants from Spain, Poland, Germany, Italy etc. have also greatly contributed to them), African mythologies (including, but not limited to Yoruba Mythology) and various Native-Brazilian mythologies (including, but not limited to Tupi-Guarani Mythology). In fact, a lot of Brazilian folkloric entities started out as gods or beings from Native mythologies that morphed into different tales over time, by absorbing multiple influences. Other stories are old wives' tales and Urban Legends. Keep in mind that many of these legends have several regional variations, so don't always expect a single coherent narrative. Plus, like every national folklore, it also encompasses traditions, festivals, culinary, games, dances, sayings, superstitions, tongue-twisters, riddles etc., but for the purpose of this page, tales from oral tradition will be the main focus.
It should also be noticed that Brazilian population is composed by Christians (87% of people), non-religious (8%), Spiritists (2%) and others (3%), the latter including Afro-Brazilian religions such as Umbanda and Candomblé. Therefore, it is complicated to say whether there is a specific "Brazilian mythology", only that there is a folklore, with myths influenced by an extremely diverse collection of interacting cultures from across the globe.
For a legendary creature from non-Brazilian South American folklore, see Carbuncle Creature. See also Chupacabra for a legend of Mexican origin, popular across most of Latin America, including Brazil.
Remember that the following images are for illustrational purposes and might not represent the myths with complete accuracy.
The list below is in no way complete and is open to contributions.
Creatures and Folk Tales from Brazilian Folklore
According to some versions the Saci must instead be lured with fubá (a type of corn flour) or tobacco, while others claim he Cannot Cross Running Water. In order to capture him, one must throw a sieve into his dust devil, take away his cap and lock him inside a bottle, topping it with a cork with the mark of a cross so he won't escape and cause havoc again. It is possible to make deals as well, and if gifted and well-treated, some Sacis may even help to find lost objects.
Most notably, the Saci is one of the most famous Brazilian myths because is one of the few creatures that exists and was conceived solely in Brazil, being equally influenced by indigenous mythologies (it is believed he comes from a being called Jasy Jaterê), African mythologies (in which he lost his leg and became a black boy) and Portuguese folklore (in which he received his red cap, a characteristic shared by other Portuguese beings such as the Trasgo and the Fradinho da Mão Furada). Therefore, the Saci-Pererê has been used by many scholars as a symbol of the miscigenation of cultures that created Brazil.
Alamoa: A beautiful blonde woman from the Fernando de Noronha archipelago who seduces men at the beaches or at the streets at night, as she hates light. She lures them to the summit of a nearby peak and then traps them inside of her cave, in which she turns into a decaying skeleton and kills them. Compare Our Sirens Are Different.
Curiously, Ana Jansen did exist in real-life during the nineteenth century, but she wasn't as cruel as the urban legend says, being in fact nowadays seen as ahead of her time due to breaking patriarchal paradigms. Also called Donana, she was expelled from home by her father when she got pregnant, as the father wasn't known, but then had an affair with colonel Isidoro Pereira, the richest man of the province in the time. When he eventually died, she assumed his production of cotton and sugar cane and became the most successful entrepeneur of the region, being called "Queen of Maranhão". Make no mistake: she did own more slaves than anyone else in the time, but there is no evidence suggesting she was particularly more severe than other slaveowners, and the rumors about her supposed overt wickedness started with the bigotry of people not accepting that a woman and a single mother could have such political and economic power alone.
Anhangá: Meaning "Ancient soul", the Anhangá have two entirely different legends about them: In one, they are forest spirits that protect animals from hunters, often assuming the shape of ghostly white deers with red eyes. Other legends describe them as evil shapeshifting spirits that torture the living and prevent the dead from reaching the next world. The evil version of the Anhangá are sometimes considered servants of Jurupari, the Tupi-Guarani God of Evil.
The discrepancy between those two myths may have been caused simply by multiple tribes having different beliefs, but may also have been caused by mistranslation, where, according to some sources, the scary spirits were actually called "Angas", which means souls (referring to Vengeful Ghosts) as opposed to the Nature Spirits called Anhangás.
Barba Ruiva (Red Beard): Long time ago, in the state of Piauí, a woman wanting to get rid of her newborn child put him on a basket and threw it on a river. The baby would have eventually drowned, but he was saved and adopted by a water spirit, sometimes said to be Iara. Both he and the river were enchanted, and the real-life Lagoon of Parnaguá was created. From there on, laundresses would had been sighting a mysterious person around the lagoon’s shores : at morning, it is a baby; at afternoon, an adult man with a red beard, frantically trying to hug and ask for kisses from them; and at night, an old man with a white beard. It was the baby abandoned in the lagoon, and the only way for him to be freed from the enchantment would be to make a brave woman pour holy water on his forehead.
Boi-Bumbá/Bumba-meu-boi: The protagonist of a famous dance and party in the North and Northeast regions, telling about the death and resurection of an ox, and a immaterial cultural patrimony to UNESCO. In the traditional plot, once upon a time there was a farm worker called Catirina who got pregnant and asked to her husband, Francisco, for an ox tongue to eat, to which he complies, killing one of the oxen of the herd. That ox, however, happened to be the farmer's favorite, who asked to his employees to find it. They arrested Francisco, but a wichdoctor or shaman manages to resurrect the ox, a miracle to which everyone celebrates. The party is full of people in colorful costumes playing out the happening, and thus, the festival can be said to combine music, dance, parade and theater. There are many variations of the play across the country, with different characters and characteristics.
Boi-Vaquim: A winged wild bull with golden horns and diamond eyes from Rio Grande do Sul. Its horns sparkle fire and it is extremely difficult to be caught.
In the state of Santa Catarina, it is depicted as a one eyed bull instead, probably because the word 'boi', meaning snake in Tupi-Guarani, also means bull in Portuguese. The name itself possibly came either from mboi-tatá (fire snake) or mbae-tatá (fire thing).
Boiuna: Meaning 'black snake' or 'giant snake'. Also called 'mother of the river' (Mãe do rio), 'lady of the waters' (senhora das águas) or 'Big Snake' (Cobra-Grande). According to legends from The Amazon Rainforest, the Boiuna is a giant snake capable of sinking boats, as well as assuming the shape of a boat to lure castaways to the bottom of the river. It can also assume the form of a beautiful human woman. It is so big it is said its trails are the grooves that created the rivers from the Amazon.
Sometimes, he is considered the father of Cobra Norato and Maria Caninana.
Boto cor-de-rosa: According to northern Brazilian legends, the Amazon river dolphin, known in Brazil as Boto, turns into a handsome man during Midsummer festivities, always sharply dressed and wearing a hat to conceal the hole atop its head. The Boto is known to seduce single women, taking them to the bottom of the river, and sometimes making them pregnant. The legend was probably used to justify the pregnancy of single mothers, back when such a thing would be frowned upon. Thus, children without a known father would be nicknamed "children of the Boto".
Folklorist Câmara Cascudo suggests the correlation of the river dolphins with sexuality and seduction has connection to European roots: the blowhole of cetaceans looks similar to the glans penis, and the movement of dolphins next to the ships could be compared with the act of coitus; moreover, dolphins were associated with the Love Goddess Aphrodite. However, it should be noticed Botos most likely already had had association with the supernatural in local cultures before conflation with European beliefs.
According to legend, he will only be free after devouring seven maidens named Maria. Other versions tell that he attacks women because he believes/hopes them to be his mother that came back to forgive him.
Cabeça Satânica (Satanic Head): A floating, disembodied head said to roam the night looking for victims, and sometimes invade houses late at night. People touched by it fall ill and quickly die. Sometimes, the Satanic Head appears with a full body, until the victim gets close, then its body melts down.
It can be warded off with a cross made from the straw from Palm Sunday.
Despite all this, it is also possible to make deals with the creature to soothe its anger, offering oblations of alcohol, tobacco or food in exchange for permission to use the river. If treated with respect, he may even help to catch fish. Therefore, the caboclo d'água can also be considered a guardian of the rivers.
Cabra Cabriolanote : The creature derived from Portuguese folklore is a monstruous nanny goat with fire coming from her nostrils and eyes, who kidnaps and eats bratty children, similar to the boogeyman. She can mimic voices so children would open the door, and it is said that, when a kid suddenly starts to cry at night, it's because the Cabra Cabriola is making a new victim elsewhere.
Cachorra da Palmeira (Female Dog of Palmeira): It is told in the city of Palmeira dos Índios, in Alagoas, that there was an elegant and rich lady, daughter of a powerful colonel of the region. She had a pet dog that she loved very much, and that ended up dying one day. The dog happened to pass away on the same day as Father Cícero, a real-life priest who became an important spiritual leader in Northeastern Brazil in the end of the 19th century and start of the 20th century and to this day is respected in the region. When the rich lady was at a market, she noticed a grief-stricken old lady and asked her why she was like that. When she knew it was because of Father Cícero, she made fun of his death and said that it was better to mourn her dog than the priest. As she had said that, she suddenly tried to bit the old lady, and began running away from the city like an animal, becoming a dog-human hybrid cursed to run aimlessly forever, trying to bite everyone on her way. Other versions state that she was locked in a cage by her own family, that tried to hide the shame she had brought to them.
The Caipora can be depicted as either male or female, always riding a peccary and carrying a spear. The Curupira, meanwhile is always male, has fiery red hair or literal Flaming Hair and has his feet backwards, confusing any who would try to track down his footprints (often leading them to traps).
Because of their similar origin, and similar role as nature protectors, the two often appear together in media, and sometimes are conflated, with characteristics typical of one being given to the other.
Capelobo: A man with a Giant Anteater's head, round horse-like feet and a human body covered in fur. It is said to be found near jungles and river regions late in the night.
This monster feeds on dogs and cats, but it also attacks hunters, feeding on their blood and, in some versions, brains. It can only be killed by a shot in its belly button.
Chibamba: A monster covered by banana leaves from top to toe that eats children who cry when they go to sleep in Minas Gerais. He makes snorts like those of a pig and moves in a constant rhythm, as if he were constantly dancing. According to Câmara Cascudo, the similarity of its appearance with ritualistic vestments from some African cultures, like a few traditions in Angola, suggests the myth came from African slaves from those regions.
Cobra Norato and Maria Caninana: A northern legend where either a Boto or the Boiuna (see above) impregnates a native woman, who then bears twin snakes: Honorato, also called Cobra Norato, and Maria Caninana. The two snakes were left in the Tocantins River, where they grew. Norato was good: he saved people from drowning and helped fishermen in danger. Maria Caninana was quite the opposite, she attacked people, killed fish and caused boats to drown. After a long fight, Norato killed his evil sister.
Norato wanted to become human, but for this, he would need someone to pour three drops of breast milk in his mouth and pat his head with iron while he was sleeping. The problem is that most people were scared of Norato. Until one day, the snake met and befriended a soldier, who completed the ritual. Norato became a man, burned away his snake hide and lived the rest of his days among humans.
Compare the Chinese Legend of White Snake.
There are multiple versions of her origin story, but in all of them she used to be a human woman who became a supernatural entity. The most common version says she got lost in the forest as a kid and died while looking for her way back, and ever since then, she haunts the jungles.
Corpo Seco (Dry Body): A man who was so evil during his lifetime that neither God nor the Devil would take him, and even the Earth rejected him. One day he leaves his grave, his body dried and thin, but never decomposing, with long hair and nails. The Dry Body is doomed to wander and haunt the living whenever night falls. During daytime, they hide inside caves or alongside trees, and passersby can sometimes hear their bone-chilling screams.
Cumacanga/Curacanga: A floating head with fiery hair, that crosses the air like a fire globe. Depending on the version, the Cumacanga or Curacanga is either a woman who becomes romantically involved with a priest, the daughter of their forbidden love, or the seventh female child of any family.
During friday nights, their bodies remain home, while their heads leave the house, floating and on fire, in order to scare people.
To discover the identity of a Cumacanga, one must offer her an unused needle upon meeting her at night. On the next day she will return, in her human form, to return the needle, thus revealing her identity.
The legend of the Cuca says that she is as old as time itself: Every 1000 years a new Cuca is born from an egg. Then, the old Cuca turns into a songbird known for its melancholic sound, while the new one goes on to commit evil deeds.
The Cuca is strongly associated with the mind, fears, dreams and nightmares. She is also the subject of the popular lullaby:
Papai foi para a roça, mamãe foi trabalhar."Translation
The Cuca was popularized by Monteiro Lobato's 1921 book "O Saci". The alligator-headed version was created by the book, and its popularity made it the most recognizable depiction of the monster by far.
Dama da Meia-Noite (Midnight Lady): Also called Lady/Woman in White, she is the Brazilian version of the White Lady, similar to the Mexican La Llorona. She is the ghost of a young woman who died tragically of childbirth or violent causes, wandering around empty desert streets at night dressed in a long red or white dress or sleeping gown. She often appears in the dead of the night, lures bypassing men and asks them for a car ride to her home. Charmed, they comply, but when she says to stop the car, only a high wall is seen. The Lady says “This is where I live...”, and the man notices he stopped right next to a cemetery. Before he can say anything, the Lady disappears.
Folklorist Câmara Cascudo suggests the apparition is related to cases of misogyny and feminicide, such as women being murdered for adultery (actual or suspected by the husband), denial for sex and overall domestic abuse. She can also be related with two other similar ghosts, the Alamoa and the Loira do Banheiro.
Gorjala: A horrendous man-eating giant with one eye and dark skin from the North and Northeast region who lives in rocky hills and cliffs, influenced by European tales of similar monsters. He eats anyone who enters his domains, and while he isn't said to be particularly smart, he can easily devour a person, putting them under his arm so he can slowly eat them as he walks, bite by bite. Some versions say he wears an armor made with turtle shells.
Guaraná: Guaraná is a fruit from the Amazon. It is used to make a popular drink in Brazil, but there is a legend about its origins.
A very kind couple of natives desired to have a child, so they asked Tupã to bless them with at least one offspring. Knowing the couple to be very kind, Tupã gave them a son. Time passed and the boy grew to be handsome, kind and generous. But Jurupari, the god of darkness, hated the lad and decided to kill him. At night he turned into a snake and bit the young man, killing him.
Tupã, then, instructed the couple to plant their son's eyes in the soil, and from it sprouted a plant bearing a fruit shaped like a human eye.
In a sense, the Iara can be considered a Distaff Counterpart to the Boto.
The most well known legend about her origins tells that Iara was a native woman and a peerless warrior. Her two brothers were jealous of her skills, and ambushed her to try and kill her. Iara defended herself and killed them both. Her father, mad with anger, punished her by throwing her at the convergence of the rivers Negro and Solimões, leaving her to drown. But she was saved by local fish (or by the Tupi moon goddess Jaci), and assumed her current form.
Despite its popularity, the legend of her origins is most likely a modern reinterpretation of the myth, since it is believed Iara has roots in the European legends of mermaids brought during Portuguese colonization, instead of native culture alone, as her first stories only appeared around the seventeenth century (opposed to Curupira, for example, who appears in the first Portuguese documents). Iara, therefore, would have come from European legends united with indigenous culture, without any particular origin story. Native people did have a man-eating river creature called Ipupiara, but different from Iara, they were monsters with fur and whiskers that used violence instead of seduction to devour their victims.
It is believed this myth is inspired by a real-life french general called Pedro or Pierre Labatut, an important military man who fought in the Brazillian War of Independence in the nineteenth century. He is said to have been so needlessly violent and brutal to his own army that local folklore made him into a monster.
Legend of Iguazu Falls: This is a legend that explains the origins of the Iguazu falls, in the border between Brazil and Argentina. The natives that lived near the Iguazu River worshipped a snake god named M'Boi. The tribe's chief had a daughter Naipi, so beautiful that the waters of the river stood still when she looked at her reflection on the river. Because of her beauty, Naipi was promised to M'Boi.
However, there was a man named Tarobá who fell in love with her. On the day of her consecration, Tarobá fled with Naipi downriver on a canoe.
Furious, M'Boi burrowed into the land and shifted its body creating the cascade. The canoe with the couple fell into the waterfall. Naipi was turned into one of the waterfall's central stones to be perpetually stricken by the waters and Tarobá became a palm tree on the edge of a cliff. Beneath this palm tree is a cave called "Garganta do Diabo" (Devil's throat) where the snake lurks, watching the two cursed lovers, forever.
Legend of the Procession of the Dead: There was once a gossiping old woman who spent the night snooping on the street through her window to see any embarrassing events, so she could meddle with people on the next day. However, at the Ash Wednesday, she saw a big procession nearby full of hooded figures. She thougt it to be strange, as the church hadn't planned any processions on that day, let alone so late at night, but gossipy as she was, she kept looking. As the procession was ending, one of the figures handed the woman a candle, that she stowed and then went to sleep. The next day, she went to check the candle, only to see a human femur on its place. From there on, the old woman never gossiped anymore.
In Brazil it is said that the seventh child of the same gender in a row would become a Lobisomem after turning thirteen. Or a boy born after seven daughters, or the eighth child of a couple regardless of gender — in some versions in the Southern region, engaging in incest would also bring this fate. Rather than transforming during a full moon, the Lobisomem changes during a Friday, midnight, at a crossroads. Then it sets out to kill animals and people for food, especially unbabtized children. Before morning dawns, it goes back to the same crossroads to return to human form. During the Lent, though, their transformations happen every day and they get more agressive, especially at the Good Friday. There can be female werewolves, in some versions cursed for cheating on their husbands, but they are not as common.
Most notably, the lobisomem traditionally doesn't become a wolfnote , but farm animals, sometimes explained to be the ones that wallowed in the crossroads in which he transforms on. It is often said to look like a large dog, but several versions also describe it as being similar to a pig, or a mix between both animals. It has red eyes, black fur, long ears, putrid odor and front legs shorter than the hind ones, as if he still retained his humans proportions. Other stories telling about werewolves with the appearance of donkeys, bulls, rams and mixes between all of these animals also aren't unheard of; the more different animals that make part of the beast's appearance, the more powerful the werewolf is. It should be noticed, however, that this is more restricted to traditional rural tales, and more modern and urban myths have been influenced by the European and Hollywood versions. In human form, the lobisomem is weak, pale and often ill, possessing eye bags and husky elbows due to the position they walk in on their beast form.
There are several ways of avoiding, curing or killing a werewolf. Depending on the version, to lift the curse away, it is necessary to skewer the creature with the thorn of an orange tree planted in a cemetery or on a Friday, or to hit it in a specific point at its head. To face it, one can bring it down by shooting it with a bullet wrapped in the wax of a candle used in three masses or cutting it with a blade of iron or steel. The latter can also cure the werewolf, but is dangerous on its own, as the blood of the lobisomem is said to spread the curse to whoever enters in contact with it. Similarly to the Cumacanga, one can discover the identity of a werewolf by offering him salt, to which he is bound to appear in the next day as a human asking for it.
Loira do Banheiro (Blonde girl of the bathroom): The legend of the Blonde girl originated from the real life story of Maria Augusta de Oliveira Borges, who died in 1891 at the age of 26. Her death certificate disappeared, leaving the Causa Mortis unknown. Ten years after her death, a public school was built where her house (where her remains had been buried) used to be.
Naturally, rumours about the young lady's spirit roaming across the school corridors, and specially the bathrooms, quickly spread. The legend gained strenght after a fire, of which the cause was never discovered, burned down part of the building. After the incident the story spread across many schools across Brazil, gaining elements of the Bloody Mary legend.
It is said that to summon the ghost one must call her three times in front of a mirror, or say swear words, or slam the bathroom's door, or a combination of the above. She is described as a blonde young lady dressed in white, with pieces of cotton tucked on her nose, ears and mouth.
Mãe do Ouro (Gold Mother): A beautiful woman, dressed in a white dress that reflects the sun's light. She turns into a fire ball and flies across the air. Her presence is said to indicate gold mines nearby.
If someone gains the woman's favour, she will take them to gold mines and hidden treasures, on the condition that they do not reveal the place's location to anyone else. If that person breaks their promise the Mãe do Ouro causes the cave to collapse over them.
Mani: An indigenous legend that explains the origins of the cassava plant: A long time ago, the daughter of a chief became suddenly pregnant. The chief wanted to punish the man responsible for that dishonor, so he applied several forms of punishment to the girl in order to force her to reveal the identity of the father. But the girl remained firm in her claim that she had no relations to any man. Nine months passed and a beatiful girl was born. The girl, named Mani, walked and talked precociously. After a year, the little girl died suddenly without having fallen ill.
She was buried inside her own house and some time later, a plant sprouted from her grave. That plant was called Manioca (Mani + Ocanote ), the basis for one of the modern Portuguese words for cassava: Mandioca.
Mãozinha-Preta (Little Black Hand): Also called Mãozinha-da-Justiça (little hand of justice), it is a disembodied, floating hand with black and hairy skin from old legends of the Southeast. It may haunt travellers at night by pinching or even strangling them. However, it is said that the Hand can be surprisingly helpful and friendly if respected, helping people by doing domestic chores whenever its name was invoked. The Hand, however, would never harm slaves — in one story, a slaveowner invoked the Hand and ordered it to do the chores. The Hand obeyed, but when she told it to harm a slave, it got furious and attacked the slaveowner, only obeying the orders of the slave from there on.
Matinta-Pereira: An old witch from the northern region of the country who can turn herself into a bird, often a striped cuckoo, which in Brazil is also known as Matinta-Pereira. She uses this power to fly to roofs at night and make an unbearable screeching, until someone promises to give her a gift at morning so she would let them sleep. She then appears in the next day in human form and asks for the gift, normally food, coffee, alcohol or tobacco. If the promise is kept, the Matinta goes away. But if not, she curses the house with misfortune, possibly causing disease or even death. Some versions say she doesn't become the bird herself, but trained one to use in her plans.
Minhocão (Big Worm): Despite its name, the Minhocão is more similar to a giant serpent than a worm. It is a monster with dark scales part serpent and part fish that can both swim in the rivers and dig holes through the ground, which causes sudden tremors and landsliding. It is pretty similar to the Boiúna, with the difference of being able to move both underground and in rivers and not possessing Boiuna's shapeshifting abilities.
Perhaps the most famous Big Worm is the Minhocão de Pari at the river Cuiabá, in the state of Mato Grosso, that used to attack and devour those who fished during the fish reproduction period.
Each Friday night, the headless mule has to run through seven parishes until it goes back to human form. The only way of avoiding her is by crounching, hiding your nails, closing your eyes and waiting quietly until she goes away. Her curse is only lifted if someone manages to remove her tack or draw her blood with an iron knife or needle, which turns her back into a woman. Akin to the Lobisomem, they become more frequent and agressive during the Lent.
It shares many similarities with other Latin American supernatural mules, such as La Mula Herrada in Honduras and Colombia and the Almamula in Argentina.
Negrinho do Pastoreio (little black boy of the pasture): During the period of slavery, there was a black boy who suffered at the hands of a cruel slaveowner, with his only comfort being his faith in Virgin Mary, who he said to be his godmother. One day, the kid was ordered to herd the horses the farmer had just bought, but when he went back, the slaveowner noticed the bay horse was missing, and as punishment whipped the poor child and ordered him to search for it. The little black boy found it, but failed to catch it, so the furious slaveowner spanked him even more, and disposed his body on an anthill to be eaten by the ants. However, when he went to check it three days later, the kid was alive and without any injury, with Our Lady Mary on his side and the missing horse next to him. The slaveowner kneeled in fear asking for forgiveness, while the little black boy, now free, took away the last ants off his skin, kissed the hand of his godmother and rode the bay horse away. Since then, whenever someone lost something, all they had to do was light a candle and ask for the help of the little black boy of the pasture, and he would help them find it.
The folk tale is one of the most famous of the state of Rio Grande do Sul and is known across the country, being very emblematic of the process of abolition of slavery in the end of the nineteenth century.
Onça-Boi (Jaguar-Ox): A man-eating jaguar from Acre and Amazonas with hooves on its feet instead of paws, similar to those of a cow, who leaves round footstrips on its path. Sometimes, it is also said to have horns.
Because of their hooves, they cannot climb on trees to catch their prey, so they always walk in couples, one male and the other female. While one rests and eats, the other watches out the person on the tree, taking turns until the victim eventually passes out of exhaustion.
Onça-da-Mão-Torta (Crooked-Hand Jaguar): A supernatural jaguar of the savanah of Goiás that is bridled like a tiger instead of spotted and whose front pawn is deformed. It is said to be the wandering spirit of an extremely wicked cowboy who only died of old age. After his death, the creature started to be sighted around the region, haunting the woods. Its skin is impenetrable to any shot.
He is also said to have ugly, messy long hair, so a common expression around the regions of the myth is parents playfully telling their children they look like the Woodsfather when they haven't cut their hair in a long time. The creature is also sometimes conflated with the Caipora, sharing some of its characteristics in a couple of versions, like having a smaller stature and riding a peccary.
Palhaço do Coqueiro (The Clown on the Coconut Tree): Once upon a time, there was a clown named Coco (meaning 'coconut' in Portuguese). In the circus, he was unable to make anyone smile, so he went crazy and ran away. During days of waning moon, he climbs a coconut tree to see the moon "smiling" for him. But when the moon is covered by clouds, the clown gets down to the ground to see other smiles: those of people. So when he meets a person he will try to make them laugh, and, should the person not give him at least a smile, he will punish them, sometimes with death. And he continues doing so until the moon is no longer hidden.
Papa-figo (Liver-eater)note : The Papa-figo looks just like a normal person (although it's sometimes depicted with sharp claws and fangs). He hunts down children who tell lies and drains their blood and eat their livers. He does so because he suffers from a rare disease (Often considered to be leprosy or Chagas disease), and believes children's blood and livers could heal him. This legend was born during the beginning of the twentieth century, when these diseases claimed several lives in Brazil.
Pé-de-Garrafa (Bottle-Foot): A humanoid one-legged creature with a horn on its forehead, covered by fur and with a single round hoove, making its footstrips look like marks made by bottles on the ground, hence its name. It makes unbearable screams and imitate human voices that lure, desorient and make hunters go crazy and get lost in the woods. It is also called man-animal (bicho-homem) and it is known across Piauí, Minas Gerais and Mato Grosso.
The myth shares several similarities with the Caipora — who are described as also having one rounded foot in a few versions — such as making hunters get lost in the woods with mysterious sounds, and it is often conflated with them. It also shares a vulnerability in the bellybutton with the Mapinguari, the Woodsfather and the Capelobo.
Some versions say the leg is from the Devil himself, getting out of Hell to harm the living. Others say it was the leg of a cruel man who kicked his own mother to death, and after his own, his leg continued to torment people at night. Curiously, the myth reportedly came from a joke in the radio station of the city during the 1970's, in which a guard finds out a hairy leg coming from under the bed of his wife. When the man questions his spouse, who was on the bed, she explains that the leg was autonomous and went down there by itself. The joking report ended up being interpreted as a monster by the population after catching on, and, with time, gained its own specific characteristics, social roles and identity in oral tradition, until it eventually became a plain full urban legend of its own. To this day, the Leg is rather famous in Recife, inspiring many Livros de Cordel/String Books note and even a graphic novel.
Pisadeira (Stomping-woman): A woman who steps on people's stomaches during the night, causing breath shortage. This legend is probably based on the phenomenon of sleep paralyzis.
The Pisadeira is normally described as a very thin, disheveled woman, with long, thin fingers and very long nails. Her eyes are fiery red and her laugh is bone chilling. She moves around rooftops looking for people who went to sleep on a full stomach, so she can step on them.
There are a few versions explaining her origins. In Portugal, where the legend comes from, some versions say she would've come from Hell itself, representing carnal appetites. In São Paulo, she would have been a wicked baroness with seven children who was cursed by a sorcerer, and will only turns back when she finds a magic buried ring in the ground. Karl von den Steinen documented a version in Mato Grosso saying she is the ghost of a woman who aborted seven pregnancies in life (though some versions also say she was forced to do it by an abusive husband, and thus haunts those who mistreat their wives). The myth is most common around São Paulo and Minas Gerais.
Princesa Encantada de Jericoacoara (Enchanted Princess of Jericoacoara): A tale from the city of Jericoacoara, Ceará. It is said that, in a cave under the city lighthouse, blocked by an iron gate, there is an enchanted city full of riches inhabited by a beautiful princess, who was cursed to turn into a serpent of golden scales, having only her human head and feet. The only way to disenchant the princess is by making a human sacrifice at the iron gate, making it open. With the blood, the person should then paint a cross at the back of the serpent, ending her curse, to which she would appear surrounded by endless treasure and marry the responsible for breaking the spell. Because of the high price, however, no one never attempted to make the ritual; thus, the part-woman and part-serpent princess keeps awaiting in her city full of treasures.
This legend comes from the Portuguese tales of Enchanted Mouras, telling about seductive shapeshifting moorish maidens fated to guard enormous hidden treasures.
In the folk tale "the girl and the quibungo", a quibungo kidnaps a little girl while she was playing outside and traps her inside his back mouth, planning to eat her in his dwelling. The girl sang a song asking for help to her mother as the quibungo walked, but she refused, saying she warned her about not playing outside at night. She repeated it to her other relatives down the street, but they all answered the same thing. Her grandma, however, heard it, and quickly filled a bucket with boiling water. When the quibungo passed next to her house, she answered the call just like the others. The monster, confident and self-assured no one wanted to challenge him, passed by it, only for her to throw the boiling water in his feet, making him trip down in pain and drop the child out of his mouth. When the beast fell down, the grandma stabbed its neck with a hot skewer, killing it. She then decided to take care of her granddaughter from there on, and the girl never got out at night too far again.
Romãozinho: Romãozinho was the son of a farmer: Evil since birth, he loves to hurt animals and destroy plants. One day, fed up with his parents, he tricks his father into believing his mother was cheating on him with another man. Mad with rage, the father kills his wife. During her last moments she sees Romãozinho smiling and understands he is behind what happened. So she curses him not to know Heaven or Hell, or to have any rest while there is a single living being on Earth.
Romãozinho laughed at the curse and left. From this day on, he wanders the earth, never aging: He plays pranks, hurts animals and causes all sort of mischief he can. But it is said that, on rare occasions, he may help someone.
Sanguanel: A mischievous sprite from the Rio Grande do Sul state whose myth got brought with Italian immigration. He is a small and red creature who lives on the top of trees and likes to prank humans, similar to the Saci.
He is best known for kidnapping babies and taking them to nearby trees, where they stay in a sleepy state until found; however, he never harms them, and even feeds them honey and water using leaves as cups. The real trouble is the desperation of their parents, who search frantically for their children until finding them in the Sanguanel’s nest.
The only way of making sure it will keep sleeping is with prayings and processions, and some versions say it will wake up as soon as it grows large enough for its tail to get in its mouth. The serpent of Óbidos appears in some versions of the tale of Maria Caninana and Cobra-Norato, with Maria’s plan being waking it up by biting its tail so it would doom the entire city.
Teiniaguá: Teiniaguá is a legendary moor princess that escaped from Europe to the south of Brazil and was cursed by a demonic Anhangá, turning into a gecko or a salamander with a ruby on its forehead. She is destined to live in a lagoon in the Jarau crater (Hence why she is also called "Salamanca do Jarau"note ).
One day, the sacristan of a nearby village goes to the lagoon and finds the princess, by chance. He imprisons her in a bull horn and returns to the church. At night, when he opens the horn, the princess becomes a woman again, and asks him to give her wine, so he gives her the church's wine. Every night, the same thing happened, so the priests became suspicious. One night they entered the sacristan's room: The princess, scared, turned into a gecko and ran away to Uruguay, while the sacristan was arrested and sentenced to death.
On the day of his execution, the princess returned and saved him using magic, and at this time there was a loud noise and a great fire, which caved in the place where they were, leaving the couple trapped in a cave. They would only escape when someone completed the seven trials. When the trials were done, the winner would be granted one wish, that he should later give up.
One day, two hundred years later, a man completes the trials, but he wishes for nothing. When he was about to leave, the sacristan gave him a golden coin, which the man accepted. A couple days passed, and the man learned that his friend was selling his cattle, so he decided to buy a bull with the coin, but when he picked the coin, it multiplied into an infinite number and he ended up buying the whole lot. When news of the fact spread, people started rumours that the man had made a Deal with the Devil, and nobody wanted to do business with him. Wishing to go back to his old life, the man returned to the cave and gave the magic coin back to the sacristan.
Thus, the curse was broken and the couple left the cave. They married and lived happily ever after, and are said to have introduced the Iberian-Amerindian descent to the southern people.
Tutu Marambá: Tutu Marambá is a bogeyman-like character featured in lullabies meant to scare children into sleeping, such as this:
Deixa esse menino dormir sossegado." Translation
Vaqueiro Misterioso / Onça Borges (Mysterious Cowboy / Jaguar Borges): The Mysterious Cowboy is an old man with shabby clothes who no one knows where he came from, sometimes said to be called Borges in some versions in Minas Gerais. Because of his humble appearance, other cowboys make fun of him, but he uses his wisdom and knowledge to his advantage, always winning every single competition. Despite glories and requests to stay, he declines them, take his horse, and gets out of the city as suddenly as he had come.
The Jaguar Borges is a ferocious beast of supernatural strength and speed who preyed on cattle and humans. The name comes from the belief that the jaguar would be the Mysterious Cowboy himself, or at least one of them. Holder of excellent knowledges of witchcraft, Borges would have been working in the herding with his disciple and friend, but over time they got hungry. The cowboy said he would use shapeshifting to turn into a jaguar so he could hunt something for them to eat, but alerted his disciple to put a handful of green leaves in his mouth when he got back, as this would be the only way of turning him back into human. The disciple agreed, but when Borges returned with the hunt, the young man got so scared by the ferocity and size of the animal that he gave up and ran away in fear. From there on, the cowboy got stuck in the shape of the jaguar, and spent days looking for his friend without success. Eventually, he became more jaguar than man, and started to attack the cattle in farms. His fame alerted hunters of the region, who united to take him down; after many failed attempts, they manage to shot down Borges. It is said that, in his final breath, he saw his traitorous friend among the murderers, and died leaving a moan of sadness, too human for a beast.
Vitória-Régia (Amazonian Water Lily): It is told that the moon goddess Jaci would occasionally choose her favorite women among the youth of a tribe and turn them into stars.
One young lady called Naiá was particularly obsessed with meeting Jaci and wandered the mountains during the night without ever finding the moon goddess. She wouldn't eat or drink anything, and in time she grew thin.
One day, when she stopped by a lake, she saw the moon reflected in the water. Blinded by her dream, she threw herself to the water and drowned. Moved by her sacrifice, Jaci decided to turn her into a star unlike any in the sky. And so Naiá became a "water star": A plant whose white petals only open at night.
Recurring tropes in Brazilian folklore
- Achilles' Heel: The Saci's cap, the Capelobo's belly-button, the branches from Palm Sunday for the Satanic Head, and others.
- Amazing Technicolor Population: Curupira sometimes is descripted as having green skin.
- Animate Body Parts: The Hairy Leg and the Little Black Hand.
- Animate Inanimate Object:
- The Cramondongue is an obscure myth of Minas Gerais mentioned by writer Guimarães Rosa, being an ox cart that moves on its own in desert streets at the Good Friday.
- The Fire Pestle (pilão de fogo) is a fire-expelling rolling pestle that scares lone travellers by making loud noises, in São Paulo. Some versions say they are the vengeful spirits of slaves who were worked to death when grinding grains in pestles.
- At the Crossroads:
- The Werewolf instinctively goes to a crossroads at Fridays midnights to perform his transformation, and goes back to human form when he returns to the same spot.
- The Caipora and the Saci can be met in crossroads, and they are appeased by oblations of tobacco left in these locations.
- Bag of Holding: In one folktale, the Curupira helps a misafortuned fisherman who explains he was trying to feed his family. He catches lots of fish, and then makes a small panacu note that magically held all of them to help the man, under the condition that he wouldn't open it until he got home. The fishermen thankfully agreed, but wondering how the Curupira would be able to put so many fish inside of something so small half-way, checked the panacu, only for it to be dismantled and all of the fish to fall on the ground.
- Barred From The After Life: The Dry-Body was someone so wicked and cruel in life that neither Heaven nor Hell accepted his soul, forcing him to remain in his decaying, thin body for eternity.
- Big Foot Sasquatch And Yeti: The Mapinguari has resemblance to these kind of being, being a hairy ape-like monster from the forest. Similarly, there are also some people theorizing if he could have been inspired by a real-life animal; ornithologist David Oren believed it had possibly been inspired by a surviving population of giant sloths in the Amazon and made an expedition there, but didn't find any evidence.
- Born from Plants: Sacis are said to be born from bamboo sticks.
- Bilingual Bonus: Several characters inherited certain characteristics because their names mean different things in different languages. For instance Boitatá is named as such because "Boi" means snake in Tupi language, but in Portuguese it means bull, so in some regions it is depicted as a one eyed bull. Tutu-Marambá is sometimes depicted as a peccary, or having traits of one because the word Tutu sounds like Caititu, a Portuguese word for peccary.
- The Cuca is an interesting example, her depiction as an old hag and as a nocturnal creature comes from different association of the word Coca (her original Portuguese name and similar sounding words from Native-Brazilian and African languages).
- Blow You Away: The Saci can travel inside of dust devils.
- Curse Escape Clause: The conditions for Norato and the Gourd-Head to become human. The former succeeded according to legend, while the later is still hunting for Marias.
- Deal with the Devil: The Diabinho da Garrafa (little devil of the bottle), famaliá or cramunhão comes from one of these, in which a person makes a ritual to summon him and lock him into a small bottle so he would grant them every wish. Akin to other examples of this trope, the little devil eventually drags the person's soul to hell as part of the deal.
- Deity of Human Origin: Well, these characters aren't deities, but a lot of them are humans who became cursed or ascended to the status of entity.
- Inverted in a meta-sense, as a lot of them started as gods in native mythology, and became lesser entities in oral tradition.
- Distaff Counterpart: Caipora (sometimes) to Curupira, Iara to the Boto, and to some extent, Tutu-Murambá can be considered this to the Cuca. In a way, the Werewolf and the Headless Mule as well, as both are victims of often punitive curses that turn them into unholy rural monsters every Friday night that must run by seven cemeteries or churches to go back into humans.
- Dying Curse: Crispim's mother cursed him to become the Gourd-Head after he accidentally made a fatal blow in a discussion, the same with Romãozinho after he tricked his father into killing his mother.
- Dysfunctional Family: The Gourd-Head killed his mother in a discussion, the Dry Body is said to have tortured and spanked his mother in life, Norato had to kill his evil sister, Iara's brothers tried to kill her and her father did kill her for killing them in self-defense. And then there's Romãozinho, who manipulated his father into killing his mother. In general, many curses come to be as punishments for people mistreating their family members, especially their parents and godparents.
- Enfant Terrible: Romãozinho was cruel since birth, torturing animals and tricking his father into killing his mother.
- Extreme Omnivore: The Lobisomem is said to eat many different things, such as human blood (especially from unbabtized babies), pigs and small animals, cassava flour, guava fruits and even manure and chicken feces. After coming back to human form, the werewolf understandably throws all up, which is one of the reasons why he is described as always being sick-looking.
- The Fair Folk: Many creatures have ambiguous morality, akin to European faeries (and in fact, many have been influenced by them), having their own set of rules that people should avoid breaking. The Curupira and Caipora, for example, normally don't bother hunters who give them oblations, don't hunt in saint days, share their spoils with their communities and don't overhunt. But if disrespected, they give harsh punishments, such as giving people bad luck, making them get lost or crazy forever, spanking and whipping them and turning them into animals. Overall, how friendly tricksters like Sacis and Caiporas are depends on the version — they can range from passive or even helpful creatures who only harm those who directly disrespect them and their domains, will help those who give them oblations and at worst play harmless pranks, to fearful sadists who whip, spank and haunt anyone on their way unless they are appeased.
- Fairy in a Bottle: Not a fairy in the classical sense, but the Saci-Pererê is a mischievous fae-like being who can be trapped into bottles when caught by a sieve and taken away from his red cap, granting wishes to who captured him until freed. If he escapes, however, he will seek revenge and bring harsh misfortune and pain to his hunter.
- Feathered Serpent: The church serpent of the city of Bom Jesus da Lapa (Bahia) is a feathered, winged giant snake that was stuck in the cave under the city's sanctuary, constantly trying to escape so it would devour anyone on its way. Hearing the sounds, in the end of the seventeenth century, the Friar Clemente advised everyone who came to that church to pray to Our Lady, as every time one prayer was made, one of the feathers of the serpent fell down. After thousands of prayings, the monster finally lost all of them and withered to death around 1936, when the cave was opened and no sign of the snake was found. Some suspect the monster is still around however, under the cave, so nowadays the grotto of the Feathered Serpent of Lapas has a statue of Virgin Mary inside of it, thus ending any possibility of the beast ever returning.
- Flaming Hair: The Headless Mule's replaces its head. The Cumacanga and the Curupira also have this.
- Ghost Ship: The Boiúna can shapeshift into empty embarcations to lure ferrymen and castaways.
- Giant Woman: The 7 meters (23 feet) woman is an urban legend from a city in Minas Gerais, especially during the seventies. She is a haunting so big that her face cannot be seen from the ground and a bus can can go through in-between her legs, and the closer one runs towards her, the more far away she seems to be.
- Glamour Failure: The boto cannot take away his blowhole, so he has to hide it with a hat. If someone takes it away from him, he quickly runs away to the river. Any wounds he receives in human form will also appear on him as boto.
- God of the Moon: Native Brazilians used to worship the Moon as a god called Jaci. According to the legends, one woman fell hopelessly in love with the deity and tried to touch its reflection in a river, drowning in the process. Moved by her actions, Jaci transformed her spirit into a water lily, a moon-shaped plant which only blossoms at night.
- The Great Serpent: The Boiúna or Cobra-Grande, so big its trails formed the rivers of the Amazon (it is no wonder one of its names means literally Big Snake). The Big Worm and the church serpents also qualify, as well as Cobra Norato e Maria Caninana. Boitatá is an interesting example, as it is often portrayed in this way, but myths don't generally specify if it is much larger than a normal serpent.
- Green Aesop: The Curupira, the Caipora, Anhangá and many others punish those who hunt for sport, attack mothers and cubs, violate reproduction periods and overall disrespect nature for greed or pride.
- Hellish Horse: The Headless Mule is an agressive and strong mule with kicks as strong as shots and fire breath that haunts anyone on her way.
- Historical Villain Upgrade:
- Ana Jansen wasn't particularly more cruel or severe to her slaves than any other Brazilian slaveowner of the time, but because she was a woman who had political and economic power in the nineteenth century, she was slandered as perfidious and severe by society, to the point that, eventually, she became part of São Luís folklore as a ghost cursed to wander the Earth for castigating and torturing slaves.
- The Labatut was inspired by the real-life french general Pierre Labatut. He supposedly was so harsh that he was turned into a monster in the eyes of the population.
- Holy Burns Evil: Faith can be used against many monsters: The Lobisomem can be repelled by praying and killed by a normal bullet covered by the wax of a church candle, and many legends about giant serpents sleeping under cities across the country say the reason the serpents continue dorment is because their heads are under the churches of the cities.
- Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday:
- The Good Friday is seen as the darkest period in folklore, and by extension, the Lent. Since Jesus was crucified on that day, folk belief sees this date as when God is absent from Earth, only returning during His ressurection on the Easter Sunday. Thus, during the period of the Lent, werewolves and headless mules are sometimes said to get stronger, more bloodthirsty, and their transformations happen everyday instead of just every Friday. Also, souls might get lost on the way to the Afterlife and hauntings become more common.
- Due to the connection with Christ's crucifixion, most hauntings and monsters appear on Fridays. People working on Sundays, when Jesus resurrected, may also be punished, such as hunters being castigated by the Curupira or eaten by the Mapinguari.
- Involuntary Shapeshifting: No matter what they do, the Werewolf and the Headless Mule are bound to turn into beasts every Thursday to Friday night. This process is intensified during the Lent period, when it might happen every night.
- "Just So" Story: The stories to explain the origin of the Cassava plant, the Guaraná fruit and the amazon Water Lily.
- Killer Gorilla: The Arranca-Língua (Tongue-Ripper) is an enormous and monstruous ape from the Midwest region, especially Goiás. It has a taste for tongues, ripping them off cattle and sometimes even humans to eat, especially the ones of cattle thieves. A theory for the possible origins of the myth is that a surge of foot-and-mouth disease would've destroyed the cattle's tongue tissue, making them fall off and explaining the corpses of oxen lacking them. Regardless, the image of the ferocious gorilla has been integrated into popular lore, and even nicknamed "Brazilian King Kong".
- Light Is Not Good: In Brazilian folklore, the Boitatá is a serpent of light that incinerates or blinds those that it comes across. Legend says that, when the earth was plunged into darkness, it feasted upon the eyes of those who couldn't see in the dark, and that is why it became a luminous divine creature. On the plus side though, it did end said night...
- Liminal Time: Most haunts appear during transitional periods, like at noon or, most commonly, in the dead of the night. The Lent is also seen as a time when the separation between the phisical and spiritual gets thinner, and lost souls and hauntings get more frequent.
- Magical Seventh Son: In many versions, the origin of Lobisomens, if it is male, and witches and Cumacangas, if it is female.
- Massively Numbered Siblings: In some versions, the cause of a Cumacanga or Lobisomem.
- Mix-and-Match Critters: Some creatures resemble the fusion of different animals, such as the Tapiora, an aquatic being part jaguar and part tapir, and the Onça-boi (jaguar-ox). In some versions, the Lobisomem is said to gain the characteristics of the animal that wallowed upon the land he rolls on during his weekly transformation; if more than one animal wallows in the same location, the werewolf becomes a mix of all of them. The folklorist Hélio Serejo mentions a lobisomem part pig, bull and horse that would've destroyed an entire front at the limit with Paraguay.
- Moon Rabbit: Saint George on his horse is often told to be fighting the dragon on the Moon, due to the shape of the craters during full moon. Thus, they are associated with the natural satellite in several works.
- Multiple-Choice Past: Because the myths are oral traditions, and vary by region, one given character can have conflicting origin stories.
- Nature Hero/Nature Spirit: Curupira, Caipora and Fulozinha. Iara, the Caboclo d'Água and the Gourd-Head are also this in the sense that they protect specific rivers.
- Non-Indicative Name: Lobisomem means "Wolfman" in Portuguese, but it actually usually becomes a large dog, a pig or a mix between both, as different from Portugal, there aren't true wolves in Brazil. Versions showing the Lobisomem as a wolf only came to be with modern portrayals of more European-like werewolves in media.
- Our Monsters Are Different
- Our Dragons Are Different: Several folk novels, poems and songs from Cordel Literature tell stories about brave men defeating dragons and saving damsels, derived from similar European stories. Perhaps the most iconic one is "Juvenal e o Dragão" (Juvenal and the Dragon), by poet Leandro Gomes de Barros, one of the most famous cordelists of the country.
- Our Mermaids Are Different: The Iara is a fresh water mermaid who lures men to their doom with her singing, her beauty and false promises of great riches at the bottom of her river. There is also the Cotaluna in Paraíba, a mermaid that lures men to the river at winter and turns into a full woman at summer so she can seduce them out of water, promising to give them lots of pleasure in cost of their sanity.
- Our Vampires Are Different: While there aren't vampires in Brazilian Folklore, there are a few creatures with similar habits:
- The Liver-Eater is a horrendous and wealthy man who must consume the livers of children so he can mitigate his disease. Many versions include him drinking their blood as well, and absorving the vital energy of another, healthier person is a central part of the myth.
- The Dry-Body shares the theme of an undead who left his grave in order to attack the living at night.
- The Werewolf is often said to drink human blood.
- Witches can suck the blood out of animals and humans. On a minor note, Sacis also share this habit, though it is restricted to horses and it isn't deadly, akin to vampire bats.
- Our Werewolves Are Different: The Lobisomem ("wolf-man") comes from the Iberian version of the werewolf and has a few differences from European and Hollywood versions. For starters, it traditionally doesn't become a wolf per se, but farm animals, like dogs, pigs, and mixtures between them, which in a few tales is said to depend on the animals that rolled on the land in which he wallows during his transformation. They come from a curse suffered by the seventh boy of six children of consecutive gender, and aren't harmed by silver bullets, but by iron and other artifacts. They also don't turn in full moons, but at every Thursday to Friday night, having to pass through seven crossroads, cemeteries and/or parishes until the first cock crowing, when they go back to human form. They eat guava fruit, animals and garbage, and normally only attack and drink the blood out of those on their path, though they will also actively target and attack unbabtized babies, and thus, pregnant women.
- Our Witches Are Different: Besides hags such as Cuca and Matinta-Pereira, witches in general in Brazilian folklore (called bruxas, in a literal translation) have some peculiarities. Like the Werewolf and the Cumacanga, they are the seventh children of their families, turn into dark moths, and might suck the blood out of horses and even children at night.
- Our Zombies Are Different: The Dry-Body, a man cursed to be trapped as a wandering thin corpse after his death for his wickedness in life. He attacks and haunts the living at night in desert roads.
- The Paranoiac: Werewolves are often said to be extremely distrustful and paranoid that their identity can be discovered for fear of being ostracized and persecuted. If they think someone suspects they have the curse, they might kill the person, either in monster or human form.
- Peeve Goblins: The Saci-Pererê is a mischievous fae-like being with the appearance of a single-legged black child wearing a red cap who loves to make pranks, such as souring the soup, entangling horses' manes, scaring travellers at night, making objects get lost etc.. The Caipora is a protector of the woods that also frequently makes pranks and assumes the role of The Trickster, and so do Comadre Fulozinha, Romãozinho and others.
- Picky People Eater:
- The Boitatá has a preferance for eating the eyes of its preys.
- The Papa-Figo/Liver-Eater, as the name says, eats only the liver (some versions mention the blood as well) of children in an attempt to mitigate his disease.
- The Capelobo uses his claws to cut open the skull of dogs, cats and humans so he can use his anteater-like muzzle to eat their brains.
- The Ipupiaras from Tupi-Guarani Mythology ate the fingers, noses, eyes and gentials of their victims.
- Power Source: Saci's cap is what gives him his magical powers. If someone steals it from him, he'll get powerless and will have to either steal it back or promise to grant wishes in exchange.
- Red Eyes, Take Warning: The werewolf and the stomping-female are sometimes said to have these, as well as others.
- Rule of Seven: The number seven appears in many myths.
- With the werewolf, the man is cursed if it is born as the seventh child, makes seven knots on its shirt when take it out in order to transform, and must run through seven cemeteries, seven churches or seven parishes every friday. The latter is also true for the Headless Mule.
- The Gourd-Head must kill seven Marias to be free of the curse.
- After being born, Sacis are said to take 7 years to be born from bamboo sticks and live for more 77 years.
- The seven-piglet sow has, well, seven piglets.
- Scare 'Em Straight: A lot of these stories are used to scare children into behaving. Stories like the Curupira/Caipora/Iara/Fulozinha/Boiuna/Gourd-Head are used to scare poachers from hunting in the forests/rivers.
- Shapeshifting Excludes Clothing:
- Implied Trope in a folk tale with the Boto, in which his clothes became river animals like fish when he turned back to his dolphin form, suggesting this is how he makes his vestments.
- The Werewolf leaves his clothes behind after his transformation, making seven knots in the shirt and hiding them until he comes back at dawn. Some versions say it is possible to turn the beast back into human by finding the clothes and burning them.
- Shapeshifting Seducer: The Boto is the main example, as a enchanted river dolphin capable of turning into a handsome, white-dressed man and seduce women at night in parties. The Alamoa can also be considered.
- Sinister Whistling: The Saci-Pererê and the Caipora often whistle as a way to scare travellers and hunters away in the middle of the night. The closer the sound seems to be, the more far away they are from the victims, making them get lost in the forest.
- Sleep Paralysis Creature: The Pisadeira ("she who steps" or "stomping-woman" in Portuguese) is a frail old hag with dirty nails and staring red eyes who lurks on rooftops at night, waiting to step on those who went to sleep with their stomach full.
- Snakes Are Sinister: Maria Caninana sure is. Inverted with Norato. In the case of Boiuna and Boitatá, it depends on your respect to nature. The church serpents beneath cities vary, as sometimes they aren't implied to be anything else than animals and sometimes explicitly malignant, but they still qualify in the sense of causing destruction and havoc.
- Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl: The Blonde in the Bathroom. Comadre Fulozinha is also basically an Onryo merged with a Caipora.
- Supernatural Repellent: Iron, religious symbols, garlic, carrancas and many others can be used to repel these creatures, although what should be used varies between them.
- Things That Go "Bump" in the Night: Many of these stories are used to make children behave, especially the ones in lullabies. Cuca, Tutu-Marambá, Quibungo, Chibamba, Liver-Eater, Cabra Cabriola and others are all boogeymen-like creatures that hunt misbehaving children at night.
- Tricked to Death: One folk tale has a hunter surviving an encounter with the Curupira in this way: when he was getting out of the forest after a hunt, the Curupira suddenly appeared and requested his heart as a price. The hunter got behind a tree and stealthly used a knife to cut out the heart of a monkey he had hunted earlier, giving it to Curupira as if it was his. The hunter asked for Curupira's heart in return, and the woods guardian, thinking it to be fair enough, used the same knife to open his chest, only to drop dead on the ground. Unusually for the trope, however, the Curupira actually survived, and he is accidentally woken up intact and well later on when the hunter returned, who was planning to take out and sell his teeth. Curupira was impressed with the hunter's cunning, and gifted him an arrow that could kill anything, under the condition he would never tell anyone whom he got the gift from.
- The Trickster: Saci, Curupira, Caipora, the Boto to some extent.
- Unusual Ears: Some versions say that the Werewolf has long dog-like ears that make clap sounds by hitting each other when he runs.
- Vanishing Village: A common motif in a couple of oral stories across the country involves the narrator finding big mysterious houses full of people and festivities in an empty region at night when passing by. When he goes to investigate where the sounds are coming from, the entire house and the people inside vanish, often because it was haunted.
- Vengeful Ghost: The Clown on the Coconut Tree and the Blonde in the Bathroom.
- Voice Changeling: The Bottle-Foot can imitate familiar human voices to lure its victims to the depths of the forest.
- Voluntary Shapeshifting: Many creatures are said to be able to change forms at will: the matinta-pereira can turn into a bird, the boto can turn into a handsome man at night, the caboclo d'água is able to shapeshift into logs or dead horses floating in the water to lure its victims, the Boiúna can turn into empty boats to attract people or into humans, witches can turn into dark moths, the Jaguar Borges is said to be the mysterious cowboy shapeshifted into a jaguar and Sacis sometimes are also said to become birds. Moreover, the bird Tapera naevia is popularly known as Saci or Matinta-Pereira in Brazil.
- Werewolves Are Dogs: It often assumes the form of a large black dog instead of a wolf (as well as other animals, like pigs), though its behavior is still aggressive and violent, as with other portrayals of the monster.
- Will-o'-the-Wisp: A couple of myths are related to this phenomenon.
- Boitatá is one of the most proeminent examples, being a ghostly flaming snake that eats the eyes of people wandering into the forest or drives them crazy.
- Câmara Cascudo theorized the Fire Pestle could be a variation of Boitatá, also explaining the phenomenon.
- João Fagaluz is an aquatic sprite who appears in the shape of a luminous halo above the sea, in the island of Itamaracá, in Pernambuco. He appears whenever a big storm is set to happen, so the fishermen know it is better to go back to the shore.
- Bitolás are balls of fire said to be the cursed souls of adulterers.
- Romãozinho also is often related to the phenomenon, being said to be covered in blue fire whenever he appears.
Works featuring one or more legends from Brazilian folklore:
- Animated series from Tv Brasil Além da Lenda (Beyond the Legend) features many beings from folklore consulting a therapist specialized in myths after suffering from existential crisis. Comadre Fulozinha, Curupira, the Little Black Boy of the Pasture, Cuca, Cabra Cabriola, the Mysterious Cowboy and many others make appearances.
- Andrew Lang recounts a version of Iara's legend in his Brown Fairy Book. It can be read here.
- A Mapinguari serves as the main antagonist of Aritana and the Harpy's Feather.
- Castelo Rá-Tim-Bum: The Caipora is a recurring character who tells fables and stories to the kids, while the Saci appears in one episode.
- Tarsila do Amaral's painting A Cuca (The Cuca) shares its name with the child-eating witch.
- In Devil Children, Caipora and Anhangá are summonable demons (named Kibra and Tior in the American versions).
- Elena of Avalor: The Malandros from episode 16 of season 2 are based on the Boto legend, while the Kupi-Kupi of episode 21 of the same season is based on the Curupira.
- Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019): Behemoth is a kaiju resembling the cross of a wooly mammoth, a ground sloth and a primate who has "Mapinguary" as one of his aliases in the novelization of the movie, implying he was the one that inspired the myth.
- Grimório Tropical ("Tropical Grimoire") is an on-line project which presents Brazilian culture, History and folklore by transcribing it to Tabletop RPG systems, with focus on Dungeons & Dragons's model. Mythical creatures are shown as monsters with classified weaknesses and strenghts, historical and legendary personalities are used as characters, superstitions and sayings are used as magic etc.. It can be accessed here.
- In Harry Potter, Caiporas are mischievous spirits who protect Castelobruxo, the Brazilian school of magic, according to the Pottermore website.
- Yara Flor, the Brazilian Wonder Girl introduced in DC Future State meets the Caipora and the gods Kuat and Iae (Gods of the sun and moon from the mythology of the Kamayurás, a branch of the Tupi-Guarani family) who happen to ride Headless Mules. Her own comic introduces the Saci, Cuca, Boitatá, Lobisomem and of course Iara, the superheroine's namesake.
- The Brazilian Netflix series Invisible City is basically about local folklore, with focus on Saci, Iara, Cuca, Curupira, Tutu and the Boto, all reimagined in a more modern and urban way. The second season introduces the Headless Mule, Matinta-Pereira, a Barn-Owl (an owl said to spread bad omen in some regions), Cobra Norato and Maria Caninana, Boiúna, Lobisomem and a Zaori.
- The Brazilian indie game The Last Nightmary: A lenda do Cabeça-de-Cuia is about the Gourd-Head.
- Animated series Juro Que Vi (I Swear I Saw It), produced by MultiRio, features five shorts, each one centered about a different creature from folklore:
- The Curupira: A hunter goes deep into the forest with his helper and gets targeted by the Curupira after hunting for sport a mother with its cubs.
- The Boto: A love story between the daughter of a fisherman and the boto, who turns into a man to party.
- Iara: After escaping from gold mining during the colonial period, a young slave runs into the woods and finds the Iara, the Mother of the River.
- Matinta-Pereira: A girl and her cat are accidentally brought to the Matinta-Pereira's dwelling, and find out that the old witch isn't like it was thought.
- The Saci: A Saci enjoys bothering a bitter farmer and causing havoc and mischief, and the farmer resolves to capture him for good.
- Legend Quest: The Caipora appears in his eponymous episode in Season 2, protecting the rainforest from hunters.
- Machado de Assis's poem O Rei dos Caiporas(The King of the Caiporas) is, naturally, about the titular creature.
- Monica's Gang occasionally features these characters. Mostly in the Chico Bento (Chuck Billy in English) stories.
- Monteiro Lobato's O Saci from the Sítio do Picapau Amarelo book series is largely responsible for popularizing the Cuca in Brazil. Other folkloric beings, including the titular Saci — which is the co-protagonist of the book alongside Pedrinho —, Caipora, Iara, Lobisomem, Boitatá, the Headless Mule and the Black Boy of the Pasture are also featured, which is one of the reasons why they are some of the most well-known myths in the country. TV adaptations of his work, in which the Cuca and Saci became recurring characters, helped to popularize the characters even more.
- The Slice of Life webcomic Sétimos Filhos (Seventh Children) centers around the life of the fraternal twins Antônio and Alessandra, who were cursed to be a werewolf and a witch, respectively, due to both of them being born as the seventh children of their family. A headless mule and a Bestial Beast also appear as their friends.
- Ziraldo's comic book series A Turma do Pererê (Perere's gang) features a Saci-Pererê as one of the main characters.