Portuguese Language Blog

Folk Tales Posted by on Oct 30, 2015 in Brazilian Profile, Culture, Customs, Entertainment

Olá a todos! (Hello, all!)

Since Halloween está chegando (is coming), this week’s posts have been all about showing you the scary side of our culture. Last post was about some sinister children’s songs and lullabies. Hoje (Today) we will delve even deeper into the macabre and aprender sobre (learn about) some traditional folk tales in Brazil.

Folklore in Brazil has been largely influenced by African, native indigenous and European legends. Most stories have a supernatural dimension and feature fantastic creatures that inhabit the collective imaginary of our nation. They are passed on from generation to generation and, though they may differ according to the region, everybody in our country is familiar with these fearsome tales. Besides its intention to frighten, these folk stories also carry a message or a moral.

You may have your vampires, bruxas (witches), mummies and werewolves. But estão prontos (are you ready) to hear about Saci-Pererê, Curupira and Mula sem Cabeça?


Saci-pererê is a devious, one-legged black boy who wears um gorro vermelho (a red cap) and is constantly fumando (smoking) a pipe. This wicked prankster loves disrupting the order and pulling pranks, causing harm for fun. His mischiefs include interfering with domestic work, like substituting salt for sugar in the kitchen, burning the food and hiding small objects.  He also enjoys braiding horses’ manes, setting farm animals loose and scaring people with a loud whistle.  The Saci’s cap is the source of his power, and whomever is able to roubá-lo (steal it) is granted a wish.

If one is being chased by the Saci, the best solution is to either cross a stream or to leave behind a rope with many knots, because he will feel immediately compelled to undo it.  It is believed that, once the Saci dies, it becomes a poisonous mushroom.


Literally translated as the headless mule, this creature is best described as a horse that spouts fire from its neck where its head should be. Its origins are most commonly associated with the Catholic Church. According to the lenda (legend), any woman who has a love relationship with a priest would be turned into a monster as a punishment for the sin.

The animal gallops amok through the woods, terrorizing whoever crosses its path. Its terrifying shrieking neigh pode ser ouvido (can be heard) from afar and it resembles the moaning of a woman in agony. The only way to break the spell of the Mula-sem-cabeça is to remove its bridle or to spill its blood with a needle, after which the woman will reappear, crying in repentance.


The Curupira is a demon that habita as florestas (inhabits the forests), represented by a red-haired short boy with backwards feet. He is the guardian of the forest, and his function is to protect the woods and wild life.

His feet are turned the opposite direction so as to leave footprints that mislead hunters and disorient them.  He also walks very quickly so that humans cannot pegá-lo (catch him). As a keeper of nature, the Curupira punishes those who disrespect and intend to damage their surroundings. Since he causes people to get lost, if anyone goes missing, people usually place blame on him.

Ficou assustado? Were you scared?

Tenham um bom Halloween! (Have a good Halloween!)

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  1. teal:

    Carol, Obrigado pelas histórias brasileiras folclóricas.
    Você quis de dizer “habita as florestas” em vez de
    “habitaS as florestas”?
    Estou perguntando porque quero aprender bem o português.
    Na frase “humans cannot reach him”,
    talvez “catch” será uma palavra melhor do que “reach”.
    Outra vez, obrigado. -teal

    • carol:

      @teal Hey, Teal!
      Thank you so much for the suggestions, I’ve already made the changes according to what you said 😀
      Keep up the good work,