Myths & Fantastic Creatures

For more on Brazilian folklore, check our Music & Foklore Page. If you read Portuguese, there's extensive information on these and other elements of Brazilian folklore in the Dicionário do Folclore Brasileiro.


The caipora is a fantastic creature of the forest, in the Tupi-Guarani mythology: a giant creature, covered with dark hair, who always rides a large boar.


The most powerful mythical creature of the rivers of the Amazon, also called boiúna or mboiaçu. The cobra-grande (large serpent) lives in the water and can take different shapes to frighten away the fishermen. See Iara below.


The curupira is also a fantastic creature of the forest, but he is short like a boy and his feet are reversed, with the toes pointing to the back. He is the protector of animals and trees, and according to the legend, will lead hunters and other invaders of his domain astray. In the state of São Paulo, the curupira is the official symbolic protector of the forests and all the animals that live in them.


Also known as "mãe d'água" (mother of the waters). According to Brazilian folklorists, Iara was not a siren, originally, but a water snake, also called mboiaçu - mboi, serpent and açu, big - in Tupi. In the 19th century, a process of convergence occurred, between the Amazonian water snake and the European myth of the beautiful half-human, half-fish creature who lures fishermen with her song. The Brazilian romantic poet Gonçalves Dias created the name, from the Tupi language of Brazil: ig - water - and iara - lord. The Afro-Brazilian orixá, Iemanjá, originally the Yoruba mother of all orixás and mother of the waters, is also represented as a beautiful siren. Her other name is Janaína. Iara and Janaína are very popular names for girls in Brazil. If you'd like to give your baby girl a Brazilian name...well, here are two of the most beautiful in the Portuguese language!

Negrinho do Pastoreio

A legend of southern Brazil, the negrinho (little black shepherd) lost the horses he was looking after. His cruel master had the little boy whipped and thrown, bleeding, into an anthill, where he died. He came back, invisible, and rides his horse on remote hills. If you promise to light up a candle in his honor, he will help you find lost objects.

Salamanca do Jarau

A legend of southern Brazil, the Salamanca is a cave full of treasures, looked after by a magical lizard called teiniaguá.


The saci or saci-pererê is a fantastic creature from south-central Brazil. The saci is a little boy, has only one leg, wears a magical red cap and likes to smoke a pipe. According to the legend, he is always up to some mischief: blowing out your fire, scaring and scattering your cattle, and scaring travellers in isolated, out-of-the-way places. Here we have the saci, as seen through the imagination of Brazilian cartoonist and author Ziraldo.

Image courtesy of Ziraldo. Copyright by Ziraldo. All rights reserved.

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