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Charter Oak State College Brazilian Folktales Discussion

Charter Oak State College Brazilian Folktales Discussion


Please read:

  1. from Elsie Spicer Eells, Fairy Tales from Brazil (
    Audio (
    These stories:
    1. “How Night Came”
    2. “How Monkey Became a Trickster”
    3. “Why Bananas Belong to the Monkey”
    4. “How Black Became White”
    5. “Why the Sea Moans
  2. Brazilian Folktales
    1. The story of Saci Perere (


    2. The Story of Mani (
    3. The Wings of the Butterfly” (
    4. Turtle’s Flute” (


    5. Jabuti the Tortoise

      These are the words, but not the illustrations, from Gerald McDermott’s version of this story. There is some evidence that this is the most popular folk tale from Brazil. The emphasis is not on visiting the King of Heaven, but rather, just getting to a heavenly feast.

  3. Translated by Monica Mansoldo-Silva, the tales of Monteiro Lobato the tales of Monteiro Lobato – Alternative Formats . Available in course materials,



  1. Elsie Spicer Eels is one of the earliest translators of children’s literature from Brazil into English. Her name is not in Wikipedia in English, but it is available only in the Portuguese Wiki. She was an American and a traveler but otherwise had no particular training to collect stories.
    Where do you see her cultural biases?
    What are her standards for picking stories for her volume?
  2. The other Brazilian folktales come from a variety of online sources. where do you see:
    • The slave story influence, similar to Uncle Remus stories?
    • The African influences, similar to the picture books we’ve read?
    • The Grimm/Perrault influence, similar to the fairy tales in the beginning of the course?
    • The native stories, similar to the native American stories we read in the last lesson?
    • The Christian influences, similar to Bible stories?
      Name the story and identify the influences.
  3. What is Lobato trying to do with his folktales/literary fairy tales? What is he saying about Brazil and Brazilian childhood in his time?
  4. In what ways do Lobato’s child characters Pedrinho, and Narizinho seem different from our expectations for a child character in other stories we’ve read?
  5. Lobato wrote many adaptations of Jean de La Fontaine’s fables. “Burrice” seems to be adapted from La Fontaine’s “The Ass Laden with Sponges and the Ass Laden with Salt” . (II, 10) on this page:
    The Lion and Gnat, the Ass laden with sponges, and the Ass laden with salt, the Lion and the Rat, the Dove and the Ant….
    Compare the two stories and comment on Lobato’s editing choices. What changes did Lobato make? Why did he make them?
  6. What do our textbook readers need to take away from this lesson about Brazil and South America?


Please evaluate these sites for inclusion in our textbook:

  • 14 Latin American Folktales for Kids (
  • How Latinos Are Shaping America’s Future (
    • Article is posted for you in announcements

Extra for experts:

Please remember what you’ve probably learned by now. No one story can represent a whole culture, but some stories are better than others.

I have tried to find read-alouds with acceptable Spanish accents and presentations. As you may have figured out by now, it’s easy to make these read-alouds, and hard to make them great.

Please list the cultural markers for each of these stories from Puerto Rico. At least three markers each.

“The Song of El Coqui” by Nicholasa Mohr

“The Legend of the Golden Coqui” by Marjuan Canady

“ The Golden Flower, a Taino legend” by Nina Jaffe

“Juan Bobo Sends the Pig to Mass”

“Juan Bobo and the Cooking Pot”


This lesson is an adaptation of the senior thesis/capstone project of

Monica Mansoldo-Silva, Charter Oak ’16,

and a Brazilian native.

In general, the literature for children available in the United States from South America is sparse, even when it’s in Spanish. This lesson is a rare treat. You’ll get to read and listen to some materials that most people only read about. Some of the translations and selections were chosen by a single translator who had no particular training in collecting stories; some are collected by modern trained folklorists, and some are translated by Monica, as part of her senior thesis. She said the process gave her a lot of respect for Singer and Hayes and their problems/care in being accurate.

Unlike the rest of South America, Brazilians speak Portuguese. So the translation becomes even less likely because the readership is smaller than Spanish or English, even though there are plenty of people who live in countries where Portuguese is the main language. Besides Portugal, Mozambique and Angola, former Portuguese colonies in Africa, the Azores, Cape Verde, and some other islands are Portuguese dominant. But there are so many Spanish speakers throughout the world, that Portuguese takes a back seat.

Brazil, Brief History

Of course, Brazil is a large country, with many native tribes who co-existed before Portuguese sailors arrived in 1500, on their search for India. Portuguese settlers arrived in 1550. Sugar plantations required much labor, and the Europeans tried to enslave the natives, who died of disease or simply ran away into the Amazon forest. The Portuguese had already been participants in the African slave trade, so new slaves were introduced, along with some of their tribal stories and traditions. The influx of African slaves was four times the number brought to the U.S.

Brazil remained a colony of Portugal until 1822, when its prince declared independence. lt was one of the last countries to abolish slavery, in 1888, about the same time that it abolished the monarchy and became a republic.

From Monica:

Throughout the years of change, Brazil looked north, to the United Stated, for a model of successful government and economy, and for a place of refuge for those who were persecuted. There are accounts in Brazilian history and literature of slaves trying to make their way to the U. S. and freedom; and there are accounts of those who made their way to America to escape political persecution, especially during the military dictatorship. But Brazil has also welcomed Americans who felt the need to leave their country.

In the years following the American Civil War, a total of 154 Confederate families made their way to Brazil. Thirty-seven of them were from Alabama and had as their leader Colonel William Norris. His family was one of the many that settled in the state of São Paulo, establishing the “Village of the Americans,” which today is known as the city of Americana (Dawsey). Their presence in that region is likely the reason why the people of São Paulo pronounce their r’s in such a distinct way from the rest of the country – they pronounce it with an American accent.

More recent history

A revolution in 1964 led to a decade of military dictatorship and the establishment of a new capital city in Brasilia, centrally located in the middle of the Amazon jungle. An intensive period of modernization has helped the country become the world’s fifth largest economy, and the first South American Olympic site in 2016.

Cultural blending, cultural markers—Samba and other dances

From Monica:

The Samba is the best known of all the African influenced dances in Brazilian culture. Samba is an essential element of the Carnaval (Carnival) celebrations in Brazil, where it is usually performed individually, but it is also a ballroom dance performed by couples. Capoeira is another cultural manifestationbiografia-de-monteiro-lobato

that can be traced back to African slaves. Capoeira is a mixture of dance and martial art, a form of “ritualized combat.” Capoeira is played by two individuals in the center of a circle, while the others keep the rhythm with instruments, and by clapping their hands (Mestre). The Carimbó is a dance of Tupinambá (a Native Brazilian Tribe) origin, but which was “perfected” by contact with African slaves, and enjoyed even by the Portuguese colonists, who added to it some elements of their Lusatian dances (Dança).

Brazil’s national dish, the Feijoada, is of African heritage. The dish originated with the black bean broth that the slaves were fed once daily, which they enriched by adding to it the parts of the pig that their masters would not eat – the ears, feet, tail, and tongue (Goulart). Today’s Feijoada is much more sophisticated, consisting of a mixture of dried and smoked meats cooked in a black beans stew, and served with rice, collard greens, and Farofa (Schneider). Farofa is a dish made from manioc flour, which is one of the food staples of the Native Brazilians (“The Story of Mani”), and the collard greens are a favorite with the Portuguese. Thus, in this dish, we have a symbol of the blending of peoples and cultures that we have come to know as Brazil.

About Monteiro Lobato—from Monica

Monteiro Lobato is the best known author of children’s literature in Brazil, but his contributions to Brazilian literature go much further than his books for children. He was a nationalist, with a vision of greatness for his country; a vision which he worked hard to disseminate among his people. His desire was to see Brazil developed, much in the way the United States was being developed, and he believed that the way to progress for Brazil was through books. Therefore, he became a publisher, as well as a writer.

Lobato was an essential element in the development of the publishing industry in Brazil, being the first to attempt to transform publishing into a consumer industry by creating a mass market for books. It was his belief that progress would come faster to Brazil if books were made more accessible to the population. He also believed that the Brazilian people should be introduced to the literature of other nations, so as to broaden their knowledge, which at the time was very dependent of French culture.

He began a movement for the importation of books written in English, which continued until the early 1940s, and with that he caused English to take precedence over French, as the foreign language most learned and spoken in Brazil. Lobato admired the efficiency of the United States in utilizing its natural resources and advancing its systems of information and communication. He believed that the implementation of Ford’s ideas was the best way to modernize Brazil, and used his writings, including his children’s books to promote social reformation projects based on those ideas (Milton 468,487,488,490).

Although Lobato was a great admirer of American culture and society, he did not want Brazilian society to become culturally dependent on it; what he wanted was for Brazil to look to its own people and folklore traditions for cultural enrichment. One of his projects for changing Brazil was the development of the Brazilian language (Milton, 492). Before he began publishing his books, all the books available for Brazilian children were in the Portuguese used in Portugal. Lobato began to develop a Brazilian Portuguese by writing his stories in colloquial language, and he did not stop there. He began simplifying the language in the translations of classic children’s stories, writing them in a way that made them more Brazilian, therefore making it easier for children to understand them. He wanted to stimulate children’s imaginations through the stories, and he wanted them to enjoy learning from books.

The Stories

In his Sítiodo Picapau Amarelo (Yellow Woodpecker Farm) books for children, Dona Benta, the Sítio’s owner and leader, retells classic stories in her own words, inviting comments, stimulating discussions, and introducing and explaining, in simple terms, concepts and words that would otherwise be difficult for children to understand. Through these discussions among the characters, Lobato models the critical behavior he wishes to see in the Brazilian children, who were to be the future of the country. The frame narrative was a perfect medium for Lobato to embed his criticism of Brazil’s lack of socio-economic progress and social justice in all of his translated and original stories.

Using the reactions of Dona Benta’s audience in the stories, he propagated his ideas for modernizing Brazilian society, reaching not only the children for whom he wrote, but their parents as well. The reoccurring themes in his stories included the need to modernize and industrialize the country, the need to improve living conditions, and the need to give women more freedom (Milton 494-496, 500, 503).

It is with the Sítio stories that Lobato encourages Brazilians to appreciate and preserve their own culture and folklore; he does that by incorporating into his texts the diverse elements that come together to form culture and folklore: rural and city life, old age and youth, reality and imagination, the past and the present, and diverse cultural influences, are all blended into his stories for children. Lobato also incorporates into his stories Brazilian mythical beings such as the Cuca, Sací Pererê, Curupira, Mula sem Cabeça, and Iara (Sousa, 7); and he tops it off by keeping the tradition of oral transmission alive through Dona Benta and, in one occasion, Tia Nastácia.

Lobato is not the only Brazilian author who valued and fought to preserve Brazil’s folklore and oral tradition, but he is certainly the best known. His stories have enchanted generations of Brazilian children and have thus kept the Brazilian folktales in the memory of the population. Today, the folktales known to Lobato’s generation continue to be enjoyed by children all over Brazil and even in the United States, thanks to the work of authors like Livia de Almeida and Ana Portela. They have collected forty-three of these tales in one volume, Brazilian folktales, giving English speakers the opportunity to read them in their own language, and thus be enchanted by the richness of Brazilian folklore. [note from Dr. MacDonald—Brazilian Folktales is an expensive book, so there are selections taken from other sources, but guided by Almeida and Portela.]

Works Cited—from Monica

Milton, John. “The Resistant Political Translations of Monteiro Lobato.” The Massachusetts Review 47.3 (2006): 486-509.ProQuest. Web. 17 Aug. 2015. (English)

“Monteiro Lobato Image – Buscar Con Google.” Google. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2015.

Sousa, Ivan Vale de. “Monteiro Lobato e o Folclore: uma Análise de O Sítio do Picapau Amarelo como Comunidadede Valorização e Vivência das manifestações Tradicionais Culturais e Folclóricas [Monteiro Lobato and Folklore: an Analysis of the Yellow Woodpecker Farm as a Community for the Existence and Valorization of Traditional Cultural and Folkloric Manifestations].” Anais Eletrônicos do Congresso Brasileiro de Folclore. 1-10. 2013. Web. 20 Aug. 2015.

tianastacia The Stories

Part 1

The following stories are excerpts from Monteiro Lobato’s book Historias de Tia Nastácia (Aunt Nastacia’s Stories), published in 1937. The book is a collection of popular Brazilian folktales, which Lobato preserved by making them part of one of his children’s books. The setting is the Sitio do Picapau Amarelo (Yellow Woodpecker Farm), and the stories are told by Tia Nastácia, with commentaries by her audience composed of Dona Benta, Pedrinho, Narizinho, Emília, and the Visconde de Sabugosa, who are the constant characters in Lobato’s series of books for children.

(“Historias De Tia Nastacia Images Search.” Google. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2015.)

Tia Nastácia’s real name is Anastácia, and she is beloved by the children, whom she delights with her cooking and homemade toys (Museu). She is a representative of the popular wisdom and also of the stereotypical former slave woman, who remained as a domestic servant after being emancipated. She has no formal education, having received all her knowledge from her ancestors. She has ample knowledge of home remedies, blessings, folk tales, legends and myths, and is very superstitious, often crossing herself to ward off evil spirits (Marçolla).

Note: Tia is Portuguese for “aunt,” and it is used by children in Brazil to respectfully refer to a female relative, and any other woman they know and care about.

Dona Benta (Madam Benta) is Pedrinho and Narizinho’s grandmother. She is the owner of the Sítio do Picapau Amarelo (Yellow Woodpecker Farm), and the leader of its inhabitants, which was an unusual position for a woman in the male dominated Brazilian society of Lobato’s time (Marçolla). She loves to read and tell stories to the children, and is a willing participant in their adventures (Museu). In her storytelling, Dona Benta unifies the oral tradition of the folktales with the academic world of the books. In the evenings, she takes a book from her library and the residents of the Sítio gather around for a story; but instead of reading it straight from the book, she tells it to them in her own words, using terms that are known to the children, and giving them the opportunity to comment on what they hear (Marçolla).

Pedrinho (Little Pedro) is Dona Benta’s grandson. He is ten-years old and lives in the city with his parents, but spends his summers at the Sítio where his imagination can soar (Museu). Pedrinho is a reflection of Lobato’s own childhood — hunting, fishing, and having great adventures at his grandparent’s farm. He is also a link between city and country life, bringing to the farm information on what is new in his world (Marçolla).

Narizinho (Little Nose) is Dona Benta’s granddaughter. Her real name is Lucia, but she was nicknamed Narizinho on account of her cute upturned nose. She is eight-years old and lives with her grandmother at the Sítio (farm), because she is an orphan (Museu). She is Lobato’s vision of the modern girl, who has a questioning spirit, is always curious and ready to face any adventure, but still retains the typical girl traits of knowing how to cook and sew, and carrying her doll around (Marçolla).

Emília is a ragdoll made by Tia Nastácia, and she is Narizinho’s best friend. In the beginning of the Sítio’s stories she could not talk, but a certain Doutor Caramujo (Dr. Snail) gave her a talking pill, and she began to talk incessantly (Museu). Emilia has an independent spirit and is never afraid to say what comes to her mind. She is the best known and most beloved character in Lobato’s universe (Marçolla).

Visconde de Sabugosa (Corncob Viscount) was also made by Tia Nastácia. Visconde represents the scientific knowledge that is acquired through the books they read. He is very wise, but his precise answers and explanations to every event make him tiresome to his friends (Marçolla). His name is a title of nobility, reminiscent of Brazil’s imperial government (Pedro I), and a connection to Lobato’s Grandfather, the Visconde de Tremembé (Marçolla). He is Pedrinho’s constant adventure companion in the Sítio. Pedrinho especially likes his “fixability;” if he ever gets damaged, Tia Nastácia just gets another corncob and makes him again.

The Monteiro stories are located in course materials, left column.

The Spanish foundation in our United States story is lost because the version we know from our history lessons is from the English perspective of Jamestown and Plymouth Rock. But St. Augustine in Florida was a successful multi-racial colony established by Spain in 1565. Today, our Spanish-speaking heritage is preserved through Mexican settlements (lesson 5 and Joe Hayes) and through Puerto Rico here in Connecticut.

Puerto Rico Discovery Day
Columbus Day part II
November 19th each year

When Columbus sailed on his second trip of discovery, he landed on Puerto Rico [meaning ‘rich port’] on November 19, 1493. There he was greeted by Taino natives, who showed him the island, including great stores of gold. Columbus named the island San Juan, after St. John the Baptist. He realized that the country which controlled Puerto Rico could control entrance to the Caribbean and its islands.
The annual commonwealth holiday is usually celebrated with parades, including horses, to recall the conquistadors, cultural events, and the unofficial start to the Christmas Holiday season. There are also parades in New York City and some cities in Florida to honor the Puerto Rican heritage and residents who live in these places.

From 1493 until 1898, Puerto Rico was considered a Spanish territory. After the Spanish American War, ‘ownership’ of the territory/commonwealth was given to the United States. Puerto Rico became a territory, not quite a state, with United States currency. Every Puerto Rican born after the 1898 ownership transfer to the U.S. was granted citizenship in 1917—just in time for the military service draft for World War I.
• The primary language is Spanish, though English is the language of official government business.
• The time zone is Atlantic—no change to daylight savings time, so standard time all year.
• The population is 3.5 million and declining, as many people leave the Spartan conditions.
• The island hosts the only tropical rain forest in the U.S.—El Yunque National Forest
• El Morro fort, at the promontory of Old San Juan, was built in 1540 and suffered little damage from the recent hurricanes.

Pura Belpre was the first Latina librarian in New York City. She was born in Puerto Rico. ”The Pura Belpré Award, established in 1996, is presented annually to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth.” It’s the equivalent of the Newbery Award for literature about Latinos. More information here:
Literature for children from Puerto Rico shows both its native and Spanish roots.

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