King of the Carnival

It’ll soon be carnival time in many countries and carnival always makes me think of Brazil.  Not that Rio de Janeiro has the only carnival in the world.  The ones in Venice and Trinidad are pretty awesome festivals.  But somehow Rio and carnival are twinned in my head, like fish and chips, or parents and hassle.

So it was sunshine, samba and Brazilian carnival I had in my head last Sunday as my train chugged through the wintry landscape of Northern England towards the seaside resort of Blackpool.  I’d been invited to Bispham Endowed Primary to open their multicultural week.  Each year group was focusing on one continent and Year 2 were doing South America.  ‘Did I know any stories from Brazil?’ I’d been asked by the literacy co-ordinator.

paperback edition

I adapted a number of Brazilian stories for TRADITIONAL TALES FROM THE AMAZON a while back so, yes, I could tell the children some stories from Brazil.  The one I enjoy telling the most is a creation story called THE LEGEND OF THE SUN GOD.  It comes from the Kamayura people and tells how Kuat, the sun god brought light to the forest, so that people could thrive and prosper.  It’s a delightfully gruesome legend where Kuat pretends he’s dead and all the maggots and worms feast on his body and a vulture tries to peck out his eyes.   A couple of punters have left complaints about it on amazon, but I find it’s no more savage than the story of Jesus being whipped, crowned with thorns and crucified.

Moura Torta

Some kids in Blackpool asked me what kind of mask I’d wear to a carnival ball.  Who would I go as? ‘Moorish Pie,’ I answered.   They thought I was having them on but I was serious.  Moorish Pie is Moura Torta in Portuguese.  It’s not a local delicacy but the name of a horrible witch who is as popular in Brazilian folklore as Baba Yaga in Eastern Europe.  She gives the hag in Hansel and Gretel a run for her money, I can tell you.  Ugly, cruel and deluded, Moura Torta will stop at nothing to change her circumstances.  She’s a kitchen hand in the king’s palace but she dreams of being a queen.  You wonder why she doesn’t use her powerful magic to create a kingdom, peopled with loyal subjects but, of course, what Moura Torta really craves is not wealth or comfort or even power, it’s respect from her own people [i.e. her family – it’s the same age-old story.]

A Brazilian actor in a play about Moura Torta

Her most famous tale is The Three Citrons where she puts a magic spell on a princess to steal her prince.  She nearly gets to marry him too, till the princess fights  back and wins the day.  Moura Torta is always subjected to torture at the end of her stories but she always pops up, alive and kicking with her horny toenails in another yarn.  Us uglies need a thick skin to survive……….

You can read some Brazilian and other South American stories in TRADITIONAL STORIES FROM THE AMAZON.   Find out what happens to Moura Torta in AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY TALES. Both books are available from amazon.



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2 responses to “BRAZILIA CARNAVAL

  1. I wonder if there’s a gruesome tale about how she got her name.
    Thanks for the post.

    • I have a horrible suspicion that there’s a racist element to that. Brazil is made up of many different ethnic groups and in the past the whiter your skin was the prettier you were considered. Hence the ‘moorish’ adjective. Today, thankfully, it’s not the case anymore, so La Torta is given ever more gruesome expressions to make her horrible. I wonder if ‘torta’ alludes to the fact that she has a big, round face?

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