August festivals: Brazil’s Bumba Meu Boi Festival

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By Karen Hart

Design a mythical creature linked to Brazilian folk tales.

Bumba Meu Boi festival
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Derived from African, Indian and Portuguese folklore which intermingled during colonial times, the story behind Bumba Meu Boi revolves around the story of an ox’s death and resurrection. During the festival the story is told through dance, song, theatre and capoeira (Brazilian martial art combining elements of dance, acrobatics and music), by a band of street performers, many dressed as oxen or mythological creatures.

Although there are regional variations throughout northeast Brazil, the story is basically a satire on plantation slave masters, and begins with the pregnancy craving of Chico’s wife; Catrina. Desperate to eat the tongue of the best ox (boi) on the farm where Chico works, Catrina finally convinces Chico to kill the animal for her. Eventually the crime is discovered and Chico is tracked down by several characters. Chico is brought to trial and sentenced to death. The story ends with the magical resuscitation of the ox, and the pardoning of Chico who is finally reunited with his wife

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