Brazil, Werewolves, and the Legacy of Colonialism

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The werewolf, although maybe not as well-known worldwide as his companions Dracula, the Mummy, or Frankenstein’s monster, options much more closely in Brazilian popular culture than these different traditional monsters, showing in all places from TV exhibits to cleaning soap operas to movies of various genres.

That is significantly exceptional given Brazil doesn’t have wolves.

Every week-long collection on horror and folklore world wide that examines what fashionable tales and tropes can inform us a couple of society’s best fears, grimmest challenges, and darkest fantasies.


A scene the Brazilian werewolf movie Good Mannners.

A scene from the 2017 Brazilian werewolf film Good Manners.Good Fortune Movies City Manufacturing unit

The werewolf, although maybe not as well-known worldwide as his companions Dracula, the Mummy, or Frankenstein’s monster, options much more closely in Brazilian popular culture than these different traditional monsters, showing in all places from TV exhibits to cleaning soap operas to movies of various genres.

That is significantly exceptional given Brazil doesn’t have wolves.

The closest animal Brazil has is the lobo-guará or “maned wolf”—which, although it carries the title “lobo” (wolf in Portuguese), is just not truly a member of the wolf genus in any respect; it’s extra much like a fox (although it’s not technically a fox both). It’s an omnivore whose main meals staple is a tomato-like fruit referred to as a wolf apple. It’s not thought of an important predator and even very harmful, and it’s definitely not an animal prone to encourage a nightmare creature just like the werewolf.

But werewolves pervade Brazilian tradition; reviews of assaults by and sightings of werewolves happen with curious frequency. And never only recently both: Within the late 1700s, an area administrator named José Cavalcante de Albuquerque, who oversaw the Decrease Amazon village of Vila Franca, was accused of being a werewolf by a priest named Domingos de Lira Barros.

So why is the werewolf so prevalent in Brazil?

One motive this entity has invaded Brazil’s folklore is, after all, colonialism, because the werewolf may be very current in Portuguese folklore and was seemingly a colonial import. However colonialism alone doesn’t clarify why the werewolf has grow to be so deeply built-in in its nationwide consciousness. Reasonably, it’s the werewolf’s anthropomorphic, hybrid nature that has made it such a sturdy cultural determine and enabled it to merge with native mythology.

Even when the wolf itself is just not accessible in our fauna repertoire, the idea of a person and savage, harmful animal hybrid is simple to assimilate into Indigenous cultural superstitious beliefs. The werewolf tends to characterize the connection between human and animal. Its habitat is nature, usually a rural space; the thought of the creature as a supreme predator encounters a fertile place in Brazilians’ relationship with its forests—particularly the Amazon. The werewolf reminds us that people, regardless of all of our civilized affectations, are nonetheless animals at our core. That our city environment have a rural ancestry. That there’s a beast inside us.


A maned wolf

The maned wolf, which resembles a fox however is technically neither wolf nor fox, is the one wolfish creature in Brazil. Arterra/Common Pictures Group through Getty Pictures

In Brazil, that concept of the hybrid additionally echoes the nation’s colonialism expertise, during which Europeans invaded not solely the land but additionally the present social and cultural constructions, creating a brand new, hybrid society and tradition that included extraordinarily completely different realities and non secular beliefs. The werewolf is a metaphor of Brazil’s personal folklore. It reminds us that Brazil remains to be primarily based in native tradition however has Portuguese influences.

The 2017 Brazilian horror movie Good Manners, written and directed by Juliana Rojas and Marco Dutra, evokes all of those themes. Though Brazilians are inclined to go to the flicks to observe fashionable North American blockbusters with a lot much more frequency than nationwide productions, Good Manners obtained essential acclaim in Brazil in addition to internationally. The movie received Finest Brazilian Movie, Finest Supporting Actress, and Finest Cinematography on the Pageant do Rio, one of many greatest movie festivals in Latin America. It additionally received the Félix Award for Finest Fiction Movie, devoted to movies that current LGBTQ themes.

The movie tells the story of Clara (performed by Portuguese actress Isabél Zuaa), who’s employed by the pregnant and single Ana (performed by Brazilian actress Marjorie Estiano) to work as a nanny. Ana is a wealthy white girl who doesn’t work and receives cash from her father whereas Clara is a Black girl who wants the job to economically survive in an enormous metropolis like São Paulo, the place the film takes place.

Warning: spoilers forward!

An sudden romance between them breaks the plain preliminary critique of social constructions and racial inequality to introduce a brand new layer of commentary about lesbian relationships—a divisive subject in a rustic with the world’s largest Catholic inhabitants. All of the sudden, Clara’s character mutates from an overworked worker (with all of the inherent sociopolitical complexities) to a nursing determine who’s defending her love throughout being pregnant.

Divided into two acts, the ending of the primary half presents Ana dying whereas giving beginning to a child werewolf and Clara adopting the boy as her personal. The beginning of a monster serves as a metaphor for the perils of getting sexual relations exterior of marriage, however that morale positive factors much more difficult dimensions when a priest is pointed to because the potential (or possible, relying on the interpretation) organic father.

The second act exhibits Clara’s life as she raises the now-7-year-old werewolf boy, Joel (curiously performed by a younger actor named Miguel Lobo, the equal of Michael Wolf in a literal English translation). When the monster contained in the boy is launched throughout the full moon, the privileged boy of rich (learn: aristocratic) origin turns into a predator feeding on the decrease social courses—a metaphor that may even be prolonged to the connection between Brazil’s Portuguese colonial masters and its native folks.

But it’s exactly the second when the boy’s monstrous werewolf kind is totally revealed that Good Manners really ties collectively all the disparate threads of Brazilian tradition, historical past, and identification.


A scene from the 1941 movie The Wolf Man.

A scene from the 1941 film The Wolf Man.Common Footage

Dutra’s and Rojas’s werewolf borrows closely from Common Footage’s 1941 traditional The Wolf Man and extra up to date visible references, reminiscent of director John Landis’s 1981 An American Werewolf in London and director Neil Jordan’s 1984 British movie, The Firm of Wolves. However it additionally attracts from anthropomorphic parts present in Brazilian folklore in addition to native reviews describing werewolves’ appearances because the 18th century—reviews that have been themselves seemingly influenced not less than, partially, (particularly early on) by the Portuguese Iberian wolf.

All of those references come collectively to kind an entity that isn’t precisely a part of Brazil’s native mythology, which existed there lengthy earlier than the European’s arrived in 1500, however nonetheless by some means feels real to Brazil.

Brazilian folklore at this time is just not an inheritance of its native folks, neither is it an appropriation of some other tradition—be it the European colonizers or its continental neighbors. It’s a combination of all of this and extra, together with the tradition of the African slaves who bled to construct the nation.

When Dutra and Rojas provide the viewer all these polysemic potentialities in Good Manners, additionally they go away a mirrored image concerning the title within the air. In spite of everything, what are these “good manners” the title refers to? It might be interpreted as implying that should you stray exterior of accepted social conventions, you’ll find yourself lifeless (not less than metaphorically if not actually). Or possibly it’s merely an attraction for younger 7-year-old monsters to behave in public and keep away from killing folks.

However it additionally suggests another interpretation that maybe the administrators weren’t planning: that Brazil’s tradition, just like the werewolf itself, can also be a hybrid—and in a post-colonial interpretation, it’s the product of a really violent invasion and genocide of its native folks, one definitely not carried out with “good manners.”

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