Amazonia: Indigenous Tales from Brazil

Retold by Daniel Munduruku (Groundwood Books, 2013)


Who? What? Where?

Amazonia: Indigenous Tales from Brazil retold by Daniel Munduruku, is an anthology of myths from the Amazonia region, featuring the tales of the Bororo, Manao, Anambé and many more. The myths help us make sense of central themes and mysteries to humanity such as: love, family, greed, and the origin stories of the world we all inhabit. Amazonia centers on the various sets of knowledge of indigenous people of the region and offers insight into new ways of seeing and making sense of the human experience. Illustrated by Nikolai Popov, the Amazonias come to life in the illustrations of serpents, leopards and bat-people. These myths will not only inspire you but will cause you to marvel at the wonder and beauty of this earth, and of those who inhabit it.

Amazonia: Indigenous Tales from Brazil seeks to get close to and reconnect the different types of knowledge that have been suppressed from people’s imaginations. It reminds us of the importance of bringing together humankind, offering each and every reader one end of the thread that binds us to each other to the great web of life” (Munduruku 9).

Principle Themes:

The anthology opens with the origin story of the Munduruku, a father and son who emerge from the darkness, and soon discover the rest of humanity. This however, is not the only origin story throughout the text, there are many others, ones that tell the beginning of how reptiles came to be, the tobacco plant, and how the Manao learned to make Tapioca flower from the cassava root. Greed is a recurring trope, from Ceuci, the Witch who Ate a Lot, an Anambé myth, to the Parrot Who Sings Kra-Kra-Kra, a Bororo myth. Stories of love and vengeance are featured prominently as well. Two brothers, the children of a woman and a jaguar, seek revenge for their mother’s death. Another features the story of a jealous husband in the Pequi Tree myth when he discovers his wives are having an affair with the Alligator. These myths locate emotions of the human experience and turn them into opportunities of understanding more about ourselves, they locate us amongst the animals and environments we know and live in, teaching us of our place in the world in relation to everything around us.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are some common themes you see throughout the book?
  2. What kind of relationships did you see between humans and animals?
  3. What animals were new to you? What do you picture them to look like?
  4. Which myth was your favorite and why?

More Resources:

  1. Facts about the Amazon: https://www.natgeokids.com/uk/discover/geography/physical-geography/amazon-facts/
  2. Teachers guide to teaching about Native American storytelling (lesson plans included): https://www.pbs.org/circleofstories/educators/index.html
  3. Lesson plan on bringing Native American legends and myths to the classroom through art: https://teachers.yale.edu/curriculum/viewer/initiative_17.01.06_u

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