Saci-Pererê /sassy-perere/ is a kind of Saci. Yes, there are many kinds of Sacis out there. The “Pererê” specimen is usually a single-legged very dark-skinned boy who smokes a pipe, wears a red hood and transports himself on a mini hurricane. This description can sometimes change, and Saci-Pererê can also be described as an old man instead of a boy. Nevertheless, he is always single-legged and dark-skinned. Some say that his name comes from the Tupi Guarani language: çaa cy means “evil eye” and pérérég means “leaping”, so Saci-Pererê could be interpreted like “The


leaping evil eye”.

Although his name suggests something evil, Saci-Pererê is not a monster and most of the time he is not evil either. In some of his stories, we may consider that he behaves like a spoiled child who wants to have everything done their way, otherwise they get aggressive. Saci-Pererê can appear to you asking something. If you refuse to give it to him, then you’ll face the consequences – just like tricks or treat for Halloween.

Furthermore, if we go deep into Saci-Pererê’s archetype, we can conclude that he is the trickster of Brazilian folklore.

Powers, Weaknesses, and his Habits

An incorrigible prankster, he hides children’s toys, sets farm animals loose, teases dogs – and curses chicken eggs, preventing them from hatching. In the kitchen, the Saci spills salt, sours the milk, burns the bean stew, and drops flies into the soup.

If a popcorn kernel fails to pop, it is be-cause the Saci cursed it. Given half a chance, he dulls the seamstress’s needles, hides her thimbles, and tangles her sewing threads. If he sees a nail lying on the ground, he turns the point up. People blame anything that goes wrong – in or outside the house – on the Saci.

Besides disappearing or becoming invisible (often with only his red cap and the red glow of his pipe still showing), the Saci can transform himself into a Matitaperê or Matita Pereira, an elusive bird whose melancholic song seems to come from nowhere. One can escape a pursuing Saci by crossing a water stream. The Saci dares not cross, for then he loses all his powers. Another way is to drop ropes full of knots. The Saci is compelled to stop and undo the knots. One can also try to appease him by leaving behind some cachaça, or some tobacco for his pipe.

He is fond of juggling embers or other small objects and letting them fall through the holes on his palms. An exceedingly nimble fellow, the lack of his right leg does not prevent him from bareback-riding a horse, and sitting crosslegged while puffing on his pipe (a feat comparable to the Headless Mule’s gushing fire from the nostrils).

Every dust devil, says the legend, is caused by the spindance of an invisible Saci. One can capture him by throwing into the dust devil a rosary made of separately blessed prayer beads, or by pouncing on it with a sieve. With care, the captured Saci can be coaxed to enter a dark glass bottle, where he can be imprisoned by a cork with a cross marked on it. He can also be enslaved by stealing his cap, which is the source of his power. However, depending on the treatment he gets from his master, an enslaved Saci who regains his freedom may become either a trustworthy guardian and friend, or a devious and terrible enemy. Anyway, I don’t know anyone who has ever caught a Saci-Pererê, he’s too fast in his hurricane.

Origins of the Legend


The Saci myth probably derives from the Ŷaci-ŷaterê of Tupi-Guarani mythology, a magic one-legged child with bright red hair who would spellbind people and break the forest’s silence with his loud shouts and whistles. He was originally a creature of the night, and indeed the ŷaci (jaˈsi) means “Moon” in Old Tupi.

This indigenous character was appropriated and transformed in the 18th century by the African slaves who had been brought to Brazil. Farm slaves would tell Saci stories to amuse and frighten the children. In this process the creature became black, his red hair metamorphosed into a red cap, and, as the African elders who usually told the tales, he came to be always smoking his clay-and-reed pipe.

In Popular Culture

What made Saci-Pererê become so famous among all other well-known names and beings? The answer is Monteiro Lobato, a Brazilian writer.

In 1918, Monteiro Lobato published a book called Saci-Pererê: Resultado de um Inquérito (Saci-Pererê: The result from an Inquiry) in which he presented a compilation of Sacis he gathered from all over the country by mail. There were many variations and descriptions.

He was so fond of Saci-Pererê that he included Saci as a character in Sítio do Pica-Pau Amarelo (The Yellow Woodpecker Farm) released in 1920, among other Brazilian folklore characters.

Although Saci-Pererê was not one of the main protagonists of the chronicles, he played a special role causing mischief, playing pranks, and more.

In the 1960s, the one-legged gnome – by now “domesticated” into a prankish but inoffensive and lovable creature – was chosen by premier Brazilian cartoonist Ziraldo as the leading character of his comics magazine Turma do Pererê.

The character also appears in manga Akumakun (1963-1964) of Shigeru Mizuki.

Tom Jobim’s song “Águas de Março” mentions the Matinta Pereira, and Nei Lopes’s samba song entitled “Fumo de Rolo” tells a tale of a fisherman being accosted by the saci while collecting reeds in the forest.

Sport Club Internacional has the figure of Saci as its mascot, owing to the club’s popular roots, the red color of his clothing and the fans’ hope that the team could pull tricks on their opponents.

With the purpose of countering the growing trend of adopting the Anglo-Celtic Halloween in Brazil, the Day of the Saci was created in 2005, and it is likewise commemorated on October 31.

In the 2012 video game Max Payne 3, set mainly in São Paulo, Brazil, a trickster Saci makes a cameo as a villain in the in-game cartoon show The Adventures of Captain Baseball Bat Boy.

The Saci appears in AdventureQuest Worlds. This version has a human-like appearance, wields a spoon, and has a tornado where his legs should be while also performing wind attacks.

The Saci appears in the movie Invisible City (2021), played by Wesley Guimarães.

Photo: Alexander.

A novel species of dinosauromorph, discovered in 2001 at Agudo (southern Brazil), was named Sacisaurus because the fossil skeleton was missing one leg.

The names of the Brazilian satellites SACI-1 and SACI-2 were backronyms on the character’s name, as well as four retrotransposons in the DNA of the fluke Schistosoma mansoni were named Saci-1, Saci-2, Saci-3, and Perere.

Since the Saci’s one-legged physique reminds us of people with a physical disability, a social network named SACI (an acronym of Solidariedade, Apoio, Comunicação e Informação, or Solidarity, Support, Communication and Information) was created at the University of São Paulo with the purpose of stimulating these four efforts towards the social and medical rehabilitation of physically disabled people.

The Forest Guardian (Orishas)

The roots of Saci-Pererê may vary but one important reference that must be considered is that we have Arôni, a forest guar-dian who works for the Orisha Ossain in Yorubá mythology.

Ossain is the Orisha of healing, the one who knows all the secrets of the forests, the powers of the herbs and all kinds of natural magic. Arôni is his messenger and he wears a hood and carries a pipe in which he smudges herbs to release their magical properties.

By making this association, we can point a “hidden” skill of Saci-Pererê: Could he be able to use the magical powers of herbs? Was he able to use magic in general?

Source: by Daniel Faria &

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