"A masterpiece. . . . In beautiful and readable prose, the author has deftly shown how folk beliefs, myths, and superstitions regulate lives and activities in primitive societies and how they often contribute to environmental conservation."--Richard Evans Schultes, Harvard Botanical Museum
"This marvelous book, written in an engaging style, reveals the richness of caboclo folklore and, in doing so, unveils the complexity and nuances of the caboclo way of life. . . . wonderful descriptions and accounts of folk beliefs, the entire cast of spirit beings that dwell in the imagination of the people and inform their lives."--Wade Davis, Caribbean Institute of Anthropology and Sociology, Caracas, Venezuela
Concern mounts daily about the fate of fragile tropical forests and their indigenous people. This original collection of the folklore of peasants living in the Amazon basin, who regard their environment with awe and respect, focuses on the significance of myths and legends as a message of conservation.
Compiled during Nigel Smith's quarter-century of fieldwork in Amazonia, the stories reflect the resilient culture of millions of small farmers, hunters, and fisherfolk along the region's waterways and pioneer roads. Their lore is an intriguing blend of indigenous, European, and African religious beliefs spanning all aspects of daily life and including a wide assortment of ghosts, monsters, and enchanted places.
Many legends were conceived to entertain audiences with colorful and inspiring stories; indirectly, they serve to relieve some of the pressure on animal and plant life--for example, excessive greed when harvesting forest products, hunting, or fishing can provoke the ire and punishment of supernatural game wardens. Pugnacious black sows, giant white dogs, and three-legged cows affect the fates of other transgressors.
As a backdrop to the tales, Smith provides information on the flora and fauna of the area, on the geographical and historical setting, and in particular on the problems of rainforest conservation. All is not lost, he says. Young people in rural areas still recount tales of spirit protectors, and the region is experiencing a revival of traditional cultural practices.
With its intimate photographs, also by Nigel Smith, this book will appeal to the general public as well as to ecologists, anthropologists, botanists, natural historians, and all others working in the Amazon Basin.
Nigel J. H. Smith is professor of geography at the University of Florida. He is the author or coauthor of ten books, including Floods of Fortune: Ecology and Economy along the Amazon; Amazonia: Resiliency and Dynamism of the Land and Its People; Tropical Forests and Their Crops; Rainforest Corridors; and Man, Fishes, and the Amazon.
About Nigel J.H. Smith
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Published February 10, 1996
by University Press of Florida.
Political & Social Sciences, Nature & Wildlife, Literature & Fiction, Science & Math.