More people need to watch Netflix’s Invisible City (Cidade Invisível in Portuguese) because it is an amazing show and I have no one to discuss it with! I try to join in on the Brazilian fan groups, but my Portuguese is not good enough for in-depth discussions. The series is a beautifully woven story that amalgamates elements of Brazilian folklore, fantasy story-telling, and modern politics. The characters drawn from Brazilian folklore are so much fun and fascinating that I am dedicating a blog post to each of the major figures in the series.
I will start with the fan favorite, Saci. There are no spoilers for the show in this post.
The impish Saci is a popular character for good reason. There is even a day dedicated to him: O Dia do Saci (Saci Day) is celebrated October 31st as a way to encourage the traditional Brazilian folklore against the current of foreign monsters such as witches. Saci is an annoying but mostly harmless trickster. He is traditionally described as a dark-skinned, one-legged boy who sports a red cap and smokes a pipe. Like Puck from English folklore, he is often blamed for household nuisances, such as spoiled milk or burned bread, but he never causes serious harm. He moves quickly despite his one leg and is often portrayed as traveling in a whirlwind. You can catch a Saci by holding a sieve in a whirlwind and capturing him in a bottle. Once the Saci is captured, you must remove his red cap to prevent him from using his powers to escape.
Saci is sometimes described as a protector of the forest, and people would leave offerings of tobacco or rubber for him, much like Curupira. He also has vast knowledge of the medicinal properties of the various herbs and plants of the forest. These elements of Saci’s legend are not largely left out of Invisible City, however.
In Invisible City (Cidade Invisível), Saci’s human persona is known as Isac, and he lives on the streets with Curupira, a reference to the fact that the legend of Saci is partially influenced by that of Curupira. Saci in fact seems to be a syncretic creation of various influences and cultures, which is characteristic of Brazil as a whole. Wesley Guimarães does a fantastic job of bringing Saci to life with boyish playfulness, mischief, and charm.