Netflix’s Invisible City Part 4: Curupira

Curupira is the protector of the forest. He has red hair, and his feet are facing backwards. This means that his tracks always lead away from his actual location. The legend states that he loves tobacco and alcohol, specifically cachaça. In order to appease him, those who ventured into the forest would leave offerings of cachaça and tobacco for him. Some legends state that Curupira would kill those who entered the forest with bad intentions, such as to hunt or cut down trees. Curupira is often cited as the reason for those who go missing in the forest.

Saci (left) and Curupira (right)

The forest is a major motif in the series, given its importance to the plot, the legends, and the culture as a whole.n the show. However, Curupira, the protector of the forest, is an indigent when we first meet him. Invisible City keeps his love of alcohol because when we first meet Iberê (his human name), he is an alcoholic living on the streets. Saci looks after him as he would a family member. I hope we will see more of Curupira in season 2!

I have posted about my favorite legends from the show, but there several others that fascinating themselves: the corpo-seco, Tutu Marambá, the pink river dolphin. The series has brought these imaginative tales to a brand new audience. I have learned so much about Brazilian culture from these episodes, and I cannot wait to see more.

Netflix’s Invisible City Part 3: Iara

Iara is the siren-firgure of Brazilian folklore. The legend states that she was an accomplished warrior and daughter of an Amazonian shaman. Her skills easily surpassed those of her jealous brothers, so they conspired to kill her. They were no match for Iara, and she ended up killing them both.

As a punishment for killing her brothers, her father had her thrown into the river. It was a full moon night, and the fish of the river decided to save her and transform her into the Lady of the Water. Now, she lures men with her beauty and song into the water and drags them to their death at the bottom of the river. It is said that if Iara’s prey does manage to escape, he will lose his mind, only able to be cured by a pajé or shaman. Iara’s legend has a sense of revenge unlike the European siren. The sirens are simply monsters that lure men to their deaths without clear motive, but Iara is out for blood.

Inês (left) and Camila (right)

Jessica Córes portrays Camila/Iara in Invisible City in a pivotal role. As with all of the characters, she has the ability to appear in human form, but aside from that,Camila mostly follows the characteristics of the legend.

Netflix’s Invisible City, Part 2: The Cuca

When I was little, my family would tell me that if I did not behave, Thelma Harper from Mama’s Family would come and get me. For some reason, that seemed to work for a while. Although now, perversely, Mama’s Family is still one of my favorite shows.

Thelma Harper, the face of terror (Mama’s Family)

Aross many cultures, parents rely on traditional monsters to scare their naughty children to going to bed. The bogeyman/boogeyman in many English-speaking countries, the Coco in Spain, and Baba-Yaga in Russia are a few examples. The Cuca serves this role in Brazilian folklore. She is often described as a witch or old hag, sometimes with the head of an alligator.

Left, the Cuca from Invisible City. Right, the Cuca from the show Sítio do Picapau Amarelo

The Cuca of Invisible City is neither an old hag nor an alligator-headed monster. Inês, portrayed by Alessandra Negrini, is instead a seductive witch who owns a bar. She can hypnotize her prey and read their thoughts and memories. She can also transform into moths to gain access to where she wants to go. Her close companion is Tutu, which is fitting since the two are lumped together as the children-eaters in the traditional song “Tutu Marambá” (Youtube link here).

Inês is one of the most interesting and alluring characters from Netflix’s series. The changes made to the story for the show allowed the character to be a much more interesting on-screen figure for a 21st century audience, but they kept the essence of her story the same. I will leave it at that to avoid spoilers, but I cannot wait to see her story continue in the second season.

Netflix’s Invisible City, Part 1: Saci

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.

Saci

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.

Saci, portrayed by Wesley Guimarães in Cidade Invisível

Runnin’ around like a Striped Haint

Have you ever heard of something being “scarier than a striped haint?” Or someone “runnin’ around like a striped haint?” Striped is pronounced with two syllables in this expression, “stripèd haint.” Southerners will no doubt be familiar with the term haint, which is a ghost or spirit. However, striped haint is an obscure phrase that I have only heard a couple of times in my life, and the internet search results are amazingly scant. Why is the haint striped? And why does it run around? It is scary because of its stripes?

Being from South Carolina and a lover of languages and dialects, I have heard the phrase used only once by an older relative, and an older friend recognized it when I mentioned it to her. The elusive phrase itself is hard to find on Google, only yielding 13 results with an exact match to the search “striped haint.” The search for the striped haint took me to some eccentric corners of the internet.

Corpus of the striped haint

There are only a handful of examples of the striped haint floating around online. One of the best comes from City-data.com, which houses discussion threads based on different locations. The striped haint made an appearance in the “Coastal North Carolina” thread. The user biscman states that his family originated “in the mountains” and settled in Spartanburg in the Upstate region of South Carolina. Spartanburg is my hometown, and as the speaker notes, “what you hear in Charleston may or may not be heard in the Upstate.” This user posted a treasure trove of expressions, but the relevant excerpt was: “Scarier than a striped haint- very scary. A ‘haint’ is a ghost. ‘Hainted’ is haunted. Striped is 2 syllables- stri-PED. ‘Without my makeup on, I’m scarier than a striped haint.'” His post gives us some clues to the geographic origin of the striped haint, but not much on the “striped” part.

Another example comes from a user called Thirsty Hrothgar on Flickr, a photography portfolio site. He titled one of his photographs “Runnin’ around like a striped haint.” I messaged him to inquire what he knew about the phrase. He said that his grandmother from Lincoln County, NC would often use the expression “as a simile when talking about someone who was frazzled or otherwise acting frantic or crazy.” Lincoln County, NC is just outside of Charlotte and is less than one hour from Spartanburg, SC . This is another clue on regional origin, but we still have little on the origin of the “striped” aspect of the phrase.

The remaining examples provide no real context or location clues. I have no real way to contact their authors. The Louisiana-based character Ghislaine LaLaurie apparently uttered the phrase in an issue of Mortal Combat X comic series according to her entry in the Mortal Kombat Fanon Wiki: “‘So everyone you run with is scarier than a striped haint? I like it.’ (to Kano, about Michael Schneider).” It would be interesting to see if the author of that issue was from or connected to the piedmont of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

In another example, a Tumblr user posted an imagined scenario of the trial of Mayella Ewell, who falsely accused a black man of rap in To Kill a Mockingbird. In this user’s imagined trial, Mayella fears the questioning of attorney Atticus Finch: “Mr. Finch just put me on the stand and I’ll tell you, he’s scarier than a striped haint.”

The phrase even made an appearance in the wrestling forum in which multiple users continued a story through several posts. The user Skairipa Matrix made use of the expression in their post: “As for you Mr. Corvus, you say you’re fighting against the evils here but your new attitude begs to differ. I don’t know why you changed your ways, but it’s scarier than a striped haint.”

Buffalo Parrot “Parrot Squawk” forum was a place to discuss psittaciforms, but the forum seems to be defunct as of the writing of this post in August 2021. As with many internet discussion boards, it seems to have often devolved into tangents. In one thread (found here), users discuss a list of colorful “slang sayings/words.” One of my favorites: “It’s hotter than a ditch digger’s ass crack in August,” and “hotter than a goat’s butt in a pepper patch,” posted by user BPMar. The same user listed “[s]carier than a striped haint,” but without any commentary.

Possible Origin

The examples cited above do not provide any clues to the origin or meaning “striped” in this context. It is clear that the striped haint is scary or frantic based on the phrases and context of meaning. One reddit user hypothesized that the stripes could be referring to being beaten, which would certainly make one frantic and chaotic.

In terms of location, the phrase seems to be centered about the Western North Carolina and Upstate South Carolina regions, at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I messaged Dave Tabler, editor of Appalachian to ask if he had encountered the striped haint, but he had not heard the specific phrase. He did note that it is “common throughout the region to get these very specific twists from a narrow area.”

I hope to hear back from a few more users on their location and use of the phrases, but until then, I will have to keep searching for the elusive striped haint.


Welcome to my little nook on the net

My name is Eric, and I have a life-long obsession with languages. I will be blogging mostly about language and film, though I may stray into other topics.

This is my playground; I am here to have fun. I am not sure the purpose or the audience of this blog. It will evolve over time. It is my way of stuffing a message into a bottle and tossing it into the cyber-sea.