Scary Brazilian Lullabys
Most Brazilian lullabies and children’s songs are scary as hell. Some of them are not exactly child-appropriate. Or human-appropriate.
Check out this hit parade:
- The big classic “Atirei o Pau no Gato”, that says: I hit a cat with a stick, but he didn’t die. Mrs. Chica was surprised by the cat’s cry.
- What about the morbid “A Canoa Virou“: the canoe turned over, because someone let it happen: [name of the kid] didn’t know how to row. If I were a little fish and knew how to swim, I would rescue [the kid] from the bottom of the sea.
- Or the even scarier “Nana neném”: sleep baby, because Cuca (a forest monster) is coming to get you. Mommy went to the country and daddy went to work.
- Or the vaguely racist “Boi da Cara Preta”: Black-faced ox, come for this kid that is afraid of grimaces!
- Or the gloomy “O Cravo Brigou com a Rosa”: Carnation fought with Rose, under a set of stairs. Carnation got hurt and Rose lost her petals. Carnation got sick, Rose came visit. Carnation fainted. Rose began to cry.
- You can also try “Ciranda, Cirandinha“, that says: “the ring you gave me was made of glass and broke. The love that you had for me was not enough and vanished”.
- Or “Samba Lelê”: Samba Lelê is ill, his head is broken. What he really needs is to be spanked.
You don’t need to have a PhD in Psychology to realize you might want to keep your kids away from these songs. “nana neném” is the one that personally I heard the most of. Here is a YouTube video of a Cuca monster singing the lullaby “nana neném” on the brazilian children’s program”Sítio do Picapau Amarelo”…:
The main refrain of the lullaby goes:
nana* nenem sleep baby
que a cuca vai pegar because the cuca’s gonna get you
mamãe foi pra roça mommy went to the country
papai foi trabalhar daddy went to work
desce gatinho come down, little cat
de cima do telhado from the roof
pra ver se a criança to see if the child
dorme um sono sossegado is sleeping peacefully
*the word “nana” means sleep when you are talking to a child (nanar - to sleep). Children in Brazil sometimes get their own special verbs. For example, instead of saying “comer” – to eat, when talking to a child you can also say “papar” (“vamos papar?” - “lets eat?”)
Legend of The Cuca
So what is a “Cuca”? It’s the creature that’s singing “Nana neném” in the Youtube video above. While there are a number of Brazilian legends, one of the best known is that of the cuca, a mythical character popularized in Brazilian culture. The cuca, which originally came from the Portuguese coca, a dragon legend, was brought to Brazil in colonial times. The cuca is an ugly old woman who appears in the form of a crocodile and robs disobedient children. The cuca only sleeps once every seven years, and parents sometimes use this element of the legend to scare children who don’t want to go to sleep, telling them that the cuca will get them if they don’t go to bed. The Cuca legend was adapted for TV on the Globo show Sítio do Picapau Amarelo beginning in the 1970s. The TV cuca had a blonde wig, lived in a cave, and made magical potions. The cuca was also popularized in music, including the lullaby “Nana nené.”
Saci Pererê is another terrifying figure of early childhood in Brazil.
He’s black and has only one leg. He is always depicted smoking a large pipe. He wears a red pointed hat, which gives him magical powers, like the ability to appear or disappear whenever he wants to. He supposedly comes out of nowhere and will trick you if you ever find yourself alone in the forest.