Misterious peacock – when cordel literature seduced the country


OPavoMisterioso_180 (1)“O Romance do Pavão Misterioso” (The Romance of the Misterious Peacock), published in 1920, is one of the most famous stories of literatura de cordel – those booklets produced in a domestic press, illustrated with rustic woodcuts and sold in street markets, hanging from clothes-lines (thus the name, cordel). It is also one of the very few cordel stories that made their way into mass culture.

Attributed to José Camelo de Melo Rezende, it tells the story of a Turkish man, Evangelista (“the son of a capitalist”, says the rimed story), who creates a peacock-shaped flying machine to seduce and kidnap Countess Creuza, the imprisoned daughter of a Greek nobleman. You can read the whole story online (in Portuguese).

In this lovely 1975 short video, extracted from the documentary “Nordeste: Cordel, Repente e Canção“, a cordel salesman recites parts of Romance do Pavão Misterioso.

The booklet, initially published in 1920, only became a household name in 1976, when the song Pavão Misterioso, by Ednardo, was used in the opening credits of surreal soap opera Saramandaia, by playwriter Dias Gomes. The story was full of supernatural phenomena – a fat lady that exploded, a guy with wings, another that would produce ants from his nose, a werewolf. This video combines the opening credits of the 1976 version and the 2013 remake:


More recently, Fernanda Takai, lead vocalist of Pato Fu band, brought the song by Ednardo back to life (here with subtitles in Portuguese):

You can read more about Pavão Misterioso cordel in the blog O Planeta é nosso.

P.S. – In case you are interested by this topic, The American Folklife Center, in Washington, will promote  next week a symposium about literatura de cordel that sounds really promising.