12 best characters of Brazilian literature

“Reinações de Narizinho”, Monteiro Lobato’s book that introduces the character of Emília and launches children’s literature in the country.


Listas Literárias blog asked its readers what were the greatest characters of Brazilian literature. I tend to agree with the results and organized the names in no particular order.


1 – Macunaíma – “Hero without character” conceived by Mario de Andrade in the crazy and iconoclastic twenties. A playful Black man born fully grown from a Amazonian Native mother, he becomes white after bathing in a miraculous spring and moves to Rio where he gets involved with social turmoil.
Grande Otelo incarnates Macunaíma in the 1969 film by Joaquim Pedro de Andrade
2 – Emília – The irreverent rag doll that says anything that comes to her mind and uses a magic powder to travel to the past or fantasy land. Fundamental pillar of the country’s children literature, she was conceived by Monteiro Lobato – an author frequently underestimated and, lately, criticized for his supposed racism.
Lucia Lambertini plays the first of many TV Emílias

3 – Macabéia – the innocent girl that has to migrates from the Northeast to Rio in “A Hora da Estrela“, by Clarice Lispector. Here, in Suzana Amaral’s movie with the great Marcélia Cartaxo and José Dumont .

4 – Policarpo Quaresma – One of the many literary children of Machado de Assis. He is a nationalist bureaucrat treated as a madman for preaching the adoption of Tupi-Guarani, the main Native Brazilian language, as the national idiom. This is the full version of the movie of same name with Paulo José, directed by Paulo Thiago.

5 – Capitu – the beautiful, mysterious woman that betrayed her tormented husband, Bentinho, with his best friend (or didn’t she?), in Machado de Assis’ “Dom Casmurro” , quite probably the greatest novel ever written in Portuguese. Here, in the unconventional TV series “Capitu”.



6 – Brás Cubas – another character by the great Machado de Assis, this time from “Memórias Póstumas de Brás Cubas“. The late narrator describes, in his posthumous, sarcastic memories, the life of a bourgeois that accomplished nothing in his life.


7 – Capitão Rodrigo – the brave, seducing warrior fromO Ttempo e o Vento”, a family saga in the landscapes of Southern Rio Grande do Sul state, written by Érico Veríssimo. Here is a scene of the 1985 TV series of same name:


8 – Riobaldo – a character that, for misterious reasons, is not mentioned by the readers of Listas Literárias. Riobaldo, from Guimarães Rosa’s “Grande Sertão: Veredas” (“The Devil to Pay in the Backlands”, in the English translation) is the masculine jagunço (something that might be translated as mercenary) that feels the love that doesn’t dare say its name for fellow warrior Diadorim in the dry outback landscapes.


9 – Menino Maluquinho – another children’s character, the playful boy with a pan in his head, by cartoonist Ziraldo. Here in a TV show:

10 – João Romão, the greedy landlord of “O Cortiço”, the 1890 Naturalist novel by Aluisio Azevedo.


11 – O analista de Bagé, de psycho shrink by Luis Fernando Veríssimo, that leaves a mate gourde shaped as a breast in his waiting room, to see how his patients choose to drink the typical beverage.


12 – Iracema, the Tabajara Native maiden with “honey lips” by José de Alencar. A favorite of Romantic classics.


Did I miss your favorite, by any chance?
If you are interested in Brazilian literature, check also these posts: Leminski, haiku god and Getting to know Brazil – a reading tour,


5 thoughts on “12 best characters of Brazilian literature”

  1. Com certeza a obra de Monteiro Lobato é uma das minha favoritas. Mas para ser franca, tentei ler Macunaíma duas ou três vezes. Um tédio, uma imcompreensão de dar inveja no maior dos burros. Acabava cochilando lá pela terceira página. Desisti. O livro é ruim demais.

  2. When I saw the title of the post in my reader, I wondered if any of Erico Veríssimo’s characters would make the list. Sure enough, there is Capitão Rodrigo.

    Great post!

  3. Oh, my, João Grilo is brilliant!!! This type of list is always so limiting. Thaddeus, once again I will have to promise you a complementary post.

  4. Capitão Rodrigo was my first love. Instead of falling in love with movie actors, I fell for him when I was twelve. And because of him, I feel in love with Erico Verissmo and the literature itself. I’ll never forget him saying ‘a Cambará macho doesn’t die on a bed’. I think Verissimo’s women are great too, even if not so outstanding as Rodrigo. I love Maria Valéria and Clarissa.

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