Page:Amazonian Tortoise Myths.djvu/14

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In this paper I propose to treat of one class of these animal stories, of which the Indians are very fond, namely: those relating to the Brazilian land-tortoise.

The Jabutí, as it is called by the Portuguese, or Yautí, as it is termed in Lingua Geral, is a small species of tortoise[1] very common in Brazil, and much esteemed for food. It is short-legged and slow, weak, and silent, yet it plays the same part in Amazonian mythology that the fox does in that of the Old World. Inoffensive and retiring, the Jabutí, nevertheless, appears in the myths of the Lingua Geral as vindictive, cunning, active, full of humor and fond of discussion. "É verdade!" said an Indian at Itaitúba to me on his finishing a tortoise myth, "É o diabo; e tem feito estrago!" (He is the very devil, and has worked havoc!)

In 1870, my guide, Lourenco Maciel Parente, dictated to me at Santarem, in Lingua Geral, the following story of "The Tortoise that outran the Deer." Of this I published in the "Cornell Era" of Ithaca, New York, a version that attracted the attention of a writer in the "Nation" of New York, who gave a variant of the same myth found among the negroes of one of the Carolinas.

In 1871, when I revisited the Amazonas, I took

  1. "Testudo terrestris, tabulata, Schoeff. Emys faveolata, Mik., depressa, Merr." v. Martius, Woertersammlung etc. S. 455, sub voce Jabotí.