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Brazil is the first work of fiction to depict five centuries of a great nation's remarkable history, its evolution from colony to kingdom, from empire to modern republic. With a stunning cast of real and fictional characters, the story unfolds in South America, Africa and Europe.Two families dominate this extraordinary novel. The Cavalcantis are among the original settlers and establish the classic Brazilian plantation—vast, powerful, built with slave labor. The da Silvas represent the second element in both ...
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Brazil is the first work of fiction to depict five centuries of a great nation's remarkable history, its evolution from colony to kingdom, from empire to modern republic. With a stunning cast of real and fictional characters, the story unfolds in South America, Africa and Europe.Two families dominate this extraordinary novel. The Cavalcantis are among the original settlers and establish the classic Brazilian plantation—vast, powerful, built with slave labor. The da Silvas represent the second element in both contemporary and historical Brazil: pathfinders and prospectors. For generations, these adventurers have their eyes set on El Dorado, which they ultimately find—in a coffee fazenda at São Paulo. Brazil is an intensely human story—brutal and violent, tender and passionate. Perilous explorations through the Brazilian wilderness...the perpetual clash of pioneer and native, visionary and fortune hunter, master and slave, zealot and exploiter... the thunder of war on land and sea as European powers and South American nations pursue their territorial conquests...the triumphs and tragedies of a people who built a nation covering half the South American continent ...all are here in one spell-binding saga.
Uys's vigorous narrative art and the descriptive force show author completely at home with the immense historical mural he has before him. Descriptions like those of the war with Paraguay, particularly the battle of Tuiuti (a scene also depicted by João Ubaldo Ribeiro in one of the most important sections of his novel) do not find in our literature any rival capable of surpassing them, and they evoke the great passages of War and Peace rather than best-sellers of current extraction.
With these episodes and others from 1491 onward, the author shows a total empathy with the decisive moments in our history and their spiritual meaning: Indians, Portuguese, Mamelucos, Pernambucanos, Paulistas identify themselves through the centuries, not merely as historical figures but with the psychology and sentiment of the Brazilian. As one of the characters states, already in the eighteenth century, the bandeirantes were inspired to search for mines for the greater glory and richness of the king, and the Pernambucanos were at the same time consolidating the economic and political structure, "but when we think in the present, we just see Brazil."
The boy was sitting beside a branch of the river that marked the end of his people's place. These lesser waters struggled through the clans fields, their way broken here and there by the trunks of fallen trees, until their stream was lost in this green island.
He was Aruanã, son of Pojucan, and stood taller than most boys of his age. His mother, Obapira, had counted the first four or five seasons following his birth but then stopped, for the next age that mattered would come when he was ready for manhood. Now he had reached this stage. His limbs were well formed, his shoulders sturdy and straight. His jet-black hair was shaved back in a half-moon above the temples, from ear to ear, and his eyebrows were plucked. His lower lip was bored through in the custom of his people, and in it he wore a plug of white bone as large as his thumb.
Aruanã dangled his feet in the cool water. No one ever came here, because it was too shallow for bathing and the fish were few and miserable, but such a place suited his thoughts this afternoon.
Could he not remember, two Great Rains past, when he would lie awake in the longhouse, listening to the sacred music from the clearing, rhythms that held back the sounds of the jungle, as the villagers sang the praises of his father, Pojucan, the Warrior, Pojucan, the Hunter? But Pojucan had stopped going to the celebrations and would huntalone, often without success. And when Pojucan had become an outcast, so had his son, who was teased and taunted by his companions.
When they played the games of animals, Aruanã had to be the small rodent, Kanuatsin, who lived at the edge of the forest, and was forced to dash about, squeaking shrilly, until the others pounced upon him. At the river, they would lie in wait and ambush him when he went to swim: "Run, Aruanã, run to your sisters! Hurry to the fields of the women, for you'll never be a warrior!"
These torments had begun only after his father started to walk alone. Aruanã's early childhood had been happy: days of riding to the fields in the soft fiber sling at his mother's side, and playing in the sands while she worked with her digging stick, until he was able to stalk small birds and insects with the little bow and arrow made by Pojucan. Twice within the first five Great Rains of his life, the people had abandoned the village for the forest; but, to Aruanã, the migrations had been a tremendous adventure. Nor had he felt fear when his people prepared for war: As far back as he could remember, not a single enemy had got beyond the heavy stakes that protected his home. And hadn't he himself survived this long without being touched by the beings that dwelt in the depths of the forest and were known to devour children?
No sooner had this thought entered his mind than he detected a movement a little way downstream at the edge of the water. He sat absolutely still, his eyes riveted on the place where the undergrowth had been disturbed, listening intently for a sound.
Was it Caipora, stunted forest spirit, of whom his people spoke only in whispers? No one he knew had actually seen the tiny one-legged naked woman who hopped around in the shadows, and this was their good fortune, for her gaze brought the greatest misfortune to whoever looked into those fiery red eyes.
To his relief, it was not Caipora but the young otter, Ariranha, who peeked out at him, made some tentative gestures toward the water, and then dashed back into his hiding place. Aruanã did nothing that might alarm the little animal. After a while, there was a slight rustling sound as the otter poked his broad muzzle through the leaves and then took to the water.
Aruanã pictured the otter splashing upstream to his family and knew that he, too, must leave this place. The sun would be on the fields beyond, but its light was fading from the roof of the forest and it would soon be as night where he stood. He would want to think of himself as bold as Ariranha, but even a warrior like his father could fear this dark.
And what more does Pojucan fear? a voice within him asked. What has he dane to make his people see him worse than an enemy?
It was true. Even those they took prisoner were more welcome in the clan, for as long as permitted by the elders. The sisters of his people would take the captives into their hammocks; they would be feasted and fed; songs would be sung about them. But, for Pojucan, there was only silence. And more than this, for Aruanã had observed that other men looked at his father as if he were invisible.
Aruanã emerged from the trees at the top of a gentle rise that sloped toward the village. An ugly tangle of scorched creeper and shrub marked where his people had slashed and burned the forest. Trees that had survived the flames stood black and stark against the sky; others lay uprooted and shattered in the ash. Farther down, beyond this uncleared land, were patchworks of plantings of manioc. In the language of his people, mandi meant bread and oca the house.
The village below was the largest his people had built, and had been enclosed by a double stockade of heavy posts lashed together with vines — two great circles that protected the five dwellings arranged around a central clearing. These malocas were no rude forest huts but the grand lodges of the five great families of the clan, and in each there lived more than a hundred men, women, and children. Two bowshots in length, or sixty paces, ten paces broad and of the same height, they were raised by an elaborate framework of beams and rafters held together with twigs and creepers and thatched with the fine fronds of the pindoba palm.
Aruanã passed through the stockade and was heading toward his maloca when a boy came up to him and announced: "Naurú has asked for the feathers of Macaw. We have been called to listen this night."
Aruanã was delighted: This meant that he would soon be taking his first step toward manhood.
Naurú, the pagé — prophet, seer, medicine man — had been keeping his eye on this group of boys for some time. Now he had given the word that the brilliant red and blue macaw feathers of his rattles needed replacing, his way of indicating that the boys must prepare for initiation.
* * *
Tabajara, the elder of Aruanã's maloca, summoned his wives, and for two hours submitted himself to their attentions. There was Potira, little more than a child, with small, firm breasts and wide eyes; Sumá, who swam like a fish and had a magnificent body that brought great pleasure when he was alone with her; and Moema, "Old Mother," who had come first and never let the others forget this.
When Tabajara's body had to be painted, Old Mother would not let anyone else collect the colors from the fruit of the genipapo and the berry of the urucu tree — the one blue-black, the other an orangy red. Her fingers traced the most striking patterns on Tabajara's flesh. Sharp black strokes accented the permanently tattooed marks on his chest — as many stripes as the enemy he had slain. She filled in between the slashes with the red of the urucu. From his midriff" down, she divided the marked part of his body into sections, painting half red, the other black, and repeated these designs on his back.
Of course, she could make life difficult, with her sharp tongue and interfering ways; still, he'd secretly allow that there was more in Old Mother than in the others.
He saw Aruanã enter the maloca and caught Old Mother's look as she followed the boy's progress toward the far end of the house.
"I see his unhappiness," Old Mother said. "It is not good that a boy must live with this."
"A boy must learn many things," Tabajara replied, "beginning with what he hears this night."
"This is the trouble of —————"
"One who must not be named," he said quickly.
"It was not on my lips," she snapped at him.
"But in your thoughts?"
Her reply was to work the urucu dye onto his back with angry jabs.
Tabajara didn't want to discuss this problem with Old Mother. The boy's father had disgraced the clan, a dishonor that rested heaviest upon his maloca, since all under its roof were of the same blood. He saw Aruanã go to his hammock, and made a mental note to watch the boy closely for any sign of the weakness his father had shown.
Potira was on her knees, with Sumá, working on one of the few items Tabajara valued as a personal possession: a majestic cloak of brilliant scarlet made of hundreds of ibis feathers, selected with the greatest care for uniformity of size and color, linked together one by one with fiber string and attached to a cotton backing.
Tabajara also prized his other feather adornments: a high headdress of bright yellow and an ostrich bustle he'd wear on his rump.
Now only his face remained to be painted, but before Old Mother attended to this, she inspected him closely — and gave a little cry of triumph when she found a tiny hair at the edge of an eyelid. He gritted his teeth, great warrior that he was, when Old Mother plucked out the offending growth, gripping it with the edges of two small shells.
His face finally painted, Tabajara put the finishing touches to his appearance: He slipped a green stone, twice the size of the simple bone plug worn by Aruanã, into the hole in his lower lip, making it protrude in a way that brought murmurs of approval from his wives.
* * *
It was the first time the boys had seen the elders in full dress for their benefit alone. They sat in a semicircle on the ground between the malocas.
Tabajara was shorter than most men of the clan, but with his tall diadem he appeared as a giant before the boys.
"Sleep soundly this night, O Macaw, bird of the forest, wing of our ancestors," he said. "Sleep soundly, for those that will seek you are as worms of the dawn. How our enemies will rejoice when these poor things are sent against their villages."
His words were greeted with approving noises from the other elders, and the men, who stood around the clearing, echoed their feeling between gulps of fresh beer from the gourds passed among them.
Aruanã wanted the earth to take him when Tabajara, who had been pacing in front of them, stopped opposite him, the light from the log fires deepening the shades on his body and making his appearance as fearsome as anything Aruanã imagined among the spirits that filled the darkness.
"To your feet, boy!"
Aruanã scrambled up.
"Step closer to the fire so all may behold." When the boy was in the light, Tabajara went on: "Tell me, my child, why there is hope that you will find the feathers of Macaw."
Aruanã felt his heart pounding in his chest. "It is my wish to be a man of this tribe," he said, with firmness that surprised even him. "This is my first duty, to get the pagé's feathers, and I will not fail."
"Strong words, my child, but to find Macaw, you have to enter the forest alone. There will be no warriors to silence your whimpers. What if Caipora dances in your path? What if the one who seeks tabak is there?"
Tobacco Man, a specter like the woman who hopped on one leg, lay in wait for lone warriors and demanded the sacred herb, attacking them if they failed to supply it. "I cannot say what I will do."
The boy was honest, Tabajara thought. He was surprised that this son of the nameless one should answer so forthrightly and show so little fear in front of the elders. Many boys would be too frightened to utter a word.
Suddenly, all eyes turned as out of the shadows crept an ugly figure, mumbling incoherently. Among his people, Naurú was the only one with a physical defect — a bent back and twisted leg. Ordinarily among the Tupiniquin, deformed children were killed at birth, for their tortured bodies revealed the displeasure of the spirits. But Naurú's mother had disobeyed this dictate and hidden him in a secret place at the edge of the forest, until the passing of several Great Rains, and his survival was seen as miraculously intended by those same spirits who would have condemned him. The terrifyingly lonely time in a shelter his mother had scratched out of a riverbank had left him with a cold, solitary manner and a certain ignorance of those things boys of his age feared about the forest. He soon came to the attention of the former village pagé, who had led him to the secrets of that mystical world where ordinary men were interlopers.
When Naurú approached him, Aruanã's earlier bravado vanished under the icy stare of the keeper of the sacred rattles.
"I know this boy," Naurú said, not mumbling now but in a voice that all might hear. "He is from your maloca."
"There are three children in my house who seek your feathers," Tabajara replied. "Aruanã is one." Tabajara approached any confrontation with Naurú with extreme caution.
The village had no chief as such, the elders sharing in its leadership, but Tabajara's presence was generally acknowledged as the most imposing, especially when Tabajara led the warriors of the clan. Only one other man held a position of equal respect - Naurú.
"Why, when he stood up, did I feel something dark arise between us?"
"I cannot answer this," Tabajara said. He quickly saw that it had been a serious mistake to put the boy where he would attract attention.
"This is the child of a man who has brought dishonor to his people," Naurú continued.
Aruanã was trembling.
"Does Naurú wish this boy kept from the search for the feathers?" Tabajara asked.
"No, he must go," the pagé said immediately. "But I am curious, elder, why you still have the father in your maloca. It is bad for the village to be reminded of the shame he has brought. He may not be seen, but he is among us."
Tabajara knew that the death of the nameless one was being demanded. He saw the agony in the boy's face and wondered if, young as he was, he realized it.
"What you have said, Naurú, rests heavily with me. I will beseech the ancestors to help one who should have been more wakeful." Tabajara was determined that the matter be taken no further this night, and shifted his talk back to the boys. "Go — sit with the others!" he told Aruanã.
He saw Naurú scuttle away, pushing through the crowd toward the hut of the sacred rattles. Tabajara's opinion of the pagé wavered between dread of his powers and disgust at the manner in which he sometimes abused them. Naurú had had many opportunities to address this problem of Pojucan but had waited until tonight, when he could raise it before the village.
Until his last battle, few men could match Pojucan as warrior or hunter. He seemed destined to be the next leader of the maloca.
Two Great Rains past, the men of the clan had attacked their enemies' village. The battle raged for hours. Many on both sides were slain, until the clans warriors were driven back into the forest, leaving the dead and those captured by the enemy, Pojucan among the latter.
Three sunrises after the clan had returned to the village, Pojucan came wandering back. He had escaped from the enemy, and it was this flight that damned him.
Prisoners were always killed but it was a glorious death that promised entry to Land of the Grandfather. To flee was to banish all hope of reaching this warriors' paradise and to become a man without a country — a nameless no-warrior.
Tabajara had found Pojucan's behavior inexplicable, and the memory of it troubled him greatly.
He accepted a gourd of beer passed to him and drank deeply.
The boys, not knowing what was expected of them, sat motionless as others began to drift away from the clearing, until Old Mother, bringing a fresh supply of beer, saw them and erupted with laughter:
"Aieee! What foolishness! Are you to sit until Macaw calls? Get up! Go to your hammocks and ask your fathers how you must hunt Macaw."
* * *
Aruanã's eyes adjusted to the smoky atmosphere inside the longhouse. Twenty families dwelt here, their hammocks slung on either side of a central walkway. Their disregard for possessions, other than the fine works of feather, was evident in the few items stored within this area — earthen pots, bows and arrows, clubs, stone axes, a digging stick. Each family kept a fire burning day and night, its glowing embers as much for cooking as for warding off malevolent spirits.
It made no difference where he went or what he did, Aruanã thought sadly: his father's trouble followed. He had heard Naurú; still he could not understand what Pojucan had done so terrible as to make him a no-warrior. How could one so fearless and brave be a man without honor?
When he approached his family's hammocks — hung the farthest distance from Tabajara's place since his father's return — he saw Pojucan making an arrow. Two were next to him on the hammock — arrows of a kind Aruanã would need for Macaw. Seeing this, he was suddenly happy. When had his father last taken an interest in anything that concerned him?
Pojucan greeted the boy, and continued working on the arrow. Unlike those used against men or in the hunt for meat, it ended in a small, round knob, not a point of bone or sharpened reed. Its snub-nosed head was designed to stun, not kill.
"A boy needs a swift arrow for Macaw," Pojucan said, "one that will fly true and fast."
"With such an arrow, I will be the first to shoot Macaw," Aruanã said eagerly. "I will find more feathers than all the rattles can wear."
"When I went on my first hunt, I was afraid of the forest."
"And so it is with me, Father. But this fear will not stop me."
"There is no need to go beyond the forest of our people. Many macaw live there."
"I remember the signs and will look for them." He was referring to the markers with which the clan defined its territory: a broken branch across the trail, a slash on a tree trunk. "You have been beyond these, Father, a longer journey than others. I will also remember this, for I am your son."
"There are things in the forest even the bravest warrior has no eyes or thoughts for."
"You led the hunt. You saw the trail as the animals do." Suddenly Aruanã implored, "Oh, Father, why has it changed?"
"It was a long time past," Pojucan said. "It was the other life."
Pojucan still did not know what had come over him when he was a prisoner. He should have danced before his captors, and mocked them, until they brought the slaughter club. Why had he, on the second night, looked up at the stars and thought that life held more than a death of honor?
"You must look for Macaw in the middle branches," he said abruptly. "There he makes his home."
But Aruanã did not want to lose this chance to hear his father. "I do not know this other life you speak of," he said.
"Think only of the sunrise and of what must be done for Naurú. It is your first hunt. Sleep, so you will have eyes for Macaw."
"My father is Pojucan, the Warrior. Pojucan, the Hunter. This I will always honor."
Pojucan, a deep ache in his heart, swung himself into his hammock and turned his back on his son.
Naurú was going to have him killed; of this he was sure. His death would come without ceremony, a group of warriors ambushing him in some quiet place in the forest or seizing him here in the maloca and dragging him beyond the stockade.
But why should he allow old bent-back Naurú to decide his life for him?
He was not so stupid as to seek an open confrontation with Naurú. He would be a twice-condemned man if he dared defy Naurú before the elders.
He dreaded Naurú, but there was something else, a fire within him that had begun as no more than the faint embers at the end of night in a maloca.
It was heresy, the denial of a glorious way of dying among the Tupiniquin, and he was the first man to think it.
* * *
Aruanã lay awake for a long time, listening to the insects in the thatch, the creaking of hammock poles, the conversation of those still awake. He heard the cries from the jungle, so very close late at night.
Aruanã's people were Tupiniquin, one of the great tribes of the forest. The Tupiniquin lived beyond the farthest rivers, up to the lands of the Tupinambá. He had heard the names of other tribes as well, but he could not remember them all, and called them, mostly, The Enemy. Whenever there was a war, there would be prisoners, and they would always boast about their own villages, how much greater they were than the dan's. He never believed a word of this, but he listened to them, and learned about the tribes and lands they had come from.
Twice in his own lifetime the clan had moved its village.
The last move had led to a startling discovery for Aruanã.
One morning soon after the clan had raised its new malocas, the men left the village at sunrise and made for the river, where they boarded three dugouts.
"Where are we going, Father?" Aruanã was to ask this question again and again, but each time Pojucan only laughed and told him to wait.
They paddled downstream. After a bend, the river began to widen, and there was a low, rumbling noise.
"Father, what is it?" he asked uncertainly.
Before Pojucan could reply, the river was gone, and the earth itself was fast disappearing as they swept forward, onto the widest, bluest, most expansive stretch of water.
Behind him, Aruanã saw white sand backed by tall, graceful palms; behind the palms the earth rose, with patches of forest on the heights.
Between the white sand and the place where the water met the sky lay a line of foaming white. At sight of it, the men shouted from one canoe to the other, warnings to turn back. This was done, but the first craft to paddle toward the land was almost at the white sands when it was swamped.
The canoes of Pojucan and Tabajara raced toward the scene, but so close to shore had it occurred that by the time they got there, the warriors were already on the sands, laughing at their misfortune and delightedly pointing out that "Bluewater" had turned the urucu dye on their bodies a deep mahogany hue.
Aruanã fell asleep this night remembering a glorious day when he first saw Bluewater that flowed to the end of the earth.
* * *
He awoke before anyone else in the maloca but did not rise from his hammock, and was lying there when he saw Aruanã stir. His son also did not get up immediately but sat in the net, clearly uncertain as to whether or not he should set out for the forest, since it was still dark outside. Pojucan did not let the boy see that he was awake. Go now, he willed the youngster. When the fat and the lazy have wiped the sleep from their eyes, you will be across the river. Go now, my son!
It pleased him that no sooner had his thoughts ended than Aruanã climbed out of the hammock. He watched the boy squat by one of the pots at the fire and throw back mouthfuls of manioc. Then Aruanã lifted the bark container with his arrows, slung it over his shoulder, and took up his bow. He paused briefly and looked back toward the hammocks. Then he made for the low opening at the end of the maloca, pushed aside the woven mat that covered it, and was gone.
Soon after Aruanã left, Pojucan swung out of his hammock: One man there was who was permitted to speak to a no-warrior, and Pojucan went to seek him at a neighboring maloca.
The man was at his hammock, and greeted Pojucan cheerfully enough. He was lean, with light, almost yellow skin and a sharp nose that had earned him the sobriquet Long Beak in the village. His real name was Ubiratan. Whether he was a prisoner of the village was moot. Some elders held that he had been captured by their canoes; others argued that this "capture" had occurred after the strange craft he'd ridden into the bay at the end of the clans river had been destroyed in the white waters. As the prisoner theory had prevailed, no one paid much attention to Ubiratan's talking with no-warrior, particularly in the beginning, when he could not properly understand his dialect.
Ubiratan came from a people he called Tapajós, who had never made war with the Tupiniquin. Ubiratan was not clear about the distance between this place and his village, but he had been gone four Great Rains and the stars themselves had changed their place in the sky.
He regarded the Tupiniquin as a simple people compared with his own. The Tupiniquin thought themselves a great nation, but their malocas were buried in the forest, they had little trade with one another, and, what surprised him most, they had never talked of a great chief, one man who directed the affairs of all the tribes. At the head of his own Tapajós was such a person, a man of authority, whose word was obeyed throughout the land, who could call upon the warriors of every village, and whose name was honored wherever the Tapajós lived — and feared by tribes who dwelt farther along Mother of Rivers.
It was an order of this great chief that, indirectly, was the cause of Ubiratan's present misfortune. A skilled potter, he had been sent to the farthest village in the land to fetch the blue earth that Tapajós potters used for their finest vessels. The field of clay lay beyond the last Tapajós settlement, in a no-man's-land. Here a band of enemy warriors attacked Ubiratan and took him captive, dragging him to their canoes and riding the powerful currents to the very end of Mother of Rivers.
One day the headman of the village where he was held captive announced that he was taking two canoe parties on a long journey, and selected Ubiratan to join them. Instead of heading upriver, the boats went far beyond the largest island and down along the mainland. One disappeared in a storm; Ubiratan's was wrecked in a bay.
Separated from his companions, often near starvation, he struggled down the coast till he found a clan of fishermen whose canoes were like none he had ever seen.
These jangadas were built of six to eight balsa logs, roughly equal in size, laid side by side and lashed together with lianas. To catch the wind, a great woven mat was suspended from two mangrove wood poles erected upon the log platform in an A-position and supported with lianas. Within a short time, Ubiratan had mastered this wind-canoe and could send it rushing across the water as fast as the best of them, directing its course from the stern with the great paddle positioned there.
Ubiratan would sometimes take a jangada out by himself. The last time he did this, he was caught in a sudden squall and driven to the white waters, where the jangada was lost and the Tupiniquin captured him.
It was this man to whom Pojucan now turned for help. "You were in the clearing last night?" he asked.
"I heard Naurú," Ubiratan replied.
"I expect Tabajara to act, even before this sun has gone."
"You show no fear?"
"I am not afraid: I have lived two Great Rains since my last death and am ready to face this one."
"Ah, yes, it is so," Ubiratan said. "But how have you lived?"
Ubiratan had found it strange that a man could be an exile among his own people for the reason Pojucan was: To live to fight an enemy again must surely be more worthy than to be slain before the women and children of his village.
They walked beyond the village, heading toward the canoes, until they arrived at a place on the river where the mist was beginning to rise.
"My boy is already in the forest," Pojucan said. "Gone before any other. He will be first to get Macaw's feathers, the son of no-warrior." He laughed joylessly.
"Tell me, Ubiratan, is it so different for you? Wandering from the Tapajós, away from the sight of your people?"
"In my spirit it is the same, I agree."
"Must Ubiratan, son of the Tapajós, lost from his people, stay among the Tupiniquin, forever gone from Mother of Rivers?"
"You can return," Pojucan said directly.
"I remain only because I know how many lands lie between this place and the one I left."
"Only because of this?"
Ubiratan nodded. Until now, he had shown little emotion, but he could see what the Tupiniquin was leading up to, and a keener note rose in his voice: "It is a long and terrible journey, beyond even those stars that mean so much to you."
"But did you not make such a journey, my friend?"
Ubiratan had often thought of heading up along the white sands or into the forest, and there had been many opportunities, but not for a man alone.
"There is nothing for me here," Pojucan continued, "but dishonorable death. I will go with you, to your village."
Ubiratan leapt forward and embraced Pojucan, clasping him to his chest. "Oh, my friend! What I said about the dangers is true, but with two of us they can be overcome."
They agreed that there was no time to lose. They must go that night, when people were about in the clearing, make their separate ways to the small forest behind the clan's fields, and start from there.
* * *
Aruanã was out of scale in the forest, dwarfed in this twilight world, where the simplest ferns and shrubs grew to a height twice his own and patches of light played through the latticed branches in the canopy far above, filtering through the lower trees and making strange shadows dance before his eyes.
Cautiously he slipped between writhing shapes of trees held in the grip of the strangler fig or hung with the tendrils of great lianas, vines too thick to encircle with both hands. It was a soggy, dripping world, mostly silent now that the waking chorus had stilled, but there were occasional cries from various levels above, parrots and toucans shattering the quiet with maniacal conversation as they took to wing, a cacophony of screeches and squawks that rose until, abruptly, they ceased. In the distance, a pack of howler monkeys started up.
The boy was nervous but also experienced a strange elation the deeper he walked into the forest. His life had begun in such a place: When his mother had felt the child, she had gone beyond the village to the trees, where she squatted on the damp cover to give birth.
Little happened in Aruanã's world that was not bound up with the jungle. The forest was mysterious and dangerous, and if its luxuriance and fecundity were not held back at the edge of the clearing, the trees and shrubs would invade the malocas.
In the forest were animals and plants that provided food, medicines, shelter, and weapons, more than man could ever need. But this paradise was also a land filled with a fantastic parade of evil.
Several times before crossing the river at dawn, Aruanã had inspected the dye smeared over his body. It was his only protection against Caipora, whom he feared most, and the others: The forest demons were unlikely to see a human who wore the red paint. And then, once on the other side, he had abruptly stopped, his heart beating furiously as he awaited a dreadful apparition. But there had been nothing, and he had walked on, a little bolder.
When a group of large brilliant blue butterflies flew in front of him, he dashed after them. Entering the forest where the fragrances were especially heavy, he paused and breathed deeply of the exotic perfume, examined strange insects, and plants growing high on the trees themselves, splashes of color flowering amid the dark green clouds of leaves.
Twice already he had caught a movement in the middle branches, where his father had told him to look for Macaw. The first time he'd watched in disgust as a turkey thrashed to the ground. The second time it had been a brilliantly feathered macaw, and he'd got a shot off into the trees but missed, and the arrow was lost. He stood there trying to attract Macaw by mimicking his call. Macaw screeched back, mocking him from very close, but he never saw him again.
He'd gone on, humiliated and reminded that there was much to learn before he could read the signs of the forest.
He wove through a thick stand of tall fern, hearing small animals scurry off at his approach.
I must take the finest feathers, he told himself. They will see the great warrior I am to be. They will show our people there can be no dishonor in Pojucan.
Aruanã moved quickly until he came to a tangled growth so dense he had difficulty getting through. He cried out as thorns pierced his flesh, but he was already too deep into the brush to backtrack and so decided to push ahead. It took longer than he expected, and as he struggled along, he saw through a rare break in the trees that the sun was near the middle of the sky.
He had finally got through this barrier and was moving quietly on the thick carpet of rotting vegetation when he found Macaw.
The bird was on a low limb of an enormous tree, facing the opposite direction. Without a sound, Aruanã fitted an arrow to his bow, took aim, and released the string. This time he did not miss, and the bird toppled off the branch. With a whoop of joy, he ran to collect Macaw, and saw that he had long and magnificently hued tail feathers.
"Forgive, O Macaw," he said as he plucked them, "that I leave you so weak. This night your glory will dress the rattles of our people." When he'd finished, he laid the bird to one side, carefully wrapping the feathers in two palm leaves to protect them on the journey back.
* * *
When Aruanã reached the village, he was disappointed to discover that his father was not in the maloca. He greeted Obapira, but when her back was turned, he hid the palm leaves near his hammock. She was not to be the first to see his beautiful prize. He went in search of Pojucan, and was strutting through the clearing when he met two boys, sons of an elder in another maloca.
"We watched you," one said. "Your walk told much."
"What did you see in it?"
"The steps of one who is pleased," they both replied.
"I was alone in the forest where Caipora lives and have returned without harm."
One of the brothers said quietly, "We saw the palm leaves."
"You will see them again before this night has ended," Aruanã said. "Can you show the same?"
Their long faces said it all, but it was not every day that he could make those who had teased him squirm. "Did you find the feathers?"
"Macaw did not fly where we went in the forest," one said. But almost immediately his face brightened, and he added, "We found something else, far better than feathers." He looked at his brother, who nodded vigorously. "Come. Share with us!"
They had plundered a nest of bees, bringing back a honeycomb, which they had hidden near their maloca.
Before today, these boys would have led those who taunted him. Was he now experiencing the first result of success with Macaw?
They asked him to tell what he had seen deep in the forest, and then confessed that they had gone only to its edge. He was shocked that they'd admit such deceit at a time when they had been told to prove they were ready to be men. When he said as much, they looked genuinely scared, and begged him to tell no one.
He heard noises from the other side of the maloca: It was time for presentation of the feathers!
He should never have dallied this long, but they had kept pressing the sweet nectar upon him. He stood up, wiped his hands against the palm fronds of the maloca, noticing as he did that many people were already drifting toward the clearing. He ran to his house, grabbed the palm leaves in which he'd wrapped his feathers, and hurried outside.
Aruanã made his way to the front of the crowd gathered at the hut of the sacred rattles, where his age group had been ordered to sit. The boys who had shot Macaw were placed apart from the others. Aruanã saw only two with palm leaves before them, and ten boys who had often made his life a misery looking very gloomy.
Naurú was in his hut, the light from the fire within glowing dimly at the entrance. At several points in their lives, men entered that place to seek help or receive messages from the spirits, and they invariably faced such consultations with dread, never sure of the outcome.
Tonight, long before he showed himself, he had started chanting and shaking his rattles, louder and louder, the sounds mounting above those outside, the voice issuing from the small, twisted body remarkable in its power. A mantle of urubu feathers — only he was permitted the covering of the black vulture, bird of death — was slung over the hump on his back, and the sight of him in it was enough to make those closest jump back when he suddenly burst out of his hut. He halted a pace from the nearest group of men, turned his eye upon them, and moaned hideously, all the time shaking three rattles. From his neck hung a long chain made of hundreds of teeth drawn from the jaws of enemy warriors.
Naurú moved with a sort of hop toward the larger group of boys. He danced up and down before them with such ferocity that several began to whimper. Next he turned to those with feathers, stalking round them rather than dancing, circling several times, muttering and shaking the rattles when he paused opposite a boy, looking him over thoroughly before placing a rattle on the ground in front of him.
Aruanã was last to fall under his scrutiny.
He was enormously relieved when Naurú put a rattle down and backed away, but he grew worried again when the pagé went directly into his hut, the abrupt departure seeming to Aruanã to have something to do with him.
Naurú returned quickly, however, with a supply of tabak and lit the dry herb with an ember from the fire. He sat on the ground between the boys, and sucked at one end of the roll of smoldering leaves, filling his lungs.
The elders had elected Tabajara to speak, and he now stepped forward, his feather adornments more resplendent than on the previous night.
"O Great Pagé, Voice of the Spirits of our people, I ask to be heard."
Naurú puffed at the tabak and insolently blew smoke in the elder's direction before announcing, "They will listen."
"Believe, O Naurú, when our people were told that the sacred rattles had lost their feathers, every warrior wanted to take their bows."
A chorus of agreement greeted this statement, and Tabajara waited until it had died down. Naurú continued to sit, puffing away at the roll of tabak, looking on d isinterestedly.
"But Naurú saw another way...."
"It was the wisdom from Voice of the Spirits. It told of others to find feathers for the rattles. First we did not hear."
"You question Voice of the Spirits?"
"Then, why were your thoughts weak?"
"They were not weak but small. As small as the thoughts of those Naurú appointed to find Macaw."
"There was a reason,"
"We saw the wisdom of it."
"But not at first?"
"Not when boys were called to do the work of men. We feared the anger of the ancestors, O Great Pagé."
"Was it not they who asked, when they saw it was time for these boys to begin the work of men?"
"This was what we came to understand."
It was a ritual, this banter between elder and pagé, similar for every age group that approached initiation. To impress the boys, it sometimes went further, with Naurú seizing the opportunity to make a fool of the elder chosen to speak. But Tabajara was adept at meeting Naurú's provocations. He now lashed out at the boys without feathers: "I do not see one feather of Macaw! What kind of men will you be?"
None dared a response.
"I have seen such men," Tabajara told them. "Even the smallest girl in the malocas laughs ....
"They are the men who hang in their hammocks when the hunt is called, the men who hide when the enemy is near, the men who run from the fire in the sky. Look around you. Do you see such men?" Several shook their heads. "You will not find them among the Tupiniquin. Tell them, O Great Pagé, where the men without the spirit of men are."
Naurú was on his feet, a little unsteady from the effects of the tabak, which he had been inhaling furiously. He moved to the boys, so close that spittle dribbled from his lip hole onto the nearest one.
"They are taken into the forest," Naurú said. "Such men cannot hide their fear from the shadows. See Caipora with them, Caipora with her one leg, leaping as high as the trees. 'Dance, coward! Dance!' she demands. 'Dance for Caipora!' And Jurupari, he with the teeth of Jaguar and claws of Hawk. How Jurupari hungers for such miserable things! See the fire in his eye glow. Hear his stomach growl."
Naurú now launched into a grisly cautionary tale replete with inhuman beasts and demons, monstrous figures of that other world where cowards — and young boys who didn't bring feathers — might be tormented.
When Naurú had finished, Tabajara walked over to the boys with the feathers, motioning the one farthest from Aruanã to rise.
"O Voice of the Spirits, here is a true son of Tupiniquin, a boy who will be a man among us!"
Aruanã grew excited as he waited his turn, but he felt a deep sadness also: This night of all nights he wanted his father here — to see him praised in this way.
The two boys had presented their feathers, and now Aruanã was called. He stood up quickly and went to the elder and Naurú.
"Son of my maloca, Tabajara is happy that you have feathers. Your eye is good, your arrow true, your path that of a warrior-to-be. Let us hear where Macaw was found."
"Farther than I have been with our hunters."
"I saw you leave the maloca before the sun woke. Those who came back with nothing were still in their hammocks. Tell me, boy, were you not afraid of the darkness?"
"I left when hunters leave."
Tabajara smiled. He was pleased with the boy's answers. Last night he had had doubts about this son of no-warrior. It was good to see that he'd been wrong.
Naurú was not pleased. Here was bad blood, this son of a man who had denied a way of the ancestors. But he had found Macaw, and it was difficult to speak against him.
"Yes, boy, you were lucky this day."
"And swift, too," Tabajara hastened to add.
"Let the boy show his feathers!" he ordered.
Aruanã carefully removed the bindings around the palm leaves. His hands shook, such was his excitement, for he knew that the eyes of every man and boy present were upon him; and, he knew too that the feathers of the others were nothing against those he had brought.
He unrolled the leaves with a flourish, his eyes bright with anticipation.
Aruanã gasped in horror. The dazzling feathers of Macaw had become the worst pluckings from the wing of Heron!
"My feathers! Where are the feathers of Macaw?"
The men of the clan first greeted this incredible scene with silence. Eyes turned to Naurú and all willed that he act quickly to appease those offended.
To the surprise of all, the pagé began to cackle, and danced a wobbly jig before the boy, slapping his sides. He laughed until tears streamed from his eyes, and when others saw this, they began to laugh, too. The brothers who had lured Aruanã to their honeycomb, and other boys who had been in on the scheme to change the feathers, laughed as loudly as the adults standing behind them. As Naurú's mirth increased, so did everyone's, all but Tabajara.
The elder was furious. The boy had made a fool of him, in front of every man of the village. He grabbed Aruanã by the arm. "My anger, boy, is as nothing to the furies of our ancestors at your foolishness."
"O my father, it was not like this! Some of the boys tricked me. They took the feathers that I brought."
"Quiet, boy! Do you not see that Naurú will speak?"
The pagé had stopped laughing and was advancing toward him, with terrifying malice. "We heard that this boy went deep into the forest."
"I did this, O Great Pagé, and I found Macaw."
"Silence! If it is not a lie, why did Macaw's feathers get changed to the pluckings of a Heron?"
Tabajara watched him quizzically. What was in Naurú's mind?
"What do you say, elder?" Naurú asked.
"I saw feathers of Heron," Tabajara said. "But the boy said the others changed his feathers."
The men groaned, and several cried out, "O Great Pagé, we beseech you: Hear what wrongs the spirits of our village. Hear this night, or heavy is the fear in our malocas."
Naurú picked up the sacred rattles and began to shake them, letting the rattles tremble and moaning as if he was in great pain. Suddenly, he stopped. "It is Gray Wing," he announced. "The ancestor's name Gray Wing."
The crowd whispered the name, though no one knew this "Gray Wing."
Naurú's voice was entirely different from his normal tone. "We see Gray Wing gone to fight the enemy. Tupiniquin make war at sunrise when Cariri lie in their hammocks. Long is the battle. Gray Wing is a prisoner." He paused. Then:
"On the second night, Gray Wing shows the enemy no courage in Tupiniquin. He runs from their village."
Several cried out: "This is no-warrior. Here is his son — come to the ancestors with white feathers."
Aruanã tried to flee, but Tabajara stopped him.
"When we met last, I warned about this man," Naurú said, now in his normal voice.
"We heard, O Great Pagé," the men answered.
"What has come of my warning?"
The elder shoved Aruanã aside. "We have met to know how it will be done," he said.
"Now is the time!" a man called out.
"Find Gray Wing," another said. "Kill him!"
"No!" Aruanã screamed. "He is not Gray Wing. He is Pojucan, my father! Pojucan, warrior of the Tupiniquin!"
The few who took notice of this outburst jeered at the boy.
"You have heard," Naurú said, addressing Tabajara. "Let no-warrior be taken. Let him be silenced!" He turned abruptly, picked up the rattle near Aruanã and disappeared into his hut.
The meeting broke up. A group of men went to Tabajara, for, as elder of the maloca, it was his duty to lead them to no-warrior. Others began to drift toward the opening in the stockade.
Aruanã was forgotten, in front of the pagé's hut.
O Father, he wept, can it be? Can the one Aruanã has loved be a warrior without honor?
Aruanã ran toward the main clearing, where a group was gathered outside his maloca, and he now saw one of them approach him.
"We must go quickly," the man said. "Your father waits."
"They will kill him," Aruanã said. He recognized the man as the Tapajós prisoner. "I cannot bear to watch."
"They will not find him."
"He will be in his hammock."
"Your father is gone from the village, and I am to join him," Ubiratan said.
"Where is my father?"
Ubiratan motioned for Aruanã to follow him to the side of the stockade farthest from the opening. There he helped the boy over the long poles and then hauled himself up.
In the small forest where the boy had seen the otter, Ariranha, father and son met. The Tupiniquin told Aruanã that they were to journey to the lands of the Tapajós, but that nothing would prevent the boy from remaining in the village.
"I hear my father," Aruanã said simply.
|Author's Note to the New Edition||xii|
|Prologue The Tupiniquin||1|
|Book One The Portuguese||51|
|Book Two The Jesuit||113|
|Book Three The Bandeirantes||195|
|Book Four Republicans and Sinners||365|
|Book Five Sons of the Empire||489|
|Book Six The Brazilians||601|
|Epilogue The Candangos||713|
|Maps follow pages xiii and 781|
Posted February 2, 2013