True History: An Account of Cannibal Captivity in Brazil

Last updated
True History: An Account of Cannibal Captivity in Brazil
True History and Description of a Country in America, whose Inhabitants are Savage, Naked, Very Godless and Cruel Man-Eaters WDL4069.pdf
Title page of the 1595 Dutch Edition
Author Hans Staden
Original titleWarhaftige Historia und beschreibung eyner Landtschafft der Wilden Nacketen, Grimmigen Menschfresser-Leuthen in der Newenwelt America gelegen
Country Germany
Language German
Publisher Andreas Kolbe
Publication date
1557

True History: An Account of Cannibal Captivity in Brazil (German: Warhaftige Historia und beschreibung eyner Landtschafft der Wilden Nacketen, Grimmigen Menschfresser-Leuthen in der Newenwelt America gelegen) is an account published by the German soldier Hans Staden in 1557 describing his two trips to the new world. The book is best known for Staden's descriptions of his experiences while held captive by the Tupinambá near Curitiba, Brazil. [1] True History became one of the best-selling travel narratives of the sixteenth century. [2]

Contents

Hans Staden arrived in Brazil as a gunner for the Portuguese in 1550 and was taken as a prisoner of war by the Tupinamabá people of Brazil. The Tupinamabá were reputed to perform cannibalistic rituals, especially with prisoners of war. Since the Tupinamabá were French allies and the French and Portuguese were enemies, the account was a dramatic first person account from a Portuguese view of the natives.

Historical Context

During Staden's adventures, an imperial confrontation was taking place between the French, the Spanish and the Portuguese, whose naval power was unmatched at the time. They contended for resources and control of global trading, which often resulted in violence. [3] Due to Brazil's position as a top-priority resource, violence there was common.

Native tribes were forced to form alliances with western powers to survive. One tribe, known as the Tupiniquin, allied with the Portuguese; another, called the Tupinambá, allied with the French. [3] As a mercenary, Staden fought for both Portugal and France, eventually finding himself as part of a garrison in a Portuguese settlement, which led to his being captured by the Tupinambá. Staden's experience was one of the first accounts of cannibalism by a European, and later caused turmoil in the world of anthropology, which had previously disputed the existence of cannibalism. [3]

Background

Hans Staden was a German traveler born around 1520 in Hesse, a principality of what was then known as the “Holy Roman Empire”. He studied in several towns in Hesse and even served as a soldier. In 1547, Staden declared that he would be leaving Hesse for India. He soon found himself in Latin America.

Staden was known as a “go-between,” a mediator of sorts between the Europeans and the indigenous tribes. In addition to mediation, he also acted as a broker and translator for the Europeans. He was a mediator in multiple respects: social, economic and trade. Like any other “go-between,” he did not take sides.

It was after Staden’s capture by the Tupinambá that he became a mediator. He possessed abundant knowledge of the land, geography and people, and during his time as a captive he made a conscious effort to learn the Tupinambá language, beliefs and customs.

Once Staden gained this abundant knowledge of Tupinambá, they became pawns in his game. He began to deceive them. He claimed that the tribe’s oracles and gourds, known as Tamaraka, were lying about him. He changed his self-image in order to make his captors fear him. While achieving his own ends, he also made offers to be their healer, mercenary and even prophet.

In 1552, after being released by Charles V, Staden returned home to Hesse, where he remained until his death in 1579. Allegedly, in 1556, he even spoke to a prince, Landgrave Phillip about his book. Staden described it as an adventure story, much more leisurely than the actual events. [4] [ clarification needed ]

Synopsis

True History: An Account of Cannibal Captivity in Brazil recounts various observations Hans Staden, a German explorer, had of a tribal group in Brazil called Tupinambá. This travel log consists of two introductions, a list of illustrations, and a two-part narrative, with fifty-three chapters and thirty-six chapters, respectively. Staden introduces cannibalism as a cultural and religious practice alongside his survival journey. He shares his personal views on the indigenous culture, traditions, and lifestyle from the perspective of a European captive.

Staden’s experience begins with his capture by two Tupinambá males—Jeppipo Wasu and Alkindar Miri—who took him to a small village called Uwattibi [Ubatuba]. [5] He initially felt fear because they desired to eat his flesh. Religious rituals such as singing, dancing, and worship that suggested cannibalistic intentions compounded his fear. [5] Ipperu Wasu, who held Staden as a captive, gave Staden to Alkindar Miri in return of a favor. Staden believed his death would involve barbaric methods, as he underwent a series of rites. The Tupinambá people decorated him with strings and rings, and further continued to dance as a form of ritual. [5]

The Tupinambá distrusted the Portuguese, favoring the French, who established diplomatic relations through trade. The Tupinambá people categorized Staden as Portuguese, which put his life at risk. [5] The two natives who captured Staden harbored hostility against the Portuguese, who had slain their father. Their desire for revenge promised to ensure Staden’s fate. Despite Staden’s attempt to convince the Tupinambá by lying about his nationality, a Frenchman disproved Staden’s claim to be French. [5] Staden believed the Frenchman would support him, based on their mutual religious background. Instead, the Frenchman sided with the Tupinambá and departed as soon as he had his load ready. [5]

After several days' imprisonment, the Tupinambá transported Staden to another village, called Arirab [Ariro], where he met their highest king, Konyan Bebe. During his visit, Staden continued to persuade the king that he was not an enemy. [5] He flattered the king by noting his fierce and belligerent personality, while the king proceeded in questioning Staden’s nationality as well as sharing stories of how he had slain the Portuguese. [5] After his interrogation, the Tupinambá brought Staden back to Uwattibi. Staden expected to be killed upon arrival. [5] However, the Tupiniquins attacked the village, during which time Staden volunteered to assist the Tupinambá in combat. Despite his display of fealty, Staden again was placed under surveillance. [5]

In Part II, Staden shares his observations on the Tupinambá nature, culture, and lifestyle. His perception of South America was dominated by the rich forest and mountains. [5] He describes the indigenous people as savages who were naked, dark skinned, dextrous, and had facial paintings. [5] He notes that the dwellings were well protected from enemies, with resources such as food and wood located within their huts. [5] Staden notes the technology devised by the indigenous people. He recounts how the natives created fire through using friction, which later plays a crucial role in manufacturing cooking utensils such as pots. [5] In regions with no European presence, the natives use animal tools[ clarification needed ] to cut and hew, as they are unaware of axes, knives, and scissors. [5] Some European influence was scattered across the indigenous population. Staden mentions that a few tribal groups who participated in trade with the Europeans consumed salt, whereas those who did not do so ate no salt. [5] He mentions boiling as an essential part of the culinary culture. [5] The indigenous hunting techniques that involved using tools such as bows, arrows, and nets served as a huge contributor to the food supply. [5] Staden states “It seldom happens that a man returns empty-handed from hunting.” [5] Although Staden notes the indigenous communities “do not have any particular form of government or law,” [5] he notes that chiefs were integral political figures who tended to show competency in waging war and that social hierarchy existed in indigenous societies. [5]

Reception

His book was a success in 16th century Europe, and one of the most popular travel narratives of its time. [6] Many critics agree that Staden’s account is a unique source of information on indigenous cultures. [7] [8] [9] [10] Some modern critics have argued that Staden's account is one of the most reliable of its kind because he spent a long time in Brazil and spoke indigenous languages. [11] Depending on the edition, some critics take issue with the editors’ interpretation and introduction. [12] Some modern critics argue that Staden exaggerated accounts of cannibalism and even fabricated parts of his story based on similar narratives written by others. [13] The book has been translated into several languages and [14] has also been interpreted through several political and social movements accong to their agendas. The interpretations include a “children’s book … Antropofagia [Cannibalism] … Estado Novo … Cinema Novo … neo-nationalist and postmodern commemoration … [and] a forgettable and tedious movie.” [15]

Selected Editions


Related Research Articles

Human cannibalism Practice of humans eating the flesh or internal organs of other human beings

Human cannibalism is the act or practice of humans eating the flesh or internal organs of other human beings. A person who practices cannibalism is called a cannibal. The meaning of "cannibalism" has been extended into zoology to describe an individual of a species consuming all or part of another individual of the same species as food, including sexual cannibalism.

1557 Calendar year

Year 1557 (MDLVII) was a common year starting on Friday of the Julian calendar.

Indigenous peoples in Brazil Diverse range of ethnic groups

Indigenous peoples in Brazil or Indigenous Brazilians once comprised an estimated 2000 tribes and nations inhabiting what is now the country of Brazil, prior to the European contact around 1500. Christopher Columbus thought he had reached the East Indies, but Portuguese Vasco da Gama had already reached India via the Indian Ocean route, when Brazil was colonized by Portugal. Nevertheless, the word índios ("Indians") was by then established to designate the people of the New World and continues to be used in the Portuguese language to designate these people, while a person from India is called indiano in order to distinguish the two.

The Tupi people were one of the most numerous peoples indigenous to Brazil, before colonisation. Scholars believe that while they first settled in the Amazon rainforest, from about 2,900 years ago the Tupi started to migrate southward and gradually occupied the Atlantic coast of Southeast Brazil.

This article contains information about the literary events and publications of 1557.

Monteiro Lobato Brazilian writer

José Bento Renato Monteiro Lobato was one of Brazil's most influential writers, mostly for his children's books set in the fictional Sítio do Picapau Amarelo but he had been previously a prolific writer of fiction, a translator and an art critic. He also founded one of Brazil's first publishing houses and was a supporter of nationalism.

Caramuru

Caramuru was the Tupi name of the Portuguese colonist Diogo Álvares Correia, who is notable for being the first European to establish contact with the native Tupinambá population in modern-day Brazil and was instrumental in the early colonization of Brazil by the Portuguese crown. Notably, Caramuru's native-born wife, Catarina Paraguaçu, was the first South American native to be received at the Palace of Versailles in 1526. He and Catarina would become the first Brazilian Christian family and have three children: Gaspar, Gabriel and Jorge, all named knights by Tomé de Sousa.

Tupinambá people Tupi people of northern and eastern Brazil

The Tupinambá are one of the various Tupi ethnic groups that inhabit present-day Brazil since before the conquest of the region by Portuguese colonial settlers. In the first years of contact with the Portuguese, the Tupinambás lived in the whole Eastern coast of Brazil, and the name was also applied to other Tupi-speaking groups such as the Tupiniquim, Potiguara, Tupinambá, Temiminó, Caeté, Tabajara, Tamoio, Tupinaé among others.

Hans Staden German soldier and explorer

Hans Staden was a German soldier and explorer who voyaged to South America in the middle of the sixteenth century, where he was captured by the Tupinambá people of Brazil. He managed to survive and return safe to Europe. In his widely read True History: An Account of Cannibal Captivity in Brazil, he claimed that the native people that held him captive practiced cannibalism.

Cunhambebe

Cunhambebe was an aboriginal Indian chieftain of the Tupinambá tribe, which dominated the region between present-day Cabo Frio and Bertioga. He lived in a village in Iperoig.

Jean de Léry

Jean de Léry (1536–1613) was an explorer, writer and Reformed pastor born in Lamargelle, Côte-d'Or, France. Scholars disagree about whether he was a member of the lesser nobility or merely a shoemaker. Either way, he was not a public figure prior to accompanying a small group of fellow Protestants to their new colony on an island in the Bay of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from 1557 to 1558. There he produced the first known transcriptions of native American music: two chants of the Tupinambá, near Rio de Janeiro. The colony, France Antarctique was founded by the Chevalier de Villegaignon, with promises of religious freedom, but on arrival, the Chevalier contested the Protestants' beliefs and persecuted them. After eight months the Protestants left their colony and survived for a short time on the mainland, living amongst the Tupinamba Indians. These events were the basis of de Lery's book, History of a Voyage to the Land of Brazil, Also Called America (1578). Exhausted and starving, they then returned to France aboard a pirate ship.

The Caetés (Kaeté) were an indigenous people of Brazil, linguistically belonging to the Tupi people.

<i>How Tasty Was My Little Frenchman</i> 1971 film directed by Nelson Pereira dos Santos

How Tasty Was My Little Frenchman is a Brazilian black comedy directed by Nelson Pereira dos Santos released in 1971.

Exocannibalism, as opposed to endocannibalism, is the consumption of flesh outside one's close social group—for example, eating one's enemy. When done ritually, it has been associated with being a means of imbibing valued qualities of the victim or as an act of final violence against the deceased in the case of sociopathy, as well as a symbolic expression of the domination of an enemy in warfare. Such practices have been documented in cultures including the Aztecs from Mexico, the Carib and the Tupinambá from South America.

Ulrich Schmidl

Ulrich Schmidl or Schmidel was a German Landsknecht, conquistador, explorer, chronicler and councilman. Schmidl was, beside Hans Staden, one of the few Landsknechts who wrote down their experiences.

The year 1557 CE in science and technology included a number of events, some of which are listed here.

Neil L. Whitehead

Neil L. Whitehead was an English anthropologist, who is best known for his work on the anthropology of violence, dark shamanism, post-human anthropology and the historical anthropology of South America and the Caribbean. From 1997 – 2007 he was the editor of Ethnohistory, Journal of the American Society for Ethnohistory.

<i>The Man-Eating Myth</i> Book by W. Arens

The Man-Eating Myth: Anthropology and Anthropophagy is an influential anthropological study of socially sanctioned cultural cannibalism across the world, which casts a critical perspective on the existence of such practices. It was authored by the American anthropologist William Arens of Stony Brook University, New York, and first published by Oxford University Press in 1979.

<i>History of a Voyage to the Land of Brazil</i>

History of a Voyage to the Land of Brazil, Also Called America, is an account published by the French Huguenot Jean de Léry in 1578 about his experiences living in a Calvinist colony in the Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. After the colony dissolved, De Léry spent two months living with the Tupinambá Indians.

<i>The New Found World, or Antarctike</i>

The New Found World, or Antarctike is the English title of an account first published in French in 1557 by the French Franciscan priest and explorer André Thevet after his experiences in France Antarctique, a French settlement in modern Rio de Janeiro.

References

  1. Whitehead, Neil L. (2000). "Hans Staden and the Cultural Politics of Cannibalism". Hispanic American Historical Review. 80 (4): 721–751. doi:10.1215/00182168-80-4-721.
  2. Häberlein, M. (2005). "Hans Staden". In Adam, Thomas (ed.). Germany and the Americas: Culture, Politics, and History. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO.
  3. 1 2 3 Fritze, Ronald H. (2010). "Reviewed work: Hans Staden's "True History": An Account of Cannibal Captivity in Brazil. The Cultures and Practice of Violence, Michael Harbsmeier, Neil L. Whitehead". The Sixteenth Century Journal. 41 (2): 557–558. JSTOR   27867848.
  4. Duffy, Eve M., and Alida C. Metcalf. The return of Hans Staden: a go-between in the Atlantic world. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 Staden, Hans (2008). Hans Staden's True History: An Account of Cannibal Captivity in Brazil. Duke University Press. p. 117.
  6. Häberlein, Mark. "Germany and the Americas: culture, politics and history".
  7. Brotherston, Gordon (December 2009). "Reviewed Work(s): Hans Staden's True History: An Account of Cannibal Captivity in Brazil by Hans Staden, Neil L. Whitehead and Michael Harbsmeier". The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. 15 (4): 869–870. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9655.2009.01589_12.x. JSTOR   40541770.
  8. Jáuregui, Carlos A. (2010). "Reviewed Work(s): Hans Staden's True History: An Account of Cannibal Captivity in Brazil. [Warhafiige Historia und Beschreibung eyner Landtschafft der wilden, nacketen, grimmigen Menschfresser Leuthen in der Newenwelt America gelegen (1557)] by Hans Staden, Neil L. Whitehead and Michael Harbsmeier". Luso-Brazilian Review. 47 (1): 219–223. doi:10.1353/lbr.0.0102. JSTOR   40985181.
  9. Wright, Robin M. (Spring 2010). "Reviewed Work(s): Hans Staden's True History: An Account of Cannibal Captivity in Brazil by Hans Staden, Neil L. Whitehead and Michael Harbsmeier". Journal of Anthropological Research. 66 (1): 134–135. doi:10.1086/jar.66.1.27820857. JSTOR   27820857.
  10. L.E.J. (March 1929). "Hans Staden: The True History of His Captivity, 1557 by Malcolm Letts". The Geographical Journal. 73 (3): 292. doi:10.2307/1784738. JSTOR   1784738.
  11. Bieber, Judy (September 2011). "Hans Staden's True History: An Account of Cannibal Captivity in Brazil - By Hans Staden". Historian. College of Wooster Libraries. 73 (3): 585–587. doi:10.1111/j.1540-6563.2011.00301_29.x.
  12. Jáuregui, Carlos A. "Reviewed Work(s): Hans Staden's True History: An Account of Cannibal Captivity in Brazil. [Warhafiige Historia und Beschreibung eyner Landtschafft der wilden, nacketen, grimmigen Menschfresser Leuthen in der Newenwelt America gelegen (1557)] by Hans Staden, Neil L. Whitehead and Michael Harbsmeier". Luso-Brazilian.
  13. Schmölz-Häberlein, Michaela. "Hans Staden, Neil L. Whitehead, and the Cultural Politics of Scholarly Publishing". Hispanic American Historical Review.
  14. L.E.J. (March 1929). "Hans Staden: The True History of His Captivity, 1557 by Malcolm Letts". The Geographical Journal. 73 (3): 292. doi:10.2307/1784738. JSTOR   1784738.
  15. Jáuregui, Carlos A. (2010). "Reviewed Work(s): Hans Staden's True History: An Account of Cannibal Captivity in Brazil. [Warhafiige Historia und Beschreibung eyner Landtschafft der wilden, nacketen, grimmigen Menschfresser Leuthen in der Newenwelt America gelegen (1557)] by Hans Staden, Neil L. Whitehead and Michael Harbsmeier". Luso-Brazilian Review. 47 (1): 219–223. doi:10.1353/lbr.0.0102. JSTOR   40985181.