In folktales told throughout much of the Brazilian Amazon, dolphins take human form, attend raucous dances and festivals, seduce men and women, and carry them away to a city beneath the river. They are encantados, or Enchanted Beings, capable of provoking death or madness, but also called upon to help shamanic healers. Male dolphins - accomplished dancers who appear dressed in dapper straw hats, white suits and with shiny black shoes - reportedly father numerous children. The females are said to lure away solitary fishermen. Both sinister and charming, these characters resist definition and thus domination; greedy and lascivious outsiders, they are increasingly symbolic of a distinctly Amazonian culture politically, socially, economically and environmentally under seige. Candace Slater examines these stories in this book, both as folk narratives and as representations of culture and conflict in Amazonia. Her study discusses the tales from the viewpoints of genre, performance and gender, but centres on them as responses to the great changes sweeping the Amazon today.
According to Slater, these surprisingly widespread tales reflect Amazonians' own mixed reactions to the ongoing destruction of the rainforest and the resulting transformations in the social as well as physical landscape. Offering an informed view of Brazilian culture, this book crosses the boundaries of folklore, literature, anthropology and Latin American studies.