Feature

Understanding Netflix’s Invisible City’s Heroic Curupira Through Its Demonic History In Folklore

There are rarely times when a fictional adaptation of a mythical creature manages to keep its roots intact. But Netflix’s recently released Australian series, Invisible City, which is a buffet of mythological creatures from Brazilian folklore, depicts all of them with respect to their history. While each and every one of its magical beings are worthy of being examined, it is the legendary Curupira that demands a walk down the lanes of mythical lore. 

[Spoilers ahead from Invisible City]

Despite being denoted as a “demonic” figure across many facets of the Brazilian folklore because of his appearance, the Curupira is really just a protector of the forest and apart from his role as the savior (and a ruthless enemy of those who dare to harm nature), the origin of the mythical creature is unheard of. But Invisible City works towards providing a heartbreaking yet strangely empowering story of how the Curupira came to be.

The Curupira and Brazilian Lore

In Brazilian lore, the Curupira is called a “demon-like” entity as he appears to have bright reddish-orange hair that looks like they are on fire, has his entire body covered with blisters, a short, dwarf-like stature, and above all, his feet are turned backwards. But apart from his scary description, his actions have always made him the grey-shaded hero who saves the forest in the stories.

Courtesy of Netflix

But even to date, whenever a hunter loses his way in the jungle, dies, or simply disappears, a Curupira is blamed. It is believed that when these creatures run, their footprints confuses whoever tries to track them as they follow their inverted footmarks in hopes that they are following the Curupira but end up reaching the place from where the creature’s path starts.

Folklore also alludes to the fact that they often deliberately leave these footprints to lead a hunter or a woodcutter into a trap or to make them lose their way, if and when they try to destroy or harm the forest or its animals. In other versions of the myth, the creature is seen using animals like peccaries and tapirs for travelling. 

In some regions of Brazil, the legend of the Curupira also says that the creature possesses the power to create believable illusions and emit a high pitched whistle-like sound that is not just capable of terrifying a person but can also make them go mad. Even today it is customary for rubber tappers in the Amazon region to leave cigarettes and cachaça as a peace offering to the Curupira, in case it perceives them as its enemy. 

How does Invisible City adapt the creature?

The Curupira was originally a human

Invisible City takes places in the protected forest areas of Rio de Janeiro where a wealthy property dealer is dead-set on selling the lands and appears to be ready to pay its residents as well as provide a different settlement for them elsewhere. But as many refuse to give up the land, disturbing murders start plaguing the area. The fires are devastating abd start first with a mysterious fire that kills Gabriela, an environmental campaigner who had been standing in solidarity with the indigenous folks of the area. 

The mystery thickens when her husband, Eric, an Environmental Police Officer, starts investigating the case and uncovers that many residents of the city are not who they say they are. But for the sake of Curupira, the only person of interest is Ibere, who appears to be a handicapped beggar who frequents the trashcans in the area with his pet dog but in reality, he is the Curupira. 

Curupira
INVISIBLE CITY (L-R) MARCO PIGOSSI as ERIC and JESSICA CORES as CAMILA in episode 5 of INVISIBLE CITY. Cr. ALISSON LOUBACK / NETFLIX © 2021

Each and every creature depicted in Invisible City was initially a human being who died a tragic death and was transformed into a force of nature, whether it is the Saci or the Coco. But the Curupira is depicted differently with a representation of what the rapid urbanization of forest areas has done to a once majestic creature. 

Through a flashback, we see Ibere as one of the oldest natives of the land, leading a happy life with his family. But one day a hunter entered the forest, intent on erasing all the mythical creatures the land hid, and cruelly killed his wife and child in cold blood. As he was already one with nature, the rage at losing his family in the most unjustified manner turned into a wrathful fire that led to blisters on his body and a fiery flame atop his head. 

He eventually managed to kill the hunter with a tree branch containing his fire. But it was soon discovered that the man was so evil that neither hell nor heaven wanted his soul and even as a wandering spirit he wanted to harm others. So, the hunter’s soul, with his body, became trapped in the Earth and a tomb was constructed on the site to mark it. 

Courtesy of Netflix

Years went by and the Curupira continued protecting the forest but was soon reduced to living like a homeless person as the forest cover was consistently reduced every day. The mindless destruction of forests had broken his spirit. Even the threat of the soul of the hunter finally getting free and killing innocents in its path did nothing to sway him from his dejected outlook on life. It’s only when the Saci, disguised as Isac another lowlife in the area, sacrifices himself to protect him that Ibere’s rage peaked at being robbed of another person he cared for and he embraced his powers yet again. 

Apart from the origin story and the dramatization of the Curupira’s existence amongst ordinary human beings, the depiction of the mythical creature in Invisible City has been true to its mythological history. 

Invisible City is now streaming on Netflix.

Have your say