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True History: An Account of Cannibal Captivity in Brazil

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]

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
Cover of the 1557 German Edition
AuthorHans Staden
Original titleWarhaftige Historia und beschreibung eyner Landtschafft der Wilden Nacketen, Grimmigen Menschfresser-Leuthen in der Newenwelt America gelegen
CountryGermany
LanguageGerman
PublisherAndreas Kolbe
Publication date
1557

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 had a reputation of performing 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.

SynopsisEdit

True History: An Account of Cannibal Captivity in Brazil shares various observations Hans Staden, a German explorer, had on a tribal group in Brazil called Tupinambá. This travel log consists of two introductions, list of illustrations, and two parts, with fifty-three and thirty-six chapters. Throughout the book, Staden utilizes his illustrations to visually depict his observations. Furthermore, Staden introduces cannibalism as a cultural and religious practice to his readers alongside with his survival journey. Overall, he shares his personal views on the indigenous culture, tradition, and lifestyle from the perspective of a European captive.

Staden’s experience begins with being captured by two Tupinambá males—Jeppipo Wasu and Alkindar Miri—and brought to a small village called Uwattibi [Ubatuba].[3] His initial response in encountering the indigenous people showed fear because they desired to eat his flesh. Religious rituals such as singing, dancing, and worshiping that insinuated cannibalistic intentions aggravated Staden’s emotional stress.[3] Ipperu Wasu, who held Staden as a captive, bestowed Staden to Alkindar Miri in return of a favor. Staden believed his death would involve barbaric methods; however, he underwent a series of rites. The Tupinambá people decorated Staden with strings and rings, and further continued to dance as a form of ritual.[3]

The Tupinambá distrusted the Portuguese, rather favored the French who established a diplomatic relation through trades. Unfortunately, the Tupinambá people categorized Staden as a Portuguese, which definitively put him an inevitable situation of death.[3] Moreover, the two natives who captured Staden harbored hostility against the Portuguese who slain their father. Their vengefulness intensified Staden’s fate. Despite Staden’s attempt to convince the Tupinambá by lying about his nationality as French, a Frenchman disproved Staden’s words.[3] Staden believed the Frenchman would support him based on their mutual religious background. Instead, the Frenchman advocated the Tupinambá and departed as soon as he had his load ready.[3]

After being imprisoned for several days, the Tupinambá transported Staden to another village called Arirab [Ariro] where he met their highest king, Konyan Bebe. During his temporary visit, Staden continued to persuade the king that he is not an enemy.[3] He flattered the king by noting his fierce and belligerent personality, which the king regardlessly proceeded on questioning Staden’s nationality as well as sharing personal stories of how he slain the Portuguese.[3] After being interrogated, the Tupinambá brought Staden back to Uwattibi. Staden expected his death on the arrival.[3] However, the Tupiniquins attacked the village during which Staden volunteered to assist the Tupinambá in the combat. Despite his demonstration, Staden was placed under surveillance again.[3]

In Part II, Staden shares his observations on the Tupinambá nature, culture, and lifestyle. His overall perception of South America emphasized the rich forest and mountains.[3] He describes the indigenous people as savages who are naked, dark skinned, dexterous, and have facial paintings.[3] For residential environment, he argues that the dwellings were architecturally well protected from enemies with resources such as food and wood located in close proximity within their huts.[3] Staden notes the technology devised by the indigenous people. He suggests the natives create fire through using friction that later plays a crucial role in manufacturing cooking utensils such as pots.[3] In regions with no European presence, the natives utilize animal tools to cut and hew, as they are unaware of axes, knives, and scissors.[3] Similarly, European influence exists partially across the indigenous population. For example, Staden mentions few tribal groups that participated in trades with the Europeans consume salts, whereas those who did not eat no salt.[3] Furthermore, Staden mentions boiling as an essential part in the culinary culture among the natives.[3] In addition, the indigenous hunting techniques that involve using tools such as bows, arrows, and nets serve as a huge contributor to the food supply.[3] Staden states “It seldom happens that a man returns empty-handed from hunting.”[3] Moreover, although Staden notes the indigenous communities “do not have any particular form of government or law,”[3] he takes account of chiefs as an integral political figure who tend to show competency in waging wars. Staden, therefore, argues social hierarchy exists in the indigenous societies.[3]

BackgroundEdit

Hans Staden was a German traveler born around 1520 in Hesse, a principality of what was then known as the “Holy Roman Empire.” Throughout his education, he studied in several towns throughout Hesse and even served as a soldier. It came as a surprise to all when in 1547, Staden declared that he would be leaving Hesse for India. He soon found himself in Latin America. While it could be argued that his immigration to several towns throughout Hesse led to his life of exploration, it is not clear what prompted him to leave Hesse.

Throughout his endeavors as a traveler, 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 aspects, including social, economic and trade. However, like any other “go-between,” he did not take sides.

It was because of Staden’s capture by the Tupinambá that he became a “go-between.” There are a couple main reasons for this. Unlike the many others of the time who were captured by indigenous tribes, pirates, and fugitive slaves, he contained abundant knowledge of the land, geography and people. The second main reason is that during his time as a captive, he made a conscious effort to learn the Tupinambá’s language, beliefs and customs.

Once Staden gained this abundant knowledge of Tupinambá, they became pawns in his game. He began to deceive them. He achieved this in multiple ways. 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 capturers fear him. In addition to working against them, he also made offers to be their healer, mercenary and even prophet. Due to his refusal to choose a side, it would seem unclear whether or not his manipulation of the Tupinambá helped or hurt his chances of being set free.

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 had even spoken to prince Landgrave Phillip about his book True History. It would come as another surprise when he classified his book as an adventure story and described the story as being much more leisurely than the actual events themselves.[4]

ReceptionEdit

The reception of Hans Staden’s narrative has been relatively positive. His book was a great success in 16th century Europe and was one of the most popular travel narratives of its time.[5] Many critics agree that Staden’s novel is a fantastic source to learn about indigenous cultures and is quite incomparable to other sources about the same subject.[6][7][8][9] 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.[10] However, depending on the edition, some critics take issue with the editors’ interpretation and introduction.[11] Furthermore, some modern critics argue that Staden exaggerated accounts of cannibalism and even fabricated parts of his story based on similar narratives written by others.[12] The novel has been translated into several languages, indicating its popularity.[13] It has also been interpreted through several political and social movements in accordance to their agenda. The interpretations include a “children’s book … Antropofagia [Cannibalism] … Estado Novo … Cinema Novo … neo-nationalist and postmodern commemoration … [and] a forgettable and tedious movie.”[14]

Selected EditionsEdit

  • Staden, Hans (1557). Warhaftige Historia und beschreibung eyner Landtschafft der Wilden Nacketen, Grimmigen Menschfresser-Leuthen in der Newenwelt America gelegen. Marpurg: Kolb. Original German edition, 1557.
  • Staden, Hans (1874). The Captivity of Hans Stade of Hesse, in A.D. 1547-1555, Among the Wild Tribes of Eastern Brazil. Translated by Albert Tootal. annotated by Richard F. Burton. The Hakluyt Society. English translation by the Hakluyt Society, 1874.
  • Staden, Hans (2008). Hans Staden's True History: An Account of Cannibal Captivity in Brazil. Translated by Neil L. Whitehead; Michael Harbsmeier. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. ISBN 978-0-8223-4231-1. New English translation, 2008.

Historical ContextEdit

During Staden's Adventures, a confrontation was at hand between the French, Spanish, and Portuguese whose naval power was unmatched at the time. They contended for resources, and control of global trading, which often resulted in violence.[15] Due to Brazil's position as a top priority resource, it became a very violent place. 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 Tupinamba allied with the French.[15] As a mercenary, Staden fought for both Portugal and France, but eventually ended up part of a Garrison in a Portuguese settlement, which is why he was captured by the Tupinamba. Additionally, Staden's experiences was one of the first reported cases of cannibalism by a European, and caused turmoil in the world of Anthropology, which previously disputed the very existence of Cannibalism.[15]

ReferencesEdit

  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. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Staden, Hans (2008). Hans Staden's True History: An Account of Cannibal Captivity in Brazil. Duke University Press. p. 117.
  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. ^ Häberlein, Mark. "Germany and the Americas: culture, politics and history".
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ Schmölz-Häberlein, Michaela. "Hans Staden, Neil L. Whitehead, and the Cultural Politics of Scholarly Publishing". Hispanic American Historical Review.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ a b c 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.
  • Hans Staden Group