Listen to Henry Walter Bates (The naturalist on the River Amazons : a record of adventures, habits of animals, sketches of Brazilian and Indian life, and aspects of nature under the Equator, during eleven years of travel, 1880):
We often read, in books of travels, of the silence and gloom of the Brazilian forests. They are realities, and the impression deepens on a longer acquaintance. The few sounds of birds are of that pensive or mysterious character which intensifies the feeling of solitude rather than imparts a sense of life and cheerfulness. Sometimes, in the midst of the stillness, a sudden yell or scream will startle one ; this comes from some defenceless fruit - eating animal, which is pounced upon by a tiger-cut or stealthy boa-constrictor.. Morning and evening the howling monkeys make a most fearful and harrowing noise, under which it is difficult to keep up one's buoyancy of spirit. The feeling of inhospitable wildness which the forest is calculated to inspire is increased tenfold under this fearful uproar. Often, even in the still hours of midday, a sudden crash will be heard resounding far through the wilderness, as some great bough or entire tree falls to the ground. There are, besides, many sounds which it is impossible to account for.
I found the natives generally as much at a loss in this respect as myself. Sometimes a sound is heard like the clang of an iron bar against a hard, hollow tree, or a piercing cry rends the air; these are not repeated, and the succeeding silence tends to heighten the unpleasant impression which they make on the mind. With the native it is always the Curupira, the wild man or spirit of the forest, which produces all noises they are unable to explain. For myths are the rude theories which mankind, in the infancy of knowledge, invent to explain natural phenomena. The Curupira is a mysterious being, whose attributes are uncertain, for they vary according to locality. Sometimes he is described as a kind of orang-otang, being covered with long shaggy hair, and living in trees. At others he is said to have cloven feet and a bright red face. He has a wife and children, and sometimes comes down to the rocas to steal the mandioca. At one time I had a mameluco youth in my service, whose head was full of the legends and superstitions of the country. He always went with me into the forest ; in fact, I could not get him to go alone, and whenever we heard any of the strange noises mentioned above, he used to tremble with fear. He would crouch down behind me, and beg of me to turn back ; his alarm ceasing only after he had made a charm to protect us from the Curupira. For this purpose he took a young palm-leaf, plaited it, and formed it into a ring, which he hung to a branch on our track. At length, after a six hours' walk, we arrived at our destination, the last mile or two having been again through second-growth forest.
Listen to Alejo Carpentier (The Lost Steps, 1953):
[The worm] ...Something like a baleful pollen in he air - a ghost pollen - impalpable rot, enveloping decay - suddenly became active with mysterious design, opening what was closed, closing what was opened, upsetting calculations, contradicting specific gravity, making guarantees worthless. One morning the ampoules of serum in hospital were found to be full of mould; precision instruments were not registering correctly; certain liquors began to bubble in the bottle; the Rubens in the National Museum was attacked by an unknown parasite immune to sprays; windows stormed the windows of a bank where nothing had happened, whipped to a panic by a mutterings of an old Negro crone whom the police were unable to find.
[The vegetable kingdom] ... Despite the vast area of the jungle - embracing mountains, abysses, treasures, nomad people, the remains of the lost civilizations, it was, nevertheless, a world compact, complete, which fed its fauna and its men, shapes its own clouds, assembles its meteors, brought on its rain. A hidden nation, a map in code, a vast vegetable kingdom, with few entrances. 'Sort of like Noah's Ark, where all the animals of the earth could fit, but with only a small door', the little man added.
[The mimetism of virgin nature] ...What amazed me most was the inexhaustible mimetism of virgin nature. Everything here seemed something else, thus creating a world of appearances that concealed reality, casting doubt on many truths. The alligator lurking in the depth of swamps, motionless, jaws ready, seemed rotten, scale-covered logs. The vines seemed snakes, the snakes vines when their skins did not simulate the grains of precious woods, their eyes the markings of moth wings, there scales those of the pineapple or coral rings. The aquatic plants formed a thick carpet, hiding the water that flowed below, mimicking the vegetation of the solid earth. The fallen bark soon acquired the consistency of pickled laurel leaves, and the fungi were like congealed copper drippings sprinkled with sulphur. The chameleons were twigs, lapis lazuli, lead brightly striped in yellow, imitating the splashes of sunlight filtering through the leaves, which never allow it to come through fully. The jungle is a world of deceit, subterfuge, duplicity, everything there is disguise, stratagem, artifice, metamorphosis. The world of the lizard-cucumber, the chestnut-hedgehog, the cocoon-centipede, the carrot-larva, the electric fish that electrocutes from the dregs of the slime.
[EthnoPoetic discovery] ... And in the vast jungle filling with night terrors, there arose the Word. A word that was more than a word. A word that imitated the voice of the speaker and of that attributed to the spirit in possession of the corpse. One came from the throat of the shaman, the other from his belly. One was deep and confused like the bubbling of underground lava; the other, medium in pitch, was harsh and wrathful. They alternated, they answered each other. The one upbraided while the other groaned, the belly voice turned sarcastic when the throat voice seemed to plead. Sounds like guttural portamenti were heard, ending in howls; syllables repeated over and over coming to create a kind of rhythm; there were trills suddenly interrupted by four notes that were the embryo of a melody. But then came the vibration of the tongue, the indrawn snoring, the panting contrapuntal to the rattle of the maraca. This was something far beyond language, and yet still far from song. Something that had not yet discovered vocalization, but was more than word.
Listen to Claudio Villas Boas (as quoted in Adrian Cowell's 'The tribe that hides from man') about the psychological, and not the material, need that isolated indians in the Amazon feel to make contact with white intruders:
As long as we are here, we are calling to them. in the emptiness of the jungle, our human nature is a magnet to theirs. In this way, human groups have always been drawn to other groups, till after thousands of years the whole of mankind now lives in a world civilization. It's only those which are dominated by an extreme fear that remain outside and this is the sort of fear that thrives in the emptiness of the jungle. If people say that every month in the jungle shows its strain on me, them how much more on the Kreen-Akrore, who've been alone for hundreds of years? We must be patient and continue calling to them. Somewhere they are watching us and calling to us.
Listen to Joseph Conrad (The Congo interlude):
Going up that river was like traveling back to the earliest beginnings of the world, when vegetation rioted on the earth and the big trees were kings. An empty stream, a great silence, an impenetrable forest. The air was warm, thick, heavy, sluggish. There was no joy in the brilliance of sunshine. The long stretches of the waterway ran on, deserted, into the gloom of overshadowed distances. On silvery sandbanks hippos and alligators sunned themselves side by side. The broadening waters flowed through a mob of wooded islands; you lost your way on that river as you would in a desert, and butted all day long against shoals, trying to find the channel, till you thought yourself bewitched and cut off for ever from everything you had known once--somewhere--far away--in another existence perhaps. There were moments when one's past came back to one, as it will sometimes when you have not a moment to spare to yourself; but it came in the shape of an unrestful and noisy dream, remembered with wonder amongst the overwhelming realities of this strange world of plants, and water, and silence. And this stillness of life did not in the least resemble a peace. It was the stillness of an implacable force brooding over an inscrutable intention.
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