The Ipupiara or Hipupiara, also called sea-man, is a species of marine monster that was part of the
mythology of the Tupi peoples who inhabited the coast of Brazil in the 16th century.
According to popular belief, he attacked people and ate parts of their bodies. According to reports from when the time Brazil was a colony, an Ipupiara was found and killed in the captaincy of São Vicente, in the year 1564. The Portuguese historian and chronicler Pero de Magalhães Gandavo would have described the creature as having "fifteen feet long and sown hair on the body, and on the muzzle there were very large bristles, like mustaches.".
The being was killed by a sharp thrust in the abdomen and then dragged well away from the water to dry. Other stories say the creature was known to kill its victims by a powerful hug, bursting men inside - like the constricting serpents. The corpses of those who suffered from Ipupiara's fury were found almost intact. The monster, after all, did not eat its victims. At most he devoured their eyes, noses, fingers, and sometimes the genital.
Relation with Iara
The Iara - or mother of water, as she is also known - is one of the most controversial myths of Brazilian folklore, mainly due to its origin. The Brazilian mermaid, in fact, would be a derivation of the Tupi myth of Ipupiara. Câmara Cascudo, the greatest folklorist the country has ever known, was categorical: "No chronicler of colonial Brazil registers the Mother of Water as a mermaid, attracting by the corner or simply transformed into a woman. He is always Ipupiara, ferocious, hungry and brut. "
The transition from the monster Ipupiara to the sweet Iara that still inhabits the popular imagination, was due to the cultural hybridization. The fierce ipupiara , the African Iemanjá , and the European mermaid converged to create this unique mythical being, Iara.
The balance between these cultures, however, was slow to be found. As Cascudo points out, it is with the romantic reaction that the transfigurative Indianism of Gonçalves Dias began in the second half of the 19th century that the monster becomes a maiden. In fact, for many years, the Iara was literally described as a European mermaid, with fair hair and clear eyes. This is what we see in the poem by Olavo Bilac, who lived in the same period.
"Ipupiara" derives from the ancient Tupi "Ypupîara", meaning "what is in the water" (y, water, pupé, in and ygûara, dweller).