Brazilian folklore meets New Zealand folklore.
Rūaumoko and Cuca are very similar. They both live underground and cause explosions. Many people think that Cuca came from the spirit of the dragon Coca, who exists in Portuguese folklore and appears in religious processions. Coca was killed by a knight and became Cuca in Brazil.
Cuca sleeps once every seven years, likes making magic potions in her cauldron and enjoys snatching children. She lives in an underground cave.
“Cuca sleeps once every seven years, likes making magic potions in her cauldron and enjoys snatching children”
Rūaumoko is the Māori god of volcanoes. He is the youngest son of Papatūānuku, the earth, and of Ranginui, the sky. When the sky and the earth were separated, Rūaumoko’s brothers turned Papa face down so that the sky and the earth could not see each other’s sadness. Rūaumoko remained in Papa’s womb below the earth. When he is restless, he causes eruptions and earthquakes.
Cuca is like an old and ugly witch with long fingernails. In The Yellow Woodpecker Ranch, based on the work of Monteiro Lobato, Cuca was given the face of an alligator. Later, on TV, she was given blonde hair.
I was surprised to discover that in te reo Māori, moko means lizard. There is evidence of a crocodile called moko in the Western Pacific. Could it be that Rūaumoko is a massive lizard, just like Cuca?
When I went to Te Puia, in Rotorua, my father said that the mud pools looked like my grandmother’s saucepan when she made her guava paste dessert. I said they looked more like Cuca’s cauldron, with the smoke from the geysers and the stench of sulphur. I imagined what a mess they would make if they met up!
“I imagined what a mess they would make if they met up! Cuca would make magic potions in the geysers, and Rūaumoko would make the earth shake”
Cuca would make magic potions in the geysers, and Rūaumoko would make the earth shake so much that houses would fall down. The earth would open, allowing demons to surface from below.
When I went to Rotorua and saw the cauldron-like vent on top of the geyser, I also saw Cuca taking a bath in a pool of bubbling mud. I even thought I saw a huge tail disappear into a geyser. Then the geyser exploded!