book chapter

Hans Staden: the true story of his captivity, 1557

George Routledge and SonsNew York • Published In 1928 • Pages:

By: Staden, Hans, ca., Letts, Malcolm Henry Ikin.

This is one of the very earliest and best of the ethnographical records from South America. It contains excellent information on the now extinct tribe of Tupinamba, among whom Staden resided for nine months as a captive during the middle of the 16th century. Little is known about the author except what is contained in the above account. He was born in Homburg in Hesse, and in 1547 sailed from Holland for Lisbon, where he took passage on a ship bound for Brazil with a cargo of convicts. It was while in Brazil, after a series of exciting adventures, that he was taken prisoner by the Tupinamba near the present site of Rio de Janeiro. Since he had previously been aligned with the Portuguese, who were bitter enemies of the Tupinamba, upon his capture he was to have been dispatched and eaten (an Indian custom followed with reference to enemy captives), but fortunately survived the series of misfortunes to which he was subjected, subsequently escaping on a French boat which carried him to Germany where he first published this memoir in 1557, the veracity of which has never been seriously questioned. As an ethnologist, Staden had an almost unparalleled opportunity of living for nine months in a cannibalistic society which has not yet been seriously 'threatened' by the onslaught of western European civilization. He seems to have made the most of his opportunities while sojourning there. In the words of his translator, 'It would be difficult to see how a work of this description could be better arranged. In the first place we have a straightforward narrative of the author's personal adventures and misfortunes, written briefly and without straining after effect. In the second part we have a treatise on the customs of the Tupinamba… This survey is a result of the sustained and penetrating observation, and subsequent accounts have added little to the information in it.'
Personal grooming
Magical and mental therapy
Aftermath of combat
HRAF PubDate
South America
Sub Region
Eastern South America
Document Type
book chapter
Creator Type
Government Official
Document Rating
3: Good, useful data, but not uniformly excellent
Alfred Métraux ; 1971
Coverage Date
Coverage Place
Santos region, São Paulo, Brazil
Hans Staden ; translated and edited by Malcolm Letts, with an introduction and notes
This document consists of excerpts
Translation of the author's Warhafftig historia … Marburg, 1557
Tupinamba Indians