Ogun's Compadre Novella, 1964 | Afterword by Reginaldo Prandi
Son of Benedita, from Alagoas, and the Negro Massu, Felício stands out for his beauty. The boy’s blue eyes cast some doubt on his paternity, fuelling the rumour that he must be the son of the blonde sailor, Gringo, or perhaps the clerk, Otoniel. Massu, however, has no doubt that the child is his; after all, he and Benedita did “roll about” a lot in the dunes. One day Benedita disappears, intent on escaping her husband’s jealousy, but returns some time later, terminally ill. She turns up on Massu’s doorstep, out of the blue, and hands him the baby, only to take off again, almost certainly to meet her death. Now almost a year old, Massu decides to have the child baptized. Tibéria is to be the godmother, and there are various candidates for godfather, but the orisha Ogum announces that he will assume the role himself. What are the chances of the divinity being allowed into the Rosário dos Negros Church in the Pelourinho? A solution is found, but the day of the baptism still reserves an enormous surprise, not just for the guests, but for the people of the Lower City as a whole, and even for the warrior god himself. A brief and vibrant narrative, Ogun's Compadre keeps the reader enthralled right down to its disconcerting denouement. With humour and comprehension, the religious syncretism that juxtaposes Catholicism and candomblé is the cultural trait that allows differences to be overcome and conflicts to be resolved.
Illustration by Carybé
Ogun's Compadre is really the second part of the novel The Shepherds of Night, published in 1964. The episode became an independent novella from 1995 onwards, after it was adapted for a TV special by Rede Globo. In December 2002, Globo presented a new, four-part version of The Shepherds of Night, directed by the French filmmaker Marcel Camus. The plot features some recurring themes from the work of Jorge Amado. The decision to nurture two faiths rather than chose one over the other manifests a trait that runs throughout the author’s oeuvre. Such dithering would later resurface in the behaviour of Flor in Dona Flor and her Two Husbands (1966), as the protagonist chooses not to choose between her deceased husband, Vadinho, and her living spouse, Teodoro. Miscegenation, syncretism and ambiguity are characteristics also found in other novels by the Jorge Amado, such as Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon  and The War of the Saints .
When the orchestra fell silent, the deity’s horse went from side to side and finally stopped in front of the priestess, demanding his festive attire. He wanted his richest and finest clothes and his tools, too. His festive attire”? His tools? Was he, perchance, out of his wits? Mother Doninha asked, her hands on her hips. Didn’t he know that it was impossible to go into the church in his holiday attire, brandishing his irons”? The saint stamped his foot on the ground stubbornly, grimaced, and demanded his clothes. Patiently but firmly, the priestess explained things to him. He knew very well the reason why he had descended that morning, on a day not scheduled on the calendar. It was he himself, Ogun, who had decided the matter of the christening of Massu’s son, appointing himself godfather. Then why was he bringing up all that nonsense of his holiday attire, his tools? They had to go to church; it was already time, and he must try to behave in such a way that not the priest or the sacristan, none of those present at the mass, would suspect the imposture, would unmask Artur da Guima.