Juan Bobo

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Juan Bobo
Publication information
PublisherHarper Collins,[1]
Dutton Children's Books,[2]
Scholastic Books,[3]
Reviewed by:
Kirkus Reviews,[4]
Library Journal,[5]
Publishers Weekly,[6]
First appearance56 Picaresque Tales (in the U.S., 1921)[8]
Juan Bobo Heats up his Grandmother,
Juan Bobo Delivers a Letter to the Devil,
Juan Bobo Throws his Brother Down a Well,
Juan Bobo Refuses to Marry the Princess.
Created bySchool children of Puerto Rico[7]
In-story information
Place of originPuerto Rico
AbilitiesAvatar of indigenous morality[9]
Repository of cultural information[10]
Resistance to colonial oppression[11]
Syncretic of Santería and Capoeira[11]

Juan Bobo is a folkloric character on the island of Puerto Rico. For nearly two centuries a collection of books, songs, riddles and folktales have developed around him. Hundreds of children's books have been written about Juan Bobo in English and Spanish.[12][13] Juan Bobo stories are used as instructional models in public school districts and libraries throughout the United States[14] and on PBS Television.[15]

The Juan Bobo character[edit]

The Juan Bobo folktales are a cultural time capsule, a vehicle for historical preservation. Each story illustrates a key aspect of Puerto Rican life and traditions – as Juan goes to church, to work, the store, the town market, and deals with characters and events that typify the Puerto Rican spirit. For this reason, the Juan Bobo stories have been viewed as a “folkloric information system.”[16]

Often a trickster, sometimes a fool, Juan Bobo is the Puerto Rican amalgam of "Foolish John" who cannot get anything right, and Amelia Bedelia who follows instructions to a fault.[13] Sent off by his mother to find work, Juan Bobo causes one disaster after another and always manages to lose his payment.[17] In a typical Juan Bobo story his mother asks him to clean up a pig so she'll fetch a higher price in the town market. Instead, Juan Bobo dresses her for church in his mother's best Sunday clothes, complete with lipstick and high heels.[18]

Although the name "Bobo" implies stupidity or oaf-like behavior, the ostensible naiveté of Juan Bobo points to a hidden virtue or helpful way to approach life. As in Aesop's Fables, the stories often have obvious morals that suggest how people should live and how cultures should interact.[19]

As the trickster character in Puerto Rican folklore and oral tradition, Juan Bobo is part of a larger tradition that spans several world cultures. Many of the tales have nearly identical plot points in stories from India, China, Turkey, and traditions in Africa and North America.[13]

Sociopolitical subtext[edit]

The Juan Bobo character has been called an avatar of indigenous morality,[13] a repository of cultural/historical information,[10] and a symbol of resistance to colonial oppression.[12] As such, in United States and Puerto Rican universities, the Juan Bobo stories have been preserved and studied for their sociological and political significance.[16][20] Juan Bobo has also been compared to the syncretic religious system of Santería and the Brazilian martial art of capoeira, for its melding of spiritual strength and resistance into an ostensibly benign art form.[12]

Historic and literary roots[edit]

The Juan Bobo tales originally migrated from Spain in an oral tradition influenced by the Spanish picaresque novels (Lazarillo de Tormes; Don Quijote) and Wise Fool tales.[21][22] Published anonymously in 1554, El Lazarillo de Tormes is often viewed as the first modern novel, and “picaresque” became the first genre – a genre of realistic fiction in which the pícaro (the rogue) is the central character.[23][24]

The pícaros are unlikely and delinquent heroes – living by their wits among corrupt priests and prostitutes, beggars and idle gentlemen, thieves, tricksters and murderers.[22][23][25]

The Juan Bobo stories incorporate all of these elements – as Juan the pícaro roams the Puerto Rican countryside, moving from job to job, and disaster to disaster. Though Juan and his pícaro tricks constitute the main story interest, the satirical comments on various trades and professions give a wealth of information on the social, political and religious fabric of Puerto Rico.[16]

As Paul Bunyan is identified with the US, Robin Hood with England, and El Zorro with Mexico – Juan Bobo, the beloved noodlehead, is the perennial folk hero of Puerto Rico.[26]

Children's books and educational uses[edit]

Juan Bobo children's books have been published in the U.S. and throughout the world. Juan Bobo stories have been published by numerous publishers, including Harper Collins,[27] Dutton Children's Books,[28] and Scholastic Books.[29] The stories are used as elementary school teaching books,[30] for bilingual language programs,[31][32] and in Spanish-language studies throughout the United States[33] among others. In 1962, New York City librarian Pura Belpré authored a novel based on the Juan Bobo character, titled Juan Bobo and the Queen's Necklace: A Puerto Rican Folk Tale.[34][35]

General book sales[edit]

Book sellers throughout the United States carry a broad selection of Juan Bobo books. These can be found at Barnes & Noble,[36] Amazon Books,[37] Abe Books,[38] and Powell Books,[39] Newspapers around the U.S. regularly run Juan Bobo stories.[40] The Juan Bobo stories are known in many countries, from the United States to Central and South America, the Caribbean, Spain and the Philippines. Juan Bobo books are sold in Great Britain.[41] The National Library Board of Singapore has a listing of Juan Bobo books.[42] In the Philippines, Juan Bobo stories go by the name "Lazy Juan".[43] The National Library Board of Singapore has a listing of Juan Bobo books.[44]

Juan Bobo in the U.S. media[edit]

The Juan Bobo character has made frequent appearances on U.S. television, radio, and the internet. In 2005, he appeared on Nickelodeon in the Dora the Explorer series.[45] The episode was titled A Crown for King Bobo, and Juan Bobo was voiced by Cheech Marin.[46] On U.S. public television, the Juan Bobo stories are used by PBS stations in Alabama,[47] Arkansas,[48] California,[49] Chicago,[50] Iowa,[51] and the nationwide PBS Learning Media system.[52] Currently, Juan Bobo stories and radio dramas are regularly broadcast over radio stations in Puerto Rico.[53] Juan Bobo CDs are also sold on the island[53] and in the United States,[54][55] as well as Juan Bobo MP3 downloads.[56]

Juan Bobo in U.S. popular culture[edit]

Given the centuries-long history of the Juan Bobo tales, and because Puerto Rico has been a U.S. territory, Juan Bobo has been designated as an American folk character.[57][58] The American Legends children's books included Juan Bobo in a series of four folkloric books. The other three were Paul Bunyan, John Henry, and Pecos Bill.[59]

In the theatrical arts, in New York City, Theatre Works USA developed and presented a Juan Bobo play, together with a children's study guide in 2008.[60] The Teatro Círculo Theater Company mounted an Off-Broadway production of The Mischievous Juan Bobo in 2006.[61] Also in 2006, the Open Eye Theater in Minneapolis performed The Adventures of Juan Bobo.[62][63] This was followed in 2009, by the University Theater of Northeastern Illinois University presented a Juan Bobo play titled Señora Tortuga.[64]

Children's theater companies enact the Juan Bobo stories, often in the form of puppet plays.[65][66]

In New York City, a group of grade school children made a Juan Bobo animated film,[67] and children's Juan Bobo play scripts are available.[68] A float with Juan Bobo characterizations was also part of the 156th[69] Carnaval de Ponce on 2 March 2014 in Ponce, Puerto Rico.[70]


The Chilean actor/singer Antonio Prieto sang a popular Juan Bobo ballad in recognition of the folkloric character.[71][unreliable source?] On May 4, 2012, the School Librarians Association of Puerto Rico created an all-day special event in Villalba in homage and recognition of Juan Bobo and his legacy.[72]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Harper Collins, Juan Bobo Goes to Work; by Marisa Montes ISBN 9780688162337
  2. ^ Juan Bobo and the Pig: a Puerto Rican Folktale; by Christy Hale; Dutton Juvenile pub.; Sept. 1993; New York, NY ISBN 9780525674290
  3. ^ Scholastic Books, Juan Bobo series
  4. ^ Kirkus Reviews; Juan Bobo; by Carmen T.Bernier-Grand; June 15, 1994 Retrieved 29-05-2013.
  5. ^ Juan Bobo Goes to Work. Review by Library Journal Retrieved 29-05-2013.
  6. ^ a b Dutton; Juan Bobo and the Pig. Reviews by Booklist and Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 29-05-2013.
  7. ^ Journal of American Folklore, Vol.34, p. 143; by J. Alden Mason & Aurelio M. Espinosa, ed.; 1921 Retrieved 2013-05-31.
  8. ^ Journal of American Folklore, Vol.34, pp. 143–208; by J. Alden Mason & Aurelio M. Espinosa, ed.; 1921 Retrieved 2013-05-31.
  9. ^ Oxford Encyclopedia of Children's Literature; Oxford University Press pub., 2006; ISBN 9780195146561
  10. ^ a b Juan Bobo: A Folkloric Information System; by Sarai Lastra; Graduate School of Library and Information Science. University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, 1999 Retrieved 2013-05-29.
  11. ^ a b Juan Bobo, Postcoloniality and Frantz Fanon's Theory of Violence; by Enid Sepúlveda Rodríguez; Colorado State University Press, 2007; ISBN 0549285393
  12. ^ a b c Rodríguez, Enid Sepúlveda (2007). Thesis - Juan Bobo, Postcoloniality and Frantz Fanon's Theory of Violence. Colorado State University Press. ISBN 0549285393.
  13. ^ a b c d Zipes, Jack David (2006). "The Oxford Encyclopedia of Children's Literature". Smad - Zwer. Oxford University Press. 4. ISBN 9780195146561.
  14. ^ Scholastic Books, Juan Bobo series, Grades K-2 Retrieved 2013-05-29.
  15. ^ Chicago PBS; WTTW TV; Juan Bobo and the Pig Retrieved 2013-05-29.
  16. ^ a b c Juan Bobo: A Folkloric Information System; by Sarai Lastra; Graduate School of Library and Information Science. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1999 Retrieved 2013-05-29.
  17. ^ Juan Bobo Goes to Work; by Marisa Montes; Rayo pub.; September 2000 ISBN 0688162339
  18. ^ Pitre, Félix (September 1, 1993). "Juan Bobo and the Pig". Amazon.com. Dutton Juvenile. ISBN 0525674292. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  19. ^ Juan Bobo Stories; The Wheel Council, Inc., pub; 1997–2001. Retrieved 2013-05-29.
  20. ^ William Bernard McCarthy. "''Juan Bobo and the Riddling Princess''; Journal of Fairy Tale Studies; Vol. 19, 2005; Wayne State University". Digitalcommons.wayne.edu. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  21. ^ Anon, Lazarillo de Tormes, in: Two Spanish Picaresque Novels, Trans. Michael Alpert. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1969.
  22. ^ a b Maravall, José Antonio. La Literatura Picaresca desde la Historia Social (Siglos XVI al XVII). Madrid: Taurus Ediciones, 1987.
  23. ^ a b Parker, A. A. Literature and the Delinquent: the Picaresque Novel in Spain and Europe: 1599–1753. Edinburgh University Press, 1967.
  24. ^ Juan Bobo, Postcoloniality and Frantz Fanon’s Theory of Violence; by Enid Sepúlveda Rodríguez; Colorado State University Press, 2007; ISBN 0549285393
  25. ^ Benito-Vessels, Carmen, and Michael Zappala, Eds. The Picaresque: A Symposium on the Rogue’s Tale. Newark, NJ: University of Delaware Press / London & Toronto: Associated University Presses, 1994.
  26. ^ "Juan Bobo Stories; The Wheel Council, Inc., pub; 1997–2001". 610projbobo.blogspot.com. February 26, 2004. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  27. ^ Montes, Marisa (September 19, 2000). Juan Bobo Goes to Work: A Puerto Rican Folk Tale. HarperCollins. ISBN 9780688162337.
  28. ^ Pitre, Félix (1993). Juan Bobo and the Pig: A Puerto Rican Folktale. Lodestar Books. ISBN 9780525674290.
  29. ^ Carmen T. Bernier-Grand. "Scholastic Books, ''Juan Bobo'' series". Scholastic.com. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  30. ^ Juan Bobo Goes to Work; Teaching Books Retrieved 2013-05-29
  31. ^ Language, Space and Power: A Critical Look at Bilingual Education, pp. 169–216; by Sabina Hadi-Tabassum; Multilingual Matters Ltd. Pub., 2006; Tonawanda, NY
  32. ^ "Quizlet, ''Juan Bobo Bilingual Study Set''". Quizlet.com. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  33. ^ "Juan Bobo, Spanish-Language Lessons Plans". Conjuguemos.com. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  34. ^ Korrol, Virginia Sánchez; Ruiz, Vicki L. (2006). Latinas in the United States, set: A Historical Encyclopedia. Indiana University Press. pp. 83–84. ISBN 9780253111692.
  35. ^ Belpré, Pura (January 1, 1962). Juan Bobo and the Queen's Necklace-a Puerto Rican Folk Tale. Frederick Warne. ASIN B000H8VQBM.
  36. ^ Barnes & Noble; Juan Bobo book selection Retrieved 2013-05-29
  37. ^ Amazon Books; Juan Bobo book selection Retrieved 29-05-2013.
  38. ^ Abe Books; Juan Bobo selection Retrieved 29-05-2013.
  39. ^ Powell Books; Juan Bobo selection Retrieved 29-05-2013
  40. ^ San Angelo Standard-Times; Juan Bobo's Pot: A Folktale from Puerto Rico; 30 July 2011 Retrieved 16-06-2013.
  41. ^ Book Depository; Slough, UK; Juan Bobo: Four Folk Tales Retrieved 29-05-2013.
  42. ^ National Board of Singapore; Juan Bobo Legends Retrieved 29-05-2013.
  43. ^ The House Between Earth and Sky: Harvesting New American Folktales. Joseph Daniel Sobol. p.136. Teacher Ideas Press. 2005. Retrieved 17 March 2014.
  44. ^ National Board of Singapore; Juan Bobo Legends Retrieved 2013-05-29.
  45. ^ Nickelodeon. IMDB, A Crown for King Bobo. Aired October 23, 2005 Retrieved 2013-05-29
  46. ^ IMDB, A Crown for King Bobo Retrieved 2013-05-29.
  47. ^ "Alabama PBS, ''Juan Bobo and the Pig''". Aptv.org. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  48. ^ "Arkansas PBS, ''Juan Bobo and the Pig''". Livedash.ark.com. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  49. ^ "California PBS; KQED-TV; ''Juan Bobo and the Pig''". Kqed.org. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  50. ^ "Chicago PBS, WTTW-TV, ''Juan Bobo and the Pig''". Schedule.wttw.com. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  51. ^ "Iowa PBS, IPTV, ''Juan Bobo and the Pig''". Iptv.org. January 8, 2014. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  52. ^ PBS Media, Juan Bobo and the Pig Retrieved 2013-05-29
  53. ^ a b "''Juan Bobo vigente por partida triple''; Fundación Nacional". Prpop.org. November 27, 2011. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  54. ^ Highpoint Library, Juan Bobo CDs Retrieved 2013-05-29.
  55. ^ Juan Bobo’s Pot. Times-Herald Record. August 1, 2011. Retrieved 2013-05-29.
  56. ^ Juan Bobo MP3s, Amazon Retrieved 2013-05-29
  57. ^ "Oxford Encyclopedia of Children's Literature; ''Juan Bobo''". Answers.com. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  58. ^ Journal of American Folklore; Juan Bobo. Books.google.com. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  59. ^ "American Legends Series, ''Juan Bobo''". Jessyeomans.com. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  60. ^ "Theatre Works USA; ''Juan Bobo and the Pig''; 2008" (PDF). Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  61. ^ "Teatro Círculo; The Mischievous Juan Bobo; 2006". Theatermania.com. September 14, 2006. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  62. ^ "'' The Adventures of Juan Bobo''; Twin Cities Daily Planet; Minneapolis; Minn". Tcdailyplanet.net. July 21, 2012. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  63. ^ "''The Adventures of Juan Bobo''; Open Eye Figure Theater; Minneapolis, Minn". Minnesotamonthly.com. July 21, 2012. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  64. ^ Señora Tortuga; Northeastern Illinois University; Fall 2009 Retrieved 2013-05-29.
  65. ^ Cactus Head Puppets; April 2013 Retrieved 2013-05-29.
  66. ^ Time Out New York; April 2013; The Encounter of Juan Bobo and Pedro Animal Retrieved 2013-05-29.
  67. ^ "Buzzco; ''Juan Bobo's Birthday Party''". Buzzzco.com. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  68. ^ Creative Educational Systems; Juan Bobo play scripts Retrieved 2013-05-29
  69. ^ Ponce se viste de carnaval. Reinaldo Millán. La Perla del Sur. Ponce, Puerto Rico. Year 32. Issue 1578. Page 6. 26 February 2014. Retrieved 5 March 2014.
  70. ^ Atrae miles Desfile del Carnaval Ponceño. Sandra Torres Guzmán. La Perla del Sur. Ponce, Puerto Rico. Year 32. Issue 1579. Page 11. 5 March 2014. Retrieved 5 March 2014.
  71. ^ Música Fusión, Juan Bobo Retrieved 2013-05-29
  72. ^ "''Maestros Bibliotecarios Hacen Homenaje a Juan Bobo''; May 4, 2012". 18norte66oeste.com. Retrieved March 12, 2014.