Uncle Remus

Daughter #1 was complaining, the other day, she had nothing to read. Shocking I know.  She has enough books to open her own library. Anyway, I pulled my copy of The Complete Uncle Remus by Joel Chandler Harris, off the shelf and handed the tome to her. She perked up when she saw it came from the grownup shelf. Needless to say, she didn’t get very far.

Uncle Remus comes with lots of controversy and baggage.  The tales of Brer Rabbit are as Southern as sweet tea and grits. I remember hearing the tales from when I was tiny. Like many old books, this one has debates over who actually wrote it and under what conditions was it published.  Racism is also used as the reason it has been banned in schools and libraries. I don’t know.  Here is a great article on Uncle Remus. That was in the 1880s. Regardless, the stories are great.

They remind me of Will E Coyote and the Roadrunner, except wearing overalls and in the South.

Background:

The Tales of Uncle Remus, is a collection of folk tales. An old black man (slave?) is telling these stories to a pair of white children.  They center around a mischievous Brer Rabbit and his shenanigans with Brer Fox and Brer Bear. According to one amazon reader the “N” word is used by the old man.  I don’t remember that, but it has been years since I read them.

I read The Wonderful Tar Baby, to my girls this morning.  The story centers around Brer Fox making a mixture of tar and turpentine in the shape of a person, in hopes of catching Brer Rabbit.  Fox wants to eat Rabbit. If you’ve ever had the misfortune of touching tar you know how devilishly sticky it is. Daughter #1 tried to read it and gave up. These tales are written in old Southern, rural dialect and can be hard to grasp. No one talks like that anymore. Here’s an example:

Tar-baby ain’t sayin’ nothin’, enBrer Fox, he lay low.

‘How duz yo’ sym’tums seem ter segashuate?’ sez Brer Rabbit,sezee.

Reading it aloud, I could change the wording to make it easier to understand.  They laughed in all the right places. I think this summer will be a great time to revisit these old tales and introduce them to my girls. If you haven’t read it, scrounge around grandma’s attic and find a copy.  It’s worth the read.

-CK

 

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