Joel Chandler Harris.

Nights with Uncle Remus : myths and legends of the old plantation online

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NIGHTS WITH UNCLE REMUS


[Illustration: MISS MEADOWS AND BROTHER RABBIT _Frontispiece_]




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| BOOKS BY JOEL CHANDLER HARRIS. |
| ______ |
| |
|LITTLE MR. THIMBLEFINGER AND HIS QUEER |
|COUNTRY. Illustrated by OLIVER HERFORD. |
| |
|MR. RABBIT AT HOME. A Sequel to Little Mr. |
|Thimblefinger and His Queer Country. |
|Illustrated by OLIVER HERFORD. |
| |
|THE STORY OF AARON (SO-NAMED) THE SON OF |
|BEN ALI. Told by his Friends and |
|Acquaintances. Illustrated by OLIVER |
|HERFORD. |
| |
|AARON IN THE WILDWOODS. Illustrated by |
|OLIVER HERFORD. |
| |
|PLANTATION PAGEANTS. Illustrated by E. BOYD|
|SMITH. |
| |
|NIGHTS WITH UNCLE REMUS. Illustrated. |
| |
|UNCLE REMUS AND HIS FRIENDS. Illustrated. |
| |
|MINGO, AND OTHER SKETCHES IN BLACK AND |
|WHITE. |
| |
|BALAAM AND HIS MASTER, AND OTHER SKETCHES. |
| |
|SISTER JANE, HER FRIENDS AND ACQUAINTANCES.|
|A Narrative of Certain Events and Episodes |
|transcribed from the Papers of the late |
|William Wornum. |
| |
|TALES OF THE HOME FOLKS IN PEACE AND WAR. |
|Illustrated. |
| |
| HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY |
| BOSTON AND NEW YORK |
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NIGHTS
WITH UNCLE REMUS

MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF THE
OLD PLANTATION

BY

JOEL CHANDLER HARRIS

AUTHOR OF "UNCLE REMUS: HIS SONGS AND SAYINGS,"
"AT TEAGUE POTEET'S," ETC.

_WITH ILLUSTRATIONS_

BOSTON AND NEW YORK
HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY

The Riverside Press Cambridge


COPYRIGHT, 1883, BY JOEL CHANDLER HARRIS
COPYRIGHT, 1911, BY ESTHER LA ROSE HARRIS

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED




CONTENTS

CHAPTER PAGE

I. MR. FOX AND MISS GOOSE 3

II. BROTHER FOX CATCHES MR. HORSE 8

III. BROTHER RABBIT AND THE LITTLE GIRL 12

IV. HOW BROTHER FOX WAS TOO SMART 17

V. BROTHER RABBIT'S ASTONISHING PRANK 21

VI. BROTHER RABBIT SECURES A MANSION 26

VII. MR. LION HUNTS FOR MR. MAN 33

VIII. THE STORY OF THE PIGS 38

IX. MR. BENJAMIN RAM AND HIS WONDERFUL FIDDLE 44

X. BROTHER RABBIT'S RIDDLE 51

XI. HOW MR. ROOSTER LOST HIS DINNER 56

XII. BROTHER RABBIT BREAKS UP A PARTY 61

XIII. BROTHER FOX, BROTHER RABBIT, AND KING DEER'S DAUGHTER 68

XIV. BROTHER TERRAPIN DECEIVES BROTHER BUZZARD 74

XV. BROTHER FOX COVETS THE QUILLS 79

XVI. HOW BROTHER FOX FAILED TO GET HIS GRAPES 83

XVII. MR. FOX FIGURES AS AN INCENDIARY 90

XVIII. A DREAM AND A STORY 95

XIX. THE MOON IN THE MILL-POND 100

XX. BROTHER RABBIT TAKES SOME EXERCISE 108

XXI. WHY BROTHER BEAR HAS NO TAIL 113

XXII. HOW BROTHER RABBIT FRIGHTENED HIS NEIGHBOURS 118

XXIII. MR. MAN HAS SOME MEAT 123

XXIV. HOW BROTHER RABBIT GOT THE MEAT 128

XXV. AFRICAN JACK 132

XXVI. WHY THE ALLIGATOR'S BACK IS ROUGH 141

XXVII. BROTHER WOLF SAYS GRACE 146

XXVIII. SPIRITS, SEEN AND UNSEEN 154

XXIX. A GHOST STORY 161

XXX. BROTHER RABBIT AND HIS FAMOUS FOOT 166

XXXI. "IN SOME LADY'S GARDEN" 177

XXXII. BROTHER 'POSSUM GETS IN TROUBLE 185

XXXIII. WHY THE GUINEA-FOWLS ARE SPECKLED 193

XXXIV. BROTHER RABBIT'S LOVE-CHARM 198

XXXV. BROTHER RABBIT SUBMITS TO A TEST 203

XXXVI. BROTHER WOLF FALLS A VICTIM 208

XXXVII. BROTHER RABBIT AND THE MOSQUITOES 214

XXXVIII. THE PIMMERLY PLUM 223

XXXIX. BROTHER RABBIT GETS THE PROVISIONS 230

XL. "CUTTA CORD-LA!" 236

XLI. AUNT TEMPY'S STORY 241

XLII. THE FIRE-TEST 248

XLIII. THE CUNNING SNAKE 255

XLIV. HOW BROTHER FOX WAS TOO SMART 260

XLV. BROTHER WOLF GETS IN A WARM PLACE 268

XLVI. BROTHER WOLF STILL IN TROUBLE 274

XLVII. BROTHER RABBIT LAYS IN HIS BEEF SUPPLY 280

XLVIII. BROTHER RABBIT AND MR. WILDCAT 286

XLIX. MR. BENJAMIN RAM DEFENDS HIMSELF 291

L. BROTHER RABBIT PRETENDS TO BE POISONED 297

LI. MORE TROUBLE FOR BROTHER WOLF 302

LII. BROTHER RABBIT OUTDOES MR. MAN 306

LIII. BROTHER RABBIT TAKES A WALK 311

LIV. OLD GRINNY-GRANNY WOLF 314

LV. HOW WATTLE WEASEL WAS CAUGHT 319

LVI. BROTHER RABBIT TIES MR. LION 325

LVII. MR. LION'S SAD PREDICAMENT 330

LVIII. THE ORIGIN OF THE OCEAN 334

LIX. BROTHER RABBIT GETS BROTHER FOX'S DINNER 339

LX. HOW THE BEAR NURSED THE LITTLE ALLIGATOR 344

LXI. WHY MR. DOG RUNS BROTHER RABBIT 349

LXII. BROTHER WOLF AND THE HORNED CATTLE 353

LXIII. BROTHER FOX AND THE WHITE MUSCADINES 357

LXIV. MR. HAWK AND BROTHER BUZZARD 362

LXV. MR. HAWK AND BROTHER RABBIT 366

LXVI. THE WISE BIRD AND THE FOOLISH BIRD 370

LXVII. OLD BROTHER TERRAPIN GETS SOME FISH 373

LXVIII. BROTHER FOX MAKES A NARROW ESCAPE 377

LXIX. BROTHER FOX'S FISH-TRAP 381

LXX. BROTHER RABBIT RESCUES BROTHER TERRAPIN 386

LXXI. THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS 396




LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

FACE PAGE

MISS MEADOWS AND BROTHER RABBIT _Frontispiece_

MR. FOX AND MISS GOOSE 4

BROTHER RABBIT AND THE LITTLE GIRL 14

BROTHER RABBIT'S ASTONISHING PRANK 24

MR. BENJAMIN RAM AND HIS WONDERFUL FIDDLE 46

BROTHER FOX, BROTHER RABBIT, AND KING DEER'S DAUGHTER 70

BROTHER FOX COVETS THE QUILLS 82

A DREAM AND A STORY 96

BROTHER RABBIT TAKES SOME EXERCISE 110

WHY BROTHER BEAR HAS NO TAIL 116

WHY THE ALLIGATOR'S BACK IS ROUGH 144

BROTHER WOLF SAYS GRACE 152

WHY THE GUINEA FOWLS ARE SPECKLED 196

BROTHER RABBIT AND THE MOSQUITOES 216

THE PIMMERLY PLUM 228

BROTHER RABBIT GETS THE PROVISIONS 234

BROTHER WOLF STILL IN TROUBLE 278

BROTHER RABBIT AND MR. WILDCAT 288

BROTHER RABBIT TIES MR. LION 328

HOW THE BEAR NURSED THE LITTLE ALLIGATOR 344

GOOD-NIGHT 404




INTRODUCTION


The volume[i_1] containing an instalment of thirty-four negro legends,
which was given to the public three years ago, was accompanied by an
apology for both the matter and the manner. Perhaps such an apology is
more necessary now than it was then; but the warm reception given to the
book on all sides - by literary critics, as well as by ethnologists and
students of folk-lore, in this country and in Europe - has led the author
to believe that a volume embodying everything, or nearly everything, of
importance in the oral literature of the negroes of the Southern States,
would be as heartily welcomed.

The thirty-four legends in the first volume were merely selections from
the large body of plantation folk-lore familiar to the author from his
childhood, and these selections were made less with an eye to their
ethnological importance than with a view to presenting certain quaint
and curious race characteristics, of which the world at large had had
either vague or greatly exaggerated notions.

The first book, therefore, must be the excuse and apology for the
present volume. Indeed, the first book made the second a necessity; for,
immediately upon its appearance, letters and correspondence began to
pour in upon the author from all parts of the South. Much of this
correspondence was very valuable, for it embodied legends that had
escaped the author's memory, and contained hints and suggestions that
led to some very interesting discoveries. The result is, that the
present volume is about as complete as it could be made under the
circumstances, though there is no doubt of the existence of legends and
myths, especially upon the rice plantations, and Sea Islands of the
Georgia and Carolina seacoast, which, owing to the difficulties that
stand in the way of those who attempt to gather them, are not included
in this collection.

It is safe to say, however, that the best and most characteristic of the
legends current on the rice plantations and Sea Islands, are also
current on the cotton plantations. Indeed, this has been abundantly
verified in the correspondence of those who kindly consented to aid the
author in his efforts to secure stories told by the negroes on the
seacoast. The great majority of legends and stories collected and
forwarded by these generous collaborators had already been collected
among the negroes on the cotton plantations and uplands of Georgia and
other Southern States. This will account for the comparatively meagre
contribution which Daddy Jack, the old African of the rice plantations,
makes towards the entertainment of the little boy.

The difficulty of verifying the legends which came to hand from various
sources has been almost as great as the attempt to procure them at first
hand. It is a difficulty hard to describe. It is sometimes amusing, and
sometimes irritating, but finally comes to be recognized as the result
of a very serious and impressive combination of negro characteristics.
The late Professor Charles F. Hartt, of Cornell University, in his
admirable monograph[i_2] on the folk-lore of the Amazon regions of Brazil,
found the same difficulty among the Amazonian Indians. Exploring the
Amazonian valley, Professor Hartt discovered that a great body of myths
and legends had its existence among the Indians of that region. Being
aware of the great value of these myths, he set himself to work to
collect them; but for a long time he found the task an impossible one,
for the whites were unacquainted with the Indian folk-lore, and neither
by coaxing nor by offers of money could an Indian be persuaded to relate
a myth. In most instances, Professor Hartt was met with statements to
the effect that some old woman of the neighborhood was the story-teller,
who could make him laugh with tales of the animals; but he never could
find this old woman.

But one night, Professor Hartt heard his Indian steersman telling the
Indian boatmen a story in order to keep them awake. This Indian
steersman was full of these stories, but, for a long time, Professor
Hartt found it impossible to coax this steersman to tell him another. He
discovered that the Indian myth is always related without mental effort,
simply to pass the time away, and that all the surroundings must be
congenial and familiar.

In the introduction to the first volume of "Uncle Remus"[i_3] occurs this
statement: "Curiously enough, I have found few negroes who will
acknowledge to a stranger that they know anything of these legends; and
yet to relate one is the surest road to their confidence and esteem."

This statement was scarcely emphatic enough. The thirty-four legends in
the first volume were comparatively easy to verify, for the reason that
they were the most popular among the negroes, and were easily
remembered. This is also true of many stories in the present volume; but
some of them appear to be known only to the negroes who have the gift of
story-telling, - a gift that is as rare among the blacks as among the
whites. There is good reason to suppose, too, that many of the negroes
born near the close of the war or since, are unfamiliar with the great
body of their own folk-lore. They have heard such legends as the "Tar
Baby" story and "The Moon in the Mill-Pond," and some others equally as
graphic; but, in the tumult and confusion incident to their changed
condition, they have had few opportunities to become acquainted with
that wonderful collection of tales which their ancestors told in the
kitchens and cabins of the Old Plantation. The older negroes are as fond
of the legends as ever, but the occasion, or the excuse, for telling
them becomes less frequent year by year.

With a fair knowledge of the negro character, and long familiarity with
the manifold peculiarities of the negro mind and temperament, the writer
has, nevertheless, found it a difficult task to verify such legends as
he had not already heard in some shape or other. But, as their
importance depended upon such verification, he has spared neither pains
nor patience to make it complete. The difficulties in the way of this
verification would undoubtedly have been fewer if the writer could have
had an opportunity to pursue his investigations in the plantation
districts of Middle Georgia; but circumstances prevented, and he has
been compelled to depend upon such opportunities as casually or
unexpectedly presented themselves.

One of these opportunities occurred in the summer of 1882, at Norcross,
a little railroad station, twenty miles northeast of Atlanta. The writer
was waiting to take the train to Atlanta, and this train, as it
fortunately happened, was delayed. At the station were a number of
negroes, who had been engaged in working on the railroad. It was night,
and, with nothing better to do, they were waiting to see the train go
by. Some were sitting in little groups up and down the platform of the
station, and some were perched upon a pile of cross-ties. They seemed to
be in great good-humor, and cracked jokes at each other's expense in the
midst of boisterous shouts of laughter. The writer sat next to one of
the liveliest talkers in the party; and, after listening and laughing
awhile, told the "Tar Baby" story by way of a feeler, the excuse being
that some one in the crowd mentioned "Ole Molly Har'." The story was
told in a low tone, as if to avoid attracting attention; but the
comments of the negro, who was a little past middle age, were loud and
frequent. "Dar now!" he would exclaim, or, "He's a honey, mon!" or,
"Gentermens! git out de way, an' gin 'im room!"

These comments, and the peals of unrestrained and unrestrainable
laughter that accompanied them, drew the attention of the other negroes,
and before the climax of the story had been reached, where Brother
Rabbit is cruelly thrown into the brier-patch, they had all gathered
around and made themselves comfortable. Without waiting to see what the
effect of the "Tar Baby" legend would be, the writer told the story of
"Brother Rabbit and the Mosquitoes," and this had the effect of
convulsing them. Two or three could hardly wait for the conclusion, so
anxious were they to tell stories of their own. The result was that, for
almost two hours, a crowd of thirty or more negroes vied with each other
to see which could tell the most and the best stories. Some told them
poorly, giving only meagre outlines, while others told them passing
well; but one or two, if their language and their gestures could have
been taken down, would have put Uncle Remus to shame. Some of the
stories told had already been gathered and verified, and a few had been
printed in the first volume; but the great majority were either new or
had been entirely forgotten. It was night, and impossible to take notes;
but that fact was not to be regretted. The darkness gave greater scope
and freedom to the narratives of the negroes, and but for this friendly
curtain it is doubtful if the conditions would have been favorable to
story-telling. But however favorable the conditions might have been, the
appearance of a note-book and pencil would have dissipated them as
utterly as if they had never existed. Moreover, it was comparatively an
easy matter for the writer to take the stories away in his memory, since
many of them gave point to a large collection of notes and unrelated
fragments already in his possession.

Theal, in the preface to his collection of Kaffir Tales,[i_4] lays great
stress upon the fact that the tales he gives "have all undergone a
thorough revision by a circle of natives. They were not only told by
natives, but were copied down by natives." It is more than likely that
his carefulness in this respect has led him to overlook a body of
folk-lore among the Kaffirs precisely similar to that which exists among
the negroes of the Southern States. If comparative evidence is worth
anything, - and it may be worthless in this instance, - the educated
natives have "cooked" the stories to suit themselves. In the "Story of
the Bird that Made Milk," the children of Masilo tell other children
that their father has a bird which makes milk.[i_5] The others asked to
see the bird, whereupon Masilo's children took it from the place where
their father had concealed it, and ordered it to make milk. Of this milk
the other children drank greedily, and then asked to see the bird dance.
The bird was untied, but it said the house was too small, and the
children carried it outside. While they were laughing and enjoying
themselves the bird flew away, to their great dismay. Compare this with
the story of how the little girl catches Brother Rabbit in the garden
(of which several variants are given), and afterwards unties him in
order to see him dance.[i_6] There is still another version of this
story, where Mr. Man puts a bridle on Brother Rabbit and ties him to the
fence. Mr. Man leaves the throat-latch of the bridle unfastened, and so
Brother Rabbit slips his head out, and afterwards induces Brother Fox to
have the bridle put on, taking care to fasten the throat-latch.

The Brother Rabbit of the negroes is the hare, and what is "The Story of
Hlakanyana"[i_7] but the story of the hare and other animals curiously
tangled, and changed, and inverted? Hlakanyana, after some highly
suggestive adventures, kills two cows and smears the blood upon a
sleeping boy.[i_8] The men find the cows dead, and ask who did it. They
then see the blood upon the boy, and kill him, under the impression that
he is the robber. Compare this with the story in the first volume of
Uncle Remus, where Brother Rabbit eats the butter, and then greases
Brother Possum's feet and mouth, thus proving the latter to be the
rogue. Hlakanyana also eats all the meat in the pot, and smears fat on
the mouth of a sleeping old man. Hlakanyana's feat of pretending to cure
an old woman, by cooking her in a pot of boiling water, is identical
with the negro story of how Brother Rabbit disposes of Grinny-Granny
Wolf. The new story of Brother Terrapin and Brother Mink, relating how
they had a diving-match, in order to see who should become the possessor
of a string of fish, is a variant of the Kaffir story of Hlakanyana's
diving-match with the boy for some birds. Hlakanyana eats the birds
while the boy is under water, and Brother Terrapin disposes of the fish
in the same way; but there is this curious difference: while Hlakanyana
has aided the boy to catch the birds, Brother Terrapin has no sort of
interest in the fish. The negro story of how Brother Rabbit nailed
Brother Fox's tail to the roof of the house, and thus succeeded in
getting the Fox's dinner, is identical with Hlakanyana's feat of sewing
the Hyena's tail to the thatch. When this had been accomplished,
Hlakanyana ate all the meat in the pot, and threw the bones at the
Hyena.

But the most curious parallel of all exists between an episode in
"The Story of Hlakanyana," and the story of how the Bear nursed the
Alligators (p. 344). This story was gathered by Mrs. Helen S. Barclay,
of Darien, Georgia, whose appreciative knowledge of the character and
dialect of the coast negro has been of great service to the writer.
Hlakanyana came to the house of a Leopardess, and proposed to take care
of her children while the Leopardess went to hunt animals. To this the
Leopardess agreed. There were four cubs, and, after the mother was gone,
Hlakanyana took one of the cubs and ate it. When the Leopardess
returned, she asked for her children, that she might suckle them.
Hlakanyana gave one, but the mother asked for all. Hlakanyana replied
that it was better one should drink and then another; and to this the
Leopardess agreed. After three had suckled, he gave the first one back a
second time. This continued until the last cub was eaten, whereupon
Hlakanyana ran away. The Leopardess saw him, and gave pursuit. He ran
under a big rock, and began to cry for help. The Leopardess asked him
what the matter was. "Do you not see that this rock is falling?" replied
Hlakanyana. "Just hold it up while I get a prop and put under it." While
the Leopardess was thus engaged, he made his escape. This, it will be
observed, is the climax of a negro legend entirely different from Daddy
Jack's story of the Bear that nursed the Alligators, though the rock
becomes a fallen tree. In the "Story of the Lion and the Little
Jackal,"[i_9] the same climax takes the shape of an episode. The Lion
pursues the Jackal, and the latter runs under an overhanging rock,
crying "Help! help! this rock is falling on me!" The Lion goes for a
pole with which to prop up the rock, and so the Jackal escapes. It is
worthy of note that a tortoise or terrapin, which stands next to Brother
Rabbit in the folk-lore of the Southern negroes, is the cause of



Online LibraryJoel Chandler HarrisNights with Uncle Remus : myths and legends of the old plantation → online text (page 1 of 26)