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Ten Tales of Brer Rabbit

Copyright © Lynne Garner 2017

Published by Mad Moment Media


Lynne Garner has asserted her right under the Copyright, Designs and Patent Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.


All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any means, graphic, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording in audio or video form, taping or by any information storage or retrieval system, without the express, written permission of the author and Nyrex Ltd. This permission must be granted beforehand. This includes any and all reproductions intended for non-commercial and/or non-profit use.


Mad Moment Media is a trading name of Nyrex Limited


Cover illustration and design by Debbie Knight


TEN TALES OF

BRER RABBIT

DEDICATION


For Mum, Valerie, Lily and Albert

CONTENTS


Introduction


Brer Rabbit and the Vegetable Patch

Brer Rabbit Helps Sister Goose

Brer Rabbit, Brer Bear and the Fruit Bush

Brer Rabbit and the Pot of Honey

Brer Rabbit, Brer Otter and the Fish

Brer Rabbit, Brer Turtle and the Pimmerly Plums

Brer Rabbit and the Moon in the Millpond

Brer Rabbit and Brer Turtle

Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox and the Wheelbarrow

Brer Rabbit’s New Home

Bonus content


Bibliography


About the author

INTRODUCTION


I remember my introduction to the lovable rogue that is Brer Rabbit was the stories written by Enid Blyton (1897-1968). I also remember seeing the Disney film ‘Song of the South’ (first screened in 1946) which combined live action with animation. The film featured the award-winning song ‘Zip-a-dee-doo-dah’, which Brer Rabbit sang along to. Little did I know this film and Blyton’s books were based on the Brer Rabbit stories written by Joel Chandler Harris (1845-1908), who in the late 19th century popularized this mischief-maker in his stories featuring Uncle Remus. I also didn’t know that Joel Chandler Harris hadn’t pulled Brer Rabbit from his own imagination, but had collected the stories and retold them.

Brer Rabbit tales were originally an oral tradition that had travelled the world with the thousands of people sold into slavery. Slaves and those descended from them tended not to share their stories with people outside their own circle. However, this changed in the late 1800s when people including Robert Barnhill Roosevelt (1829-1906), Alcée Fortier (1856-1914) and Joel Chandler Harris began to collect the stories and write them down. Although Robert Barnhill Roosevelt published a small collection of Brer Rabbit stories before the Uncle Remus books, these didn’t capture the public’s imagination. It wasn’t until Joel Chandler Harris published his books that Brer Rabbit became a popular trickster character, loved by thousands of readers.

The stories retold in this collection are based on those that appeared in the books written by Joel Chandler Harris. In his early twenties he worked on a plantation where he overheard stories being shared by the slaves—namely Uncle George Terrell, Old Harbert and Aunt Sissy. In order to keep the feel of the original stories (they were told in the Deep South Gullah dialect) he wrote them in what is called an ‘eye dialect’, the non-standard spelling of words used to mimic the original dialect.

Some of the stories he retold in his seven Uncle Remus books are very similar to other trickster stories, including those featuring Anansi the Trickster Spider. For example, in the story ‘The Tar Baby’ Brer Fox constructs a doll out of a lump of tar in the hopes of capturing Brer Rabbit. This story is very similar to the Anansi story featuring the gum doll created by the farmer in a bid to capture Anansi. Another story where Brer Rabbit manages to ride Brer Fox is very similar to the story where Anansi the Trickster Spider fools Tiger into allowing him to ride him. This mingling of stories would appear to support the theory held by some, that a few of the Brer Rabbit stories are a mixture of traditional African tales and stories told by the Native American Indians.

Typically, in the stories featuring Brer Rabbit, he tricks the same characters repeatedly and they never learn that this rapscallion will outwit them. Whereas in the Anansi the Trickster Spider tales Anansi typically manages to fool someone just once and, unlike Brer Rabbit, sometimes becomes the victim of his own tricks.

Whether you’ve read a Brer Rabbit story before or not, I hope you enjoy them as much as I’ve enjoyed researching and writing them. Lastly, if these stories have kept you entertained then you may also like my retellings of some of the Anansi the Trickster Spider and Coyote stories, available in printed format and as ebooks.


Lynne Garner

September 2017


There is little use building a fence around

the garden to keep out the rabbits.”


Yugoslavian proverb


BRER RABBIT AND THE VEGETABLE PATCH


The very old farmer had the best vegetable patch in the village. Well, he would, wouldn’t he? He’d hoe, dig and water his carrots, radish and cucumbers every day. And every year the very old farmer won at least one prize at the fall fair for his vegetables. Sometimes he’d win two, three, even four prizes. If he wasn’t looking after his vegetable patch he’d be looking after his three hound dogs, Blue, Black and Brown. Many wondered which he loved more, his vegetables or his old hound dogs.

Now Brer Rabbit often watched the very old farmer care for his vegetables from the safety of a large bush. He’d tried to get into the vegetable patch but he had never managed to. You see, the very old farmer was also good at making fences that kept rabbits out. He made them too tall for a rabbit to hop over; he made the gaps too small for even the smallest kitten to squeeze through. (Isn’t it strange that a baby rabbit shares the same name as a baby cat?) He’d also pile large rocks around the inside of the fence so rabbits couldn’t dig under it. Well, that changed one morning when Brer Rabbit noticed a loose nail.

“What have we got here?” Brer Rabbit asked himself, as he carefully pushed the slat in the fence to one side. “Just right for a rabbit to slip through.”

He slipped through the gap and looked around. He couldn’t believe his luck.

“Oh my!” he said. “Where to start?”

Brer Rabbit hopped over to the line of carrots and sniffed them. “Carrot tops, one of my favorites.” He grabbed a carrot top and nibbled and nibbled until it came away from the carrot.

“Absolutely delicious,” he said. “I think I’ll take a couple of these home.”

And with a nibble here and a nibble there Brer Rabbit soon had an armful of carrot tops. He then slipped back through the gap and hopped home.

The next morning the very old farmer visited his vegetable patch and as he closed the gate behind him, he noticed the carrot tops were missing.

“The cheek of it! Who’s been at my carrots?” he asked himself. “Perhaps they’ve left me a clue.”

Luckily for Brer Rabbit, just as the very old farmer reached the line of carrots, a gust of wind blew Brer Rabbit’s footprints away. So, try as he might, the very old farmer couldn’t work out who’d taken his carrot tops.

That evening Brer Rabbit pulled back the loose fence panel and snuck into the vegetable patch.

“Mmm, what should I take tonight?” he asked himself. He looked around and spotted a line of radish.

“Perhaps just a few of them,” he said. And with a nibble here and a nibble there Brer Rabbit soon had an armful of radish tops. He then slipped out and hopped home to enjoy his feast.

The next morning the very old farmer visited his vegetable patch and as he closed the gate behind him, he noticed the radish tops were missing.

“The cheek of it! Now they’ve been at my radish,” he said, shaking his head. “Perhaps they’ve left me a clue.” Luckily for Brer Rabbit, just as the very old farmer reached the line of radish, a gust of wind blew Brer Rabbit’s footprints away. So try as he might, the very old farmer couldn’t work out who’d taken his radish tops.

That evening Brer Rabbit pulled back the loose fence panel and snuck into the vegetable garden.

“Mmm, I fancy something different tonight. What shall I take?” He looked around and spotted a line of cucumbers.

“Perhaps just a few leaves from them and a few carrot tops.” And with a nibble here and a nibble there Brer Rabbit soon had an armful of cucumber leaves and carrot tops. But as he nibbled there was the pitter-patter of raindrops.

“Better hurry,” he said to himself. “I don’t want to get too wet.” He slipped back through the gap and hopped home to enjoy his feast.

The next morning the very old farmer visited his vegetable patch. As he closed the gate, he noticed more carrots tops were missing and some of his cucumbers were missing their leaves.

“The cheek of it! They’ve been in my vegetables again,” he said, shaking his head. “Perhaps they’ve left me a clue.” The very old farmer bent down and looked and what did he see? Some little rabbit footprints in the damp earth.

“So that’s who’s been visiting my vegetable patch,” he said with a smile. “I think I should introduce that cheeky Brer Rabbit to my old friends, Blue, Black and Brown.”

That evening as Brer Rabbit slipped into the vegetable patch he noticed something was different. He sniffed the air and heard a whimper and a whine.

“I know who that is. That’s those old hound dogs,” he said. “I’d better get out of here.”

Brer Rabbit carefully hopped back to the gap, trying to make sure he wasn’t noticed. But it was too late: Blue, Black and Brown could smell him.

“Go get that rascal, boys!” shouted the very old farmer, opening his front door. The three old hound dogs dashed out.

Brer Rabbit started to run. He wove in and out of the tree stumps and under the bushes. Soon he reached the road that led to his burrow. In the distance he could hear Blue, Black and Brown looking for his scent. They whimpered, whined and barked with excitement as they picked up his trail.

Just then who should Brer Rabbit bump into but Brer Raccoon, Brer Fox and Brer Bear?

Brer Rabbit had an idea. He ran up to them, then around and around.

“Hello, dear friends. How are you on this fine night?” Brer Rabbit asked between gasps.

He gave Brer Raccoon a big hug, then Brer Fox and finally Brer Bear, well at least, Brer Bear’s legs. Now this hug wasn’t just a little hug, it was a big hug, a best friend type of hug.

I’m sorry,” Brer Rabbit said. “I’m running late and I must dash but it would have been rude not to say hello.”

Brer Rabbit then quickly hopped in the direction of his burrow, leaving three friends very confused.

“What was all that about?” asked Brer Raccoon.

“Not a clue,” replied Brer Fox.

“Do you think it has anything to do with those hound dogs?” asked Brer Bear, pointing down the lane.

“I wouldn’t…” said Brer Raccoon, but he didn’t have time to finish his sentence because just then Blue, Black and Brown came into view.

Blue, Black and Brown stopped running and looked at each other, confused.

“None of them looks like Brer Rabbit,” said Blue.

“But they all smell like Brer Rabbit,” said Black.

So, which one do we chase?” asked Brown.

The old hound dogs looked at one another, grinned and said, “ALL of them!”

“I’ll chase the one on the left,” said Blue.

“I’ll chase the one in the middle,” said Black.

“I’ll chase the one on the right,” said Brown.

As the three hounds decided which friend to chase the three friends looked at one another.

“I think they’re going to chase us,” said Brer Raccoon.

“I think you’re right,” said Brer Fox.

“We’d better run,” said Brer Bear.

Blue, Black and Brown barked with excitement. “After them!”

The old hound dogs started to run and so did the three friends.

As he ran, Brer Raccoon looked over his shoulder and he saw to his dismay Blue getting nearer and nearer. Just as Blue was about to nip Brer Raccoon’s tail he reached a tree and climbed it faster than he’d ever climbed a tree before.

Blue crashed into the tree with a large thump!

“I didn’t know rabbits could do that,” he said rubbing his head.

Suddenly Brer Raccoon knew why Brer Rabbit had hugged him so tightly. “That crafty old rabbit,” he said. “He left his scent on me so those old hound dogs would chase me and not him. I’ll have to get back at him for this.”

Whilst Blue was chasing Brer Raccoon, Black was chasing Brer Fox. Unlike raccoons, foxes can’t climb trees. So Brer Fox used his cunning to outwit the old hound dog and hid, crouching on a large rock on the riverbank. As he watched Black trying to find his scent he heard the old hound dog say, “I didn’t know rabbits could just disappear like that.”

Suddenly Brer Fox knew why Brer Rabbit had hugged him so tightly. “That crafty old rabbit,” he said. “He left his scent on me so those old hound dogs would chase me and not him. I’ll have to get back at him for this.”

As Blue was pacing around the base of the tree and Black was trying to sniff out the disappearing rabbit, Brown was chasing Brer Bear.

Now Brer Bear knew the very old farmer’s hound dogs didn’t like water, so when he reached the river he jumped in and swam. As he swam he looked over his shoulder to see Brown sitting on the riverbank, confused. He then heard him say, “I didn’t know rabbits could swim.”

Suddenly Brer Bear knew why Brer Rabbit had hugged him so tightly. “That crafty old rabbit,” he said. “He left his scent on me so those old hounds would chase me and not him. I’ll have to get back at him for this.”

And as this mayhem was going on Brer Rabbit nibbled on the last of the carrots and cucumber leaves. “Delicious!” he said with a smile.

• • •

A sure friend is known when in difficulty.”


Quintus Ennius (239BC - 169BC)

BRER RABBIT HELPS SISTER GOOSE


It was a warm sunny evening and Brer Rabbit had decided to take a stroll down to the river. Just as he reached the small path that led to the riverbank he spotted Brer Fox trying to hide in a bush.

“Good evening, friend,” said Brer Rabbit, hopping over to Brer Fox. “How are you this fine evening?”

Brer Fox sighed and came out of his hiding place. “I’m well, thank you,” he said.

“What brings you out on this fine evening?” Brer Rabbit asked.

Brer Fox looked around as if checking no one was watching. “Just out for a walk,” said Brer Fox.

Just then Brer Rabbit heard Sister Goose’s voice being carried on the gentle evening breeze. She was singing one of her favorite songs.

Brer Rabbit was sure he saw Brer Fox sniff the air and lick his lips.

“She has a lovely voice,” said Brer Rabbit.

“Yes, she does,” agreed Brer Fox.

“You know I have a soft spot for Sister Goose. She is perhaps the nicest goose I’ve ever met,” said Brer Rabbit. “I think I’ll pop down to the riverbank for a chat. You’re welcome to join me.”

“That’s a kind offer but I have things to do,” said Brer Fox, and with that he slipped through the bush and was soon out of sight.

Brer Rabbit shook his head and scratched his hairy chin. “That Brer Fox is up to something,” he said to himself. “No matter. I’m sure I’ll work out what it is.” Brer Rabbit then hopped along the path down to the riverbank where he found Sister Goose washing clothes and covered in soapsuds.

“Good evening,” said Brer Rabbit. “And how’s my favorite goose?”

“Dearie me you made me jump,” said Sister Goose, her feathers ruffling. “Oh, bother,” she said as her glasses fell off her beak and into the river.

“Let me get those for you,” said Brer Rabbit as he paddled into the water. He bent down and picked up the glasses, shook them gently, then wiped them with his red spotted handkerchief. “There you go, good as new.”

“Thank you,” said Sister Goose, sliding her glasses back onto her beak. “I can’t see a thing without these. My eyes are almost as bad as my hearing. One of the problems with getting old.”

“I know what you mean,” said Brer Rabbit.

“It’s a worry, you know,” said Sister Goose. “If I can’t see or hear, I’ll never know when Brer Fox or Brer Wolf is creeping up on me.”

“Don’t worry, you have plenty of friends who’ll keep an eye on you,” said Brer Rabbit.

“I don’t believe those stories I hear about you,” said Sister Goose. “I know you have a good heart.”

“You’re too kind,” said Brer Rabbit.

“It’s the nights I worry about most,” said Sister Goose. “I never know who’ll creep up on me when I’m tucked in my bed.”

“Why don’t you sleep in the rafters?” asked Brer Rabbit.

“Honk, honk,” laughed Sister Goose. “How do you expect an old lady to get into the rafters?”

Brer Rabbit thought for a while and scratched his chin. “Have you tried using a large bundle of washing as a sort of ladder?” he asked. “Then you’ll easily get up into the rafters.”

“I’d heard you’re a clever rabbit,” said Sister Goose.

“You’re too kind,” said Brer Rabbit, who secretly liked to hear good things about himself.

Sister Goose looked across the river. “That sun is getting low. I should make my way home.”

“Let me help you,” Brer Rabbit said. “I’m going that way.”

Little did Sister Goose know the only reason Brer Rabbit was going the same way was because her house was near the very old farmer’s vegetable patch.


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