Illustration from Nights with Uncle Remus : myths and legends of the old plantation by Joel Chandler Harris, 1911

I don’t think I’ve ever featured a Br’er Rabbit story. Br’er Rabbit stories were told in the Southern US. I actually found this one because I was looking for hurricane tales.

One day Br’er Rabbit was hopping through the woods when a great wind started to blow. Br’er Rabbit was busy watching the leaves swirling around in the wind and didn’t notice that he was about to run right into a lion. Then Br’er Lion roared!

Br’er Rabbit jumped way up the air, but as soon as his feet hit the ground, he knew what he had to do. “Run, Br’er Lion, run for your life! Can’t you tell there’s a hurricane coming?”

Br’er Lion was an old lion, and he was also rather fat. “Br’er Rabbit,” he said, “I’m too old and fat to run so fast. Can you tell me what to do to survive the hurricane?”

“Well,” said Br’er Rabbit, “you better lie down and get close to the ground.”

“The wind would pick me up and just carry me away,” wailed the lion.

“Then hug tight to a tree,” Br’er Rabbit told him.

Br’er Lion hugged as tight as he could to a tree. “It’s not good enough, Br’er Rabbit! Save me from the hurricane!”

“Well, I’ll just have to tie you to that tree,” said Br’er Rabbit as he picked some stout vines up off the ground and wrapped them tight around the lion, binding him to the tree.

“Thank you, Br’er Rabbit,” said the lion, “thank you kindly.”

After a few moments, Br’er Lion said, “I don’t feel any wind.”

“Me neither,” said the rabbit.

Then the lion said, “I don’t feel any hurricane coming.”

“Me neither,” said the rabbit.

“SO UNTIE ME!” roared the lion.

“I’m in somewhat of a hurry just now, Br’er Lion,” replied the rabbit, “but I’m sure someone will release you, sooner or later! Meanwhile, steer clear of those hurricanes!”

With those words, Br’er Rabbit scampered off into the woods, remembering this time to watch where he was going!

Br’er Rabbit is a trickster who succeeds by his wits rather than by brawn, provoking authority figures and bending social mores as he sees fit. The Br’er Rabbit stories can be traced back to trickster figures in Africa, particularly the hare that figures prominently in the storytelling traditions in West, Central, and Southern Africa. These tales continue to be part of the traditional folklore throughout those regions. For both Africans and African Americans, the animal trickster represents an extreme form of behavior that people may be forced to adopt in extreme circumstances in order to survive. The trickster is not to be admired in every situation. He is an example of what to do, but also an example of what not to do.

These stories were popularized for the mainstream audience in the late 19th century by Joel Chandler Harris, who wrote down and published many such stories that had been passed down by oral tradition. Harris heard these tales in Georgia. Very similar versions of the same stories were recorded independently at the same time by the folklorist Alcée Fortier in southern Louisiana, where the Rabbit character was known as Compair Lapin in Creole French.

I remember Br’er Rabbit from Disney cartoons, which probably picture him as a little more loveable than the original stories. Disney tends to do that.

Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all. Feel free to join in.