Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The word "Br'er" in his name (and in those of other characters in the stories) presumably reflects a Baptist practice of including the title "Brother" in addressing male members of one's church congregation. The stories, however, can be traced back to trickster figures, particularly the hare, that figured prominently in the storytelling traditions of West Africa. These tales continue to be part of the traditional folklore of such people in Africa as the Wolof of Senegal. The rabbit in Africa was called Zomo. In his American incarnation, Br'er Rabbit represents the Black slave who uses his wits to overcome circumstances and even to enact playful revenge on his adversaries, representing the White slave-owners. Though not always successful, his subversive efforts made him both a folk hero and friendly comic figure.
The first Brer Rabbit stories were written by President Theodore Roosevelt's uncle, Robert Roosevelt. Teddy Roosevelt wrote in his autobiography, about his aunt from Georgia, that "She knew all the 'Br'er Rabbit' stories, and I was brought up on them. One of my uncles, Robert Roosevelt, was much struck with them, and took them down from her dictation, publishing them in Harper's, where they fell flat. This was a good many years before a genius arose who in 'Uncle Remus' made the stories immortal."
These stories were popularized for the mainstream audience in the late 19th century by Joel Chandler Harris, who wrote up and published many of the stories which were passed down by oral tradition. Joel Chandler Harris heard the tales in Georgia. Very similar versions of the same stories were recorded independently at the same time by folklorist Alcee Fortier in southern Louisiana, where the Rabbit character was known as Compair Lapin in Creole French.
- The Laughing Place
- The Tar Baby
- The Briar Patch
The Magic Kingdom thrill ride "Splash Mountain" has a Br'er Rabbit theme.
The Tar Baby
The tar baby was a trap made of tar used to capture Br'er Rabbit in a story which is part of American plantation folklore. Br'er Fox played on Br'er Rabbit's vanity and gullibility to goad Br'er Rabbit into attacking the fake and becoming stuck.
The story was originally published in Harper's Weekly by President Theodore Roosevelt's uncle, Robert of Sayville, New York.
Years later Joel Chandler Harris wrote of the tar baby in his Uncle Remus stories.
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