Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/846

This page has been validated.

bit, while the Fox, Coon, and Bear are clearing up "a new groun' fer ter plant a roas'n' year patch," slips away and hunts for a cool place to rest in. He finally came across a well with a bucket hanging in it and looking so cool that Brer Rabbit climbed in, and of course the bucket began to descend; "but Brer Rabbit he keep mighty still, kaze he dunner w'at minfiit gwineter be de nex'. He des lay dar en shuck en shiver." The Fox saw the Rabbit slip away and followed him, and his amazement can be imagined when he saw the Rabbit disappear down the well. The Rabbit on being asked, "Who you wizzitin' down dar?" answered that he was fishing, and invited the Fox to get into the other bucket and come down and help him. This the Fox did, and as he went down up went Brer Rabbit. The Fox is afterward pulled up by the owner of the well and escapes. This fable will be recognized at once from the familiar version in La Fontaine (XI, 6, "Le Loup et le Renard"), which he took from the "Roman de Renart." A much older version is found in the "Disciplina Clericalis," a collection of Oriental stories made in the first years of the twelfth century.

No. XVII, "Mr. Rabbit nibbles up the Butter," relates how Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox, and Brer Possum laid up their provisions together in the same shanty, and put the butter that Brer Fox brought into the spring-house to keep it cool. Brer Rabbit, however, under the pretense of going to see his family, leaves his companions at their work and takes a nibble at the butter. This goes on until the butter disappears, and, while the others are sleeping, Brer Rabbit smears Brer Possum's mouth with the butter on his paws. Brer Possum on waking up was naturally indignant, and demanded an ordeal by fire to prove his innocence, but, as ordeals among men even must sometimes have failed, the innocent Possum is burned up, greatly to the indignation of Uncle Remus's listener. With this story may be compared Grimm, No. 2, "The Cat and the Mouse in Partnership." A closer parallel is found in W. H. I. Bleek's "Reynard the Fox in South Africa; or Hottentot Fables and Tales" (London, Trübner, 1864, p. 18), "Which was the Thief?"

"A Jackal and a Hyena went and hired themselves to a man to be his servants. In the middle of the night the Jackal rose and smeared the Hyena's tail with some fat, and then ate all the rest of it which was in the house. In the morning the man missed his fat, and he immediately accused the Jackal of having eaten it. 'Look at the Hyena's tail,' said the rogue, 'and you will see who is the thief.' The man did so, and then thrashed the Hyena till she was nearly dead."

In No. XXV, "How Mr. Rabbit lost his Fine Bushy Tail," the Rabbit is victimized by the Fox, who persuades him to fish, one cold night, by dropping his long, bushy tail (rabbits formerly had such) into the water. It freezes fast, of course, and the poor Rabbit to get away is obliged to leave his tail in the ice. This is one of the familiar episodes in the "Roman de Renart."