Throughout history and all across the world, people thought highly of rabbits. In many folktales, the rabbit appears as the smart trickster; in Aztec mythology, there’s a group of four hundred divine rabbits– the Centzon Totochtin, wild and mischievous gods who get drunk and run rampant; in the Middle Ages, bored monks entertained themselves by doodling evil rabbits in the margins of manuscripts; in Chinese mythology, the rabbit on the moon brews a potion that offers immortality; in Russian folklore, the rabbit is cross-eyed, which doesn’t stop him from being a smart and sneaky creature who’s able to take on bigger enemies.
Uncle Remus’s stories do us rabbits honor, and bring America into the distinguished club of rabbit admirers (Bugs Bunny came much later). Your loyal rabbit read Uncle Remus’s stories when he was still a young and brash bunny. Because I was so young, I didn’t even know who Uncle Remus was (a black slave), and why his language was so different from mine, but it didn’t bother me at all, because the adventures of Mr. Rabbit and Mr. Fox were so captivating, and Uncle Remus is the best storyteller in the world!
“Brer Rabbit en Brer Fox wuz like some chilluns w’at I knows un,” said Uncle Remus, regarding the little boy, who had come to hear another story, with an affectation of great solemnity. “Bofe unum wuz allers atter wunner nudder, a prankin’ en a pester’n ‘roun’, but Brer Rabbit did had some peace kaze Brer Fox done got skittish ’bout puttin’ de clamps on Brer Rabbit.”
“One day, w’en Brer Rabbit, en Brer Fox en Brer Coon, en Brer B’ar, en a whole lot un um wuz clearin’ up a new groun’ fer ter plant a roas’n’year patch, de sun ‘gun ter git sorter hot, en Brer Rabbit he got tired; but he didn’t let on, kaze he ‘fer’d de balance un um’d call ‘im lazy, en he keep on totin’ off trash en pilin’ up bresh, twel bimeby he holler out dat he gotter brier in his han’, en den he take’n slip off. em hunt fer cool place fer ter res’. Atter w’ile he come ‘crosst a well wid a bucket hangin’ in it.
“‘Dat look cool,’ sez Brer Rabbit, sezee, ‘en cool I speck she is. I’ll des ’bout git in dar en take a nap,’ en wid dat in he jump, he did, en he ain’t no sooner fix hisse’f dan de bucket ‘gun ter go down.”
“Wasn’t the Rabbit scared, Uncle Remus?” asked the Little Boy.
“Honey, dey ain’t bin no wusser skeer’d beas’ sence de worril begin dan dish yer same Brer Rabbit. He far’ly had a ager. He know whar he cum fum, but he dunner whar he gwine. Dreckly he feel de bucket hit de water, en dar she sot, but Brer Rabbit he keep mighty still, kaze he dunner w’at minnit gwineter be de nex’. He des lay dar en shuck en shiver.”
“‘Brer Fox allers got one eye on Brer Rabbit, en w’en he slip off fum de new groun’, Brer Fox he sneak atter ‘im. He know Brer Rabbit wuz atter some projick er nudder, en he tuck’n crope off, he did, en watch ‘im. Brer Fox see Brer Rabbit come to de well en stop, en den he see ‘im jump in de bucket, en den, lo en beholes, he see ‘im go down outer sight. Brer Fox wuz de mos’ ‘stonish Foz dat you ever laid eyes on. He sot off dar in de bushes en study en study, but he don’t make no heads ner tails ter dis kinder bizness. Den he say ter hisse’f, sezee:
‘Well, ef dis don’t bang my times,’ sezee, ‘den Joe’s dead en Sal’s a widder. Right down dar in dat well Brer Rabbit keep his money hid, en ef ’tain’t dat den he done gone en ‘skiver’d a gole-mine, en ef ’tain’t dat, den I’m a gwinter see w’at’s in dar,’ sezee.
“Brer Fox crope up little nigher, he did, en lissen, but he don’t year no fuss, en he keep on gittin’ nigher, en yit he don’t year nuthin’. Bimeby he git up close and peep down, but he don’t see nuthin’ en he don’t year nuthin’. All dis time Brer Rabbit mighty nigh skeer’d outen his skin, en he fear’d fer ter move kaze de bucket might keel over en spill him out in de water. W’ile he sayin’ his pra’rs over like a train er kyars runnin’, ole Brer Fox holler out:
‘Heyo, Brer Rabbit! Who you wizzitin’ down dar?’ sezee.
‘Who? Me? Oh, I’m des a fishin’, Brer Fox,’ sez Brer Rabbit, sezee. ‘I des say ter myse’f dat I’d sorter sprize you all wid a mess er fishes fer dinner, en so here I is, en dar’s de fishes. I’m a fishin’ fer suckers, Brer Fox.’ sez Brer Rabbit, sezee.
‘Is dey many unum down dar, Brer Rabbit?’ sez Brer Fox, sezee.
‘Lot’s un um, Brer Fox; scoze en scoze un um. De water is natally live wid um. Come down en he’p me haul um in, Brer Fox,’ sez Brer Rabbit, sezee.
‘How I gwinter git down, Brer Rabbit?’
‘Jump inter de bucket, Brer Fox. Hit’ll fetch yer down all safe en soun’.’
Brer Rabbit talk so happy en talk so sweet dat Brer Fox he jump in de bucket, he did, en, ez he went down, co’se his weight pull Brer Rabbit up. W’en dey pass one nudder on de half-way groun’, Brer Rabbit he sing out:
“Good-by, Brer Fox, take keer yo’ cloze, Fer dis is de way de worril goes; Some goes up en some goes down, You’ll git ter de bottom all safe en soun’.”
“W’en Brer Rabbit got out, he gallop off en tole de fokes w’at de well b’long ter dat Brer Fox wuz down in dar muddyin’ up de drinkin’ water, en den he gallop back ter de well, en holler down ter Brer Fox:
“Yer come a man wid a great big gun– W’en he haul you up, you jump en run.”
“What them, Uncle Remus?” asked the little boy, as the old man paused.
“‘In des ’bout half-n’our, honey, bofe un um wuz back in de new groun’ wukkin des like dey never heer’d er no well, ceppin’ dat eve’y now’n den Brer Rabbit’d bust out in er laff, en old Brer Fox, he’d git a spell er de dry grins.”
Illustration: Talia Baer
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