Uncle Remus and Bre'r Rabbit

Week 14: American Tales - Assignments - Reading - Resources - Images

THE BRIAR-PATCH, retold by Julius Lester

Reading time: (3 minutes)

Okay, now you are going to go back to back to the Julius Lester version in order to find out just how Brer Rabbit manages to escape from the clutches of Brer Fox. If you read the Cherokee stories last week, you saw a very similar Cherokee story about the turtle (terrapin) and how he managed to escape from the wolves.

"Well, I got you now, " Brer Fox said when he was able to catch his breath. "You floppy-eared, pom-pom-tailed good-for-nothing! I guess you know who's having rabbit for dinner this night!"

Brer Rabbit would've turned around and looked at him if he could've unstuck his head. Didn't matter. He heard the drool in Brer Fox's voice and knew he was in a world of trouble.

"You ain't gon' be going around through the community raising commotion anymore, Brer Rabbit. And it's your own fault too. Didn't nobody tell you to be so friendly with the Tar Baby. You stuck yourself on that Tar Baby without so much as an invitation. There you are and there you'll be until I get my fire started and my barbecue sauce ready."

Brer Rabbit always got enough lip for anybody and everybody. He even told God once what He'd done wrong on the third day of Creation. This time, though Brer Rabbit talked mighty humble. "Well, Brer Fox. No doubt about it. You got me and no point in my saying that I would improve my ways if you spared me."

"No point at all," Brer Fox agreed as he started gathering kindling for the fire.

"I guess I'm going to be barbecue this day." Brer Rabbit sighed. "But getting barbecued is a whole lot better than getting thrown in the briar patch." He sighed again. "No doubt about it. Getting barbecued is almost a blessing compared to being thrown in that briar patch on the other side of the road. If you got to go, go in a barbecue sauce. That's what I always say. How much lemon juice and brown sugar you put in yours?"

When Brer Fox heard this, he had to do some more thinking, because he wanted the worst death possible for that rabbit. "Now that I thinks on it, it's too hot to be standing over a hot fire. I think I'll hang you."

Brer Rabbit shuddered. "Hanging is a terrible way to die! Just terrible! But I thank you for being so considerate. Hanging is better than being thrown in the briar patch."

Brer Fox thought that over a minute. "Come to think of it, I can't hang you, 'cause I didn't bring my rope. I'll drown you in the creek over yonder."

Brer Rabbit sniffed like he was about the cry. "No, no, Brer Fox. You know I can't stand water, but I guess drowning, awful as it is, is better than the briar patch."

"I got it!" Brer Fox exclaimed. "I don't feel like dragging you all the way down to the creek. I got my knife right here. I'm going to skin you!" He pulled out his knife.

Brer Rabbit's ears shivered. "That's all right, Brer Fox. It'll hurt something awful, but go ahead and skin me. Scratch out my eyeballs! Tear out my ears by the roots! Cut off my legs! Do what'nsoever you want to do with me, Brer Fox, but please, please, please! Don't throw me in that briar patch!"

Brer Fox was convinced now that the worst thing he could do to Brer Rabbit was the very thing Brer Rabbit didn't want him to do. He snatched him off the Tar Baby and wound up his arm like he was trying to throw a fastball past Hank Aaron and chunked that rabbit across the road and smack dab in the middle of the briar patch.

Brer Fox waited. Didn't hear a thing. He waited a little longer. Still no sound. And just about the time he decided he was rid of Brer Rabbit, just about the time a big grin started to spread across his face, he heard a little giggle.

"Tee-hee! Tee-hee!" And the giggle broke into the loudest laughing you've ever heard.

Brer Fox looked up to see Brer Rabbit sitting on top of the hill on the other side of the briar patch.

Brer Rabbit waved. "I was born and raised in the briar patch, Brer Fox! Born and raised in the briar patch!" And he hopped on over the hill and out of sight.

Questions. Make sure you can answer these questions about what you just read:

  • what are some of the way Brer Fox was thinking of killing Brer Rabbit?
  • what did Brer Rabbit say to Brer Fox about each of these ways of dying?
  • why was Brer Rabbit so happy when Brer Fox finally threw him in the briar patch?

Source: Uncle Remus: The Complete Tales, by Julius Lester. Phyllis Fogelman Books: New York. 1999.

Modern Languages / Anthropology 3043: Folklore & Mythology. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one.
Page last updated: October 9, 2004 12:52 PM