Uncle Remus and Bre'r Rabbit

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


Reading time: (2 minutes)

In addition to the stories told by Uncle Remus, Joel Chandler Harris also includes songs and proverbs in his Uncle Remus books. Even though Harris was not an anthropologist, he acknowledged what anthropologists now see as interrelated components of folk culture: stories, and songs, and proverbs. (Remember that Beckwith also collected songs at the same time that she was collecting stories about the Jamaican trickster Anansi.) Traditional Christian hymns take on a special meaning in the context of American slavery, when the "great day" of salvation offers a promise of freedom and liberation from earthly bondage.

OH, whar shill we go w'en de great day comes,
Widde blowin' er de trumpits en de bangin' er de drums?
How many po' sinners'll be kotched out late
En fine no latch ter de golden gate?
No use fer ter wait twel ter-morrer!
De sun musn't set on yo' sorrer,
Sin's ez sharp ez a bamboo-brier-
Oh, Lord! fetch de mo'ners up higher!

W'en de nashuns er de earf is a stan'in all aroun,
Who's a gwineter be choosen fer ter w'ar de glory-crown?
Who's a gwine fer ter stan' stiff-kneed en bol'.
En answer to der name at de callin' er de roll?
You better come now ef you comin' -
Ole Satun is loose en a bummin'-
De wheels er distruckshun is a hummin'-
Oh, come long, sinner, ef you comin'!

De song er salvashun is a mighty sweet song,
En de Pairidise win' blow fur en blow strong,
En Aberham's bosom, hit's saft en hit's wide,
En right dar's de place whar de sinners oughter hide!
Oh, you nee'nter be a stoppin' en a lookin';
Ef you fool wid ole Satun you'll git took in;
You'll hang on de aidge en get shook in,
Ef you keep on a stoppin' en a lookin'.

De time is right now, en dish yer's de place-
Let de sun er salvashun shine squar' in yo' face;
Fight de battles er de Lord, fight soon en fight late,
En you'll allers fine a latch ter de golden gate.
No use fer ter wait twel ter-morrer,
De sun musn't set on yo' sorrer-
Sin's ez sharp ez a bamboo-brier,
Ax de Lord fer ter fetch you up higher!

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

  • why won't the sinners have a "latch ter de golden gate"?
  • what will happen to people who "fool wid ole Satun"?
  • who are the people who will "fine a latch ter de golden gate"?

Source: Uncle Remus: His Songs and Sayings by Joel Chandler Harris (1881).Weblink.

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