Tuesday, November 6, 2007

VI. TRANSLATION. Mr. Rabbit Grossly Deceives Mr. Fox

A continuation of our sporadic and recreational forays into Tales of Uncle Remus. Please see first posts for context, translation issues re the idiom, and cultural setting of the time - and the universality of Uncle Remus.



One evening when the little boy, whose nights with Uncle Remus were as entertaining as those Arabian ones of blessed memory (FN 1),* had finished supper and hurried out to sit with his venerable patron, he found the old man in great glee. Instead, Uncle Remus was talking and laughing to himself at such a rate that the little boy was afraid he had company. The truth is, Uncle Remus had heard the child coming, and, when the rosy-cheeked chap put his head in at the door, was engaged in a monologue, the burden of which seemed to be --

"Ole Molly H'ar FN 2
W'at you doin' dar,
Settin' in de corner
Smokin' yo' cigyar?"

As a matter of course this vague allusion reminded the little boy of the fact that the wicked fox was still in pursuit of the rabbit, and he immediately put his curiosity in the shape of a question.

"Uncle Remus, did the Rabbit have to go clean away when he got loose from the Tar-Baby?"

"Bless gracious, honey, that he didn't. Who? Him? You don't know nuthin' at all 'bout Brer Rabbit if that's the way you puttin' him down. What he goin' away for? He might have stayed sort of close until the pitch rub off'n his hair, but there weren't many days before he was loping up and down the neighborhood same as ever, and I don't know if he weren't more sassier than before.

"Seem like that the tale about how he got mixed up with the Tar-Baby got 'round amongst the neighbors. Leastways, Miss Meadows and the gals FN 3 got wind on it, and the next time Brer Rabbit paid them a visit tackled him about it, and the gals set up a monstrous gigglement. Brer Rabbit, he sat up just as cool as a cucumber, be did, and let them run on."

"Who was Miss Meadows, Uncle Remus?" inquired the little boy.

"Don't ask me, honey. She was in the tale, Miss Meadows and the gals was, in the tale I give you like it were given to me. Brer Rabbit, he sat there, he did, sort of lame like, and then by and by he cross his legs, he did, and wink his eye slow, and up and say, says he:

"' Ladies, Brer Fox was my daddy's ridin'-horse for thirty years, maybe more, but thirty years that I knows of,' says he; and then he paid them his respects, and tip his beaver, and march off, he did, just as stiff and an stuck up as a fire-stick.

"Nex' day, Brer Fox come a callin', and w'en he began for to laugh about Brer Rabbit, Miss Meadows and the gals, they ups and tells him about what Brer Rabbit say. Then Brer Fox grit his tooths, sure enough he did, and he looked mighty dumpy, but when he rise for to go, he up and say, says he:

" ' Ladies, I ain't disputin' what you say, but I'll make Brer Rabbig chew up his words and spit them out right here where you can see him,' says he, and with that off Brer Fox put.

"And when he got to the big road, he shook the dew off'n his tail, and made a straight shoot for Brer Rabbit's house. When he got there, Brer Rabbit was expecting on him, and the door was shut fast. Brer Fox knock. Nobody ain't answer. Brer Fox knock. Nobody answer. Then he knock again - blam! blam! Then Brer Rabbit holler out mighty weak:

"'Is that you, Brer Fox? I want you to run and fetch the doctor. That bait or parsley FN4 what I what I ate this morning is getting away with me. Do, please, Brer Fox, run quick," says Brer Rabbit, says he.

"' I come after you, Brer Rabbit,' says Brer Fox, says he. 'There's going to be a party up at Miss Meadows', ' says he. 'All the gals'll be there, and I promised that I'd fetch you. The gals, they allowed that it wouldn't be no party exceptin' I fetch you,' says Brer Fox, says he.

"Then Brer Rabbit say he was too sick, and Brer Fox say he wasn't, and there they had it up and down, disputin' and contendin'. Brer Rabbit say he can't walk. Brer Fox say he tote him. Brer Rabbit say how? Brer Fox say in his arms. Brer Rabbit say he drop him. Brer Fox allow he won't. By and by Brer Rabbit say he go if Brer Fox tote him on his back. Brer Fox say he would. Brer Rabbit say he can't ride without a saddle. Brer Fox say he get the saddle. Brer Rabbit say he can't set in saddle lest he have bridle for to hold by. Brer Fox say he get the bridle. Brer Rabbit say he can't ride without blind bridle, 'cause Brer Fox be shyin' at stumps along the road, and fling him off. Brer Fox say he get blind bridle. The Brer Rabbit say he to. Then Brer Fox say he ride Brer Rabbit most up to Miss Meadows's, and then he could get down and walk the balance of the way. Brer Rabbit agreed, and then Brer Fox leaped out after the saddle and the bridle.

"Course, Brer Rabbit know the game that Brer Fox was fixin' for to play, and he determined for to outdo him, and by the time he comb his hair and twist his mustache, and sort of rig up, here come Brer Fox, saddle and bridle on, and lookin' as pert as a circus pony. He trot up to the door and stand there pawin' the ground and chompin' the bit same like sure enough horse, and Brer Rabbit he mount, he did, and they amble off. Brer Fox can't see behind with the blind bridle on, but by and by he feel Brer Rabbit raise one of his foots.

"' What you doin' now, Brer Rabbit?' says he.

" 'Shortening the left stirrup, Brer Fox,' says he.

"By and by Brer Rabbit raise up the other foot.

"'W'at you doin' now, Brer Rabbit?' says he.

"' Pullin' down my pants, Brer Fox,' says he.

"All this time, bless gracious, honey, Brer Rabbit were puttin' on his spurs, and when they got close to Miss Meadows's, where Brer Rabbit was to get off, and Brer Fox made a motion for to stand still, Brer Rabbit slap the spurs into Brer Fox flanks, and you better believe he got over ground. When they got to the house, Miss Meadows and all the gals was settin' on the piazza, and instead of stoppin' at the gate, Brer Rabbit rode on by, he did, and then come gallopin' down the road and up to the horse-rack, which he hitch Brer Fox at, and then he saunter into the house, he did, and shake hands with the gals, and set there, smokin' his cigyar same as a town man. By and by he draw in a long puff, and then let it out in acloud, and squared himself back and holler out, he did:

"'Ladies, ain't I done tell you Brer Fox was the riding horse for our family? He's sort of losing his gait now, but I expect I can fetch him all right in a month or so,' says he.

"And then Brer Rabbit sort of grin, he did, and the gals giggle, and Miss Meadows, she appraise up the pony, and there was Brer Fox hitched fast to the rack, and couldn't help himself."

"Is that all," Uncle Remus?" asked the little boy as the old man paused.

"That ain't all, honey, but won't do for to give out too much cuff for to cut one pair pants," replied the old man sententiously.FN5

FN1 "Arabian ones of blessed memory" - After looking up at random, this seems to be "The Thousand and One Nights" of Scheherezade. Scherezade, the new wife/ concubine (?) told the Sultan tales continuing every night without an ending, so he would not kill her, as was his custom with new favorites. He came back, night after night, in hopes of hearing an ending. She never ended her stories. Ultimately, he loved her. Is that right? Iraq, 10th Century, appears to be the earliest compilation, some Indian roots, some cultural redactions and changes since, see ://www.al-bab.com/arab/literature/nights.htm

FN 2 "H'ar,"as the word is written, elsewhere is in the context of "hair"

FN 3 "Miss Meadows and the gals" - just a regular part of the community, no more identity needed, implies Uncle Remus, and the little boy asks no more. For a discussion of cultural redactions, deleting references that offend later sensibilities, its impact on the depth of the original communication in many cases, and the great skill of equivocating around life lessons, see Joy of Equivocation: Remus and Life Education.

FN 4 Bait might be not just the fish on a hook, but also potato bait - a cut piece of potato put out to lure bugs damaging to the overall crop of something else. Search for "potato bait" and get to findarticles.com/p/articles/mi and from there click to get to it. URL too long. "Potato baits aid symphylans", Central Coast vegetable crops.

"Pusly" could be parsley, see ://www.uni-graz.at/~katzer/engl/Petr_cri.html (look at the large, edible root there); or purslaine - a vegetable, see ://www.spoutwood.com/4b.html. See 17th Century English recipe for purslaine at //www.godecookery.com/engrec/engrec98.html. Invite us over.

FN5 Sententiously - in a pompous, moralizing way - see ://www.thefreedictionary.com/sententiously

No comments: