Sunday, March 9, 2008

VII. TRANSLATION. Mr. Fox Is Again Victimized

Please see first posts (archives now) for context, translation issues re the idiom, and cultural setting of the time - and the universality of Uncle Remus. Enjoy the original of this story at :// Our translation is from our 1928 "Uncle Remus."



When "Miss Sally's" little boy went to Uncle Remus the next night to hear the conclusion of the adventure in which the Rabbit made a riding-horse of the Fox to the great enjoyment and gratification of Miss Meadows and the girls, he found the old man in a bad humor.

"I ain't telliin' no tales ter bad chilluns," said Uncle Remus curtly.

"But, Uncle Remus, I ain't bad," said the little boy plaintively.

"Who dat chunkin' them chickens this morning? Who dat knockin' out folks' eyes with that Yellobammers sling just before dinner? Who dat siccin' that pointer puppy after my pig? Who dat scatterin' my ingun (sic) sets? FN 1. Who dat flingin' rocks on top of my house, which a little more than one of them would have dropped smack on my head?"

"Well, now, Uncle Remus, I didn't go to do it. I won't do so any more. Please, Uncle Remus, if you will tell me, I'll run to the house and bring you some tea-cakes.'

"Seein' 'em is better than hearing tell of 'em," replied the old man, the severity of his countenance relaxing somewhat; but the little boy darted out, and in a few minutes came running back with his pockets full and his hands full.

"I bet your mammy' will suspicion that the rats' stomachs is widening in this neighborhood when she come for to count up the cakes," said Uncle Remus, with a chuckle. 'These," he continued, dividing the cakes into two equal parts -- 'these I'll tackle now, and these I'll lay by for Sunday.

"Lemme see. I almost disremember whereabouts Brer Fox and Brer Rabbit was."

"The rabbit rode the fox to Miss Meadows's, and hitched him to the horse-rack," said the little boy.

"Why, course he did," said Uncle Remus. "Well, Brer Rabbit rode Brer Fox up, he did, and tied him to the rack, and then sat out in the piazza with the gals, smokin' his cigar with more proudness than what you most ever see. They talk, and they sing, and they play on the piano, the gals did, until by and by it come time for Brer Rabbit for to be gone, and he tell 'em all good-by, and strut out to the horse-rack same as if he was the king of the patrollers* FN 2 and then he mount Brer Fox and ride off.

"Brer Fox ain't saying nothing at all. He just rack off, he did, and keep his mouth shut, and Brer Rabbit knowed there was business cooking up for him, and he feel monstrous skittish. Brer Fox amble on until he get in the long lane, out of sight of Miss Meadows's house, and then he turn loose, he did. He rip and he rear, and he cuss, and he swear; he snort and he cavort. "

"What was he doing that for, Uncle Remus?" the little boy inquired.

"He was trying for to fling Brer Rabbit off of his back, bless your soul! But he just might as well have wrestled with his own shadow. Everytime he hump hisself, Brer Rabbit slap the spurs in him, and there they had it, up and down. Brer Fox fairly tore up the ground, he did, and he jump so high and he jump so quick that he mighty nigh snatch his own tail off. They kept on going on this way until by and by Brer Fox lay down and roll over, he did, and this sort of unsettled Brer Rabbit, but by the time Brer Fox got back on his footses again, Brer Rabbit was going through the underbrush more samer than a race-horse. Brer Fox he lit out after him, he did, and he push Brer Rabbit so close that it was about all he could do for to get in a hollow tree. Hole too little for Brer Fox to get in, and he had to lay down and rest and gather his mind together.

"While he was layin' there, Mr. Buzzard come floppin' along, and seeing Brer Fox stretch out on the ground, he lit in view of the premises. Then Mr. Buzzard sort of shake his wing, and put his head on one side, and say to hisself, says he:

" 'Brer Fox dead, and I so sorry,' says he.

" 'No, I ain't dead, neither,' says Brer Fox, says he. "I got old man Rabbit pent up in here,' says he, 'and I a-going to get him this time if it take until Christmas,' says he.

"Then, after some more palaver FN 3, Brer Fox made a bargain that Mr. Buzzard was to watch the hole, and keep Brer rabbie there, while Brer fox went after his axe. Then Brer Fox, he lope off, he did, and Mr. Buzzard, he took up his stand at the hole. By and by, when all get still, Brer Rabbit sort of scramble down close to the hole, he did, and holler out:

" 'Brer Fox! Oh! Brer Fox!'

"Brer Fox done gone, and nobody say nothing. Then Brer Rabbit squall out like he was mad; says he:

" 'You needn't talk less you want to,' says he; 'I knows you are there, and I ain't caring,' says he. 'I just want to tell you that I wish mighty bad Brer Turkey Buzzard was here,' says he.

"Then Mr. Buzzard try to talk like Brer Fox:

" 'What you want with Mr. Buzzard?' says he.

" 'Oh, nothing in particular, except there's the fattest gray squirrel in here that ever I see, ' says he, 'and if Brer Turkey Buzzard was around, he'd be mighty glad for to get him,' says he.

" 'How Mr. Buzzard going to get him?' says the Buzzard, says he.

" 'Well, there's a little hole round on the other side of the tree,' says Brer Rabbit, says he, 'and if Brer Turkey Buzzard was here so he could take up his stand there,' says he, I'd drive that squirrel out,' says he.

"Then Brer Rabbit kick up a racket, like her were driving something out, and Mr. Buzzard he rush around for to catch the squirrel, and Brer Rabbit, he dash out, he did, and he just fly for home."

At this point, Uncle Remus took one of the teacakes, held his head back, opened his mouth, dropped the cake in with a sudden motion, looked at the little boy with an expression of astonishment, and then closed his eyes, and begun to chew, mumbling as an accompaniment the plaintive tune of "Don't you Grieve atter Me." FN 4

The seance was over; but, before the little boy went into the "big house," Uncle Remus laid h8is rough hand tenderly on the child's shoulder, and remarked, in a confidential tone:

"Honey, you must get up soon Christmas morning and open the door, 'cause I'm going to bounce in on Master John and Miss Sally, and holler Christmas gift just like I used to during the farming days before the war, when old Miss was alive. I bound they don't forget the old n_____, neither. When you hear me callin' the pigs, honey, you just hop up and unfasten the door. I lay I'll give Master John one of these here surprise parties." FN 5

FN 1. Ingun sets. Probably "Indian sets" for traps set by native Americans. These could be of twig and twine for smaller animals, see those and the larger arrangements at this Google Book, "Exploring the Outdoors with Indian Secrets," at ://,M1
FN 2, text provided: "* Patrols. In the country districts, order was kept on the plantations at night by the knowledge that they were liable to be visited at any moment by the patrols. Hence, a song current among the negroes, the chorus of which was: Run, n____, run; patter-roller ketch you --Run, n____, run; hit's almos'day."
FN 3. Palaver. A long "parley" (probably French, parler, to speak) between persons of different culture or sophistication, idle or misleading or beguiling. From the Portuguese, "palavra," word; or late Latin "parabola," or parable. See :// To flatter, cajole, see ://
FN 4. In 1880's 1890's and thereafter, the Fisk Jubilee Singers (Fisk University,Nashville Tenn. Originated to foster black students) performed did this, apparently, as "Don't Grieve After Me," see :// Look it up by title. See them at :// see later incarnations by Woody Guthrie at "Sally Don't You Grieve," at The Fisk University Jubilee Singers are still in force. See ://

So, Uncle Remus, in knowing this song, was well aware that blacks were finally getting educational opportunities? he knew of Fisk? Can we deduce that?
FN 5. Uncle Remus here shows his "other" side - the assertive side. He is the one now egging the child on to mischief, after criticizing the child's own mischief in the beginning. Now, read carefully what Remus says he did when Miss Sally's mother was alive - and remember that this was when he was a slave. He says that he used to barge in the bedroom of Miss Sally's mother on Christmas Morning with a cheery "Christmas gift" hollered out [what gift?].

And he plans to do that now, using the little boy to open the house door, and with Miss Sally and her husband, Master John. Think about that. This is no obeisant "darky" - this person has chutzpa, and possibly even an ax to grind:

Uncle Remus says--"I bound they don't forget the old n_____, neither. When you hear me callin' the pigs, honey, you just hop up and unfasten the door. I lay I'll give Master John one of these here surprise parties."

He sure will. And it will be a surprise. Nobody can get him now, right? And why is "Miss Sally" in quotations in the first sentence? She would have been a child when Uncle Remus was making his Christmas "gifts" to old Miss Sally. What tone of voice is there in the quotations around "Miss Sally" now - that he knew her as a child, and only goes so far to acknowledge she is now in charge?

Does he like Master John?? Sounds not. You decide. We sense a power play, a come-uppance, and - again- the plantation tale and teller as subverting in their own way a social order that orders them about. Imagine Master John's face. Especially if he and Miss Sally were in the middle on early Christmas morning. What would Master John be thinking. What could he do. He's been had. Uncle Remus wins - outfoxes the Master Fox. And leaves for another day, free as a breeze.

Read these stories closely. There is a whole world of plantation culture in there.

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