Monday, January 18, 2010

Laughin Place


One of my most favorite characters is Brer Rabbit. I thinks it's because he thinks out of the box. He doesn't think like a fox, or a bear, or a 'gator. Maybe he DID think like his antagonists. That's why he was so effective in dealing with his adversaries.. I personally think he was just a practical joker who got caught up in his pranks...and I have little use for practical jokers. Why do I find him so fascinating? I guess,'cause he ALWAYS had fun. If it ain't fun, don't do it. I sorta' adapted the philosophy myownself!

The idea of the little man beating the big man is ages old. Samson and Goliath, Jack and the Beanstalk, to name a few, but Brer Rabbit didn't discriminate, big or little. He'd prank Brer Frog as quickly as he would stick it to ole Brer Bear. He occasionally got gotted his ownself, mostly because he got a little too big for his britches.

I figure you guys have no idea what I'm talking of about now...most people have never read Joel Chandler Harris' classics cause they're too damn hard to read, and the words don't mean anything nowadays. "How yo' coperosity sagashuatin' Brer Rabbit ? "I feels most splimmy splammy. How you, and yo fambly connection come on?" That's much more descriptive than "How are you?" "Fine, you?" It's all about the language, people. Harris' dialect is very effective . His words are colorful and his truths dead on.
Uncle Remus, talking to the little boy about money, 'lowed, "Hit's money, honey , the world over. Go whar you will, and go whar you may, en stay ez long ez mought be, you fin' folkses huntin' atter money...mornin' en evenin', day and night."

"Why, look at de Moon! You know how folks talk bout the Moon? You her 'um say she's on her fus' quarter, en den on 'er las' quarter; en dat des zackly de way dey talk 'bout money.

"I hear tell one time a man gwine long de woods, and he hear a montrous jinglin' and rattlin'. He look round and see the moon trying to change. Seems she lack a quarter, en de man pulled out his money-purse en flung de quarter in, en de Moon went on, an change. See, honey, money mixed up in everything.

Now where did that come from? Did Chandler make it up? Was it an old story? Did he hear it around the newspaper office? I'd sure love to talk to him, and put some of my questions to him.
Chandler had all the credentials to craft his masterpiece, Uncle Remus, His Songs and Sayings.
He grew up during and post war on a plantation. I can't remember circumstances, but it was a very strange period in American history.
Harris became a writer for the Atlanta/Journal Constitution, and carried on his research into the oral traditions of the South inventing his dialectical writing style based on the words and expressions her heard from his sources. He knew his folklore, and collected many of his tales from the very people he lived amongst on the plantation, though these tales are well know in other societies.
Harris captured something no one else has, excepting maybe Mark Twain, with his Life on the Mississippi...a transition from the Old South to the New South. We would have very little, or nothing, of the oral tradition of that pre and post Civil War period, had it not been for the efforts of those two writers.
I've told hundreds of Brer Rabbit tales to all kind of audiences, and to see their faces from my perspective as a storyteller is priceless, no matter what the "race, religion, or creed." Dey lub dem tales!
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Ya'll gots to read 'em, folks, and tell 'em to yo' younguns after you learn 'em. Lay off that video game or that DVD a couple nights and put your images into your head, dare to imagine...it'll be like Brer Rabbit's laughin' place... but that's another story.

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