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Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby

Mr. Wolf was a very wise man, but not as wise as Brer Rabbit. Brer rabbit was the most cunning man on four legs. He lived in the Briar bush. 


The wolf planted corn one year but Brer rabbit didn't plant anything at all, he just lived off of Mr. Wolf’s corn all winter. The next year Mr. Wolf didn't plant corn; he thought the corn crop was too poor so he planted groundnuts. Brer Rabbit just did the same thing as before. Well Mr. Wolf was beginning to think something was wrong. He went out in the morning, looked at the groundnut patch and noticed rabbit tracks and said I have a suspicion somebody's been stealing my groundnut. The next morning he went out again and saw the same thing. Then he said 

“I'm going to make a scarecrow to set up in front of the groundnut to scare off the thief.” So he made a scarecrow in the middle of the groundnut patch. That night when Brer Rabbit came with a bag to get the groundnut, he saw the scarecrow standing there and said, 

“what's that?” 

Nobody responded.

“What's that?” he said again. Nobody said anything. He didn't see anything move, so he went a little closer and a little closer, until he could touch the Scarecrow. Then he said

“You ain't nothing but a bundle of rags. If Wolf thinks I'm going to be afraid of you, he must be a fool.”

So he kicked over the scarecrow, filled the bag with groundnuts, and went back home to the briar bush. The next morning, Wolf went out to look at the groundnut and when he saw no more groundnuts and the scarecrow knocked down, he said “Nevermind. I'll show the rabbit to steal my groundnuts, so he made a baby out of tar and set it up in the groundnut patch and said, “just let Brer Rabbit try to knock this over. I just want him to try.” That night when Brer Rabbit came back to the groundnut patch, he saw the Tar Baby, standing very black in the Moonshine. He said, “Mr. Wolf must have set up another scarecrow.” So he moved a little closer and a little closer, and he stopped and said “This isn't a scarecrow! This is a gal! I need a little more information.” Then he turned around, spread out his bag and stopped down in the middle of the groundnut patch and looked hard at the Tar Baby. Then he said, 

“What's your name?”

Gal didn't say anything.

“Gal, why don't you speak to me? What are you doing here?”

Brer Rabbit listened for a long time but didn't hear anything so he went up close and said

“Gal, you speak to me right now. If you ain't speak to me, I'll hit you with my right paw. Then you'll think it's thunder and lightning.”

Tar Baby ain't say nothing, so he knocked her with his right paw and his paw stuck. Then he said, “Gal, let me go! if you don't let me go. I'll knock you with my left paw.”

So he kicked her with the left paw and his paw stuck. Then he said, “Now Gal, if you ain't let me loose, I’ll kick you with my right foot.” So he kicked him with his right foot and his foot stuck.

Then he said, “Now Gal, if you don't let me loose, I'll kick you with my left foot.” so he kicked her with his left foot and his left foot stuck. Then he said, 

“I didn't do anything to you. Why are you holding on to me? Maybe you think I can't do nothing to you! Did you know I can bite you though? If you don't let me loose, I'm going to bite you.”

So he bit him, and his nose stuck. The next morning before the sun was up, Wolf went out to the groundnut patch and he saw Brer Rabbit all fastened onto Tar-Baby and he said 

“Didn't I tell you? I see that Tar Baby caught Brer Rabbit this time.” So he took Brer Rabbit off and said,

“You stole half of my groundnuts. Now what am I going to do with you?”

 Brer Rabbit begged, “Do let me go and I'll never steal your groundnuts again.”

Wolf said, “No Brer Rabbit, you ate all of my corn last year and you stole my groundnuts this year, and now I'm going to eat you.” Brer Rabbit said,

“You may roast me, you may toast me, you may cut me up, you may eat me, but whatever you do Mr. Wolf, don't throw me in the Briar Patch! If you throw me in the Briar Patch, I'll die.” Mr. Wolf said, “You don't want me to throw you in the Briar Patch? Well that's just what I'm going to do.” So he flung him into the briar patch. But Brer Rabbit laughed and said, “Mr. Wolf didn't you know I live in the Briar Patch? Didn't you know all my family was born and bred in the Briar Bush? You did just what I wanted you to do. How are you going to get me now?”


Source: Adapted from The Annotated African American Folktales

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