Told by Uncle Remus: New Stories of the Old Plantation | Annotated Tale

COMPLETE! Entered into SurLaLune Database in July 2019 with all known ATU Classifications.

Brother Rabbit and the Chickens

UNCLE Remus was sorely puzzled as to the best method of pleasing this youngster. He wasn’t sure the little boy enjoyed such tales as the one in which Riley Rabbit turned the tables on Wiley Wolf. So he ventured a question. “Honey, what kinder tales does you like?”

                “Oh, I like them all,” replied the little boy, “only some are nicer than the others;” and then, without waiting for an invitation, he told Uncle Remus the story of Cinderella. He told it very well for a small chap, and Uncle Remus pretended to enjoy it, although he had heard it hundreds of times.

                “It’s a mighty purty tale,” he said. “It’s so purty dat you dunner whedder ter b’lieve it er not. Yit I speck it’s so, kaze one time in forty-lev’m hundred matters will turn out right een’ upperds. Now, de creeturs never had no godm’ers; dey des hatter scuffle an’ scramble an’ git ’long de bes’ way dey kin.”

                “But they were very cruel,” remarked the little boy, “and they told stories.”

                “When it come ter dat,” Uncle Remus replied, “de creeturs ain’t much ahead er folks, an’ yit folks is got preachers fer ter tell um when deyer gwine wrong. Mo’ dan dat, dey got de Bible; an’ yit when you git a little older, you’ll wake up some fine day an’ say ter yo’se’f dat de creeturs is got de ’vantage er folks, spite er de fack dat dey ain’t know de diffunce ’twix’ right an’ wrong. Dey got ter live ’cordin’ ter der natur’, kaze dey ain’t know no better. I had in min’ a tale ’bout Brer Rabbit an’ de chickens, but I speck it’d hurt you’ feelin’s.”

                The little boy said nothing for some time; he was evidently expecting Uncle Remus to go ahead with his story. But he was mistaken about this, for when the old man broke the silence, it was to speak of something trivial or commonplace. The child, in spite of the training to which he had been subjected, retained his boy’s nature. “Uncle Remus,” he said, “what about Brother Rabbit and the chickens?”

                “Which Brer Rabbit wuz dat, honey?” he asked with apparent surprise.

                “You said something about Brother Rabbit and the chickens.”

                “Who? Me? I mought er said sump’n ’bout um day ’fo’ yistiddy, but it done gone off ’n my min’. I done got so ol’ dat my min’ flutters like a bird in de bush.”

                “Why, you said that there was a tale about Brother Rabbit and the chickens, but if you told it, my feelings would be hurt. You must think I am a girl.”

                Uncle Remus laughed. “Not ez bad ez dat, honey; but I’m fear’d youer monstous tetchous. I’ll tell you de tale, an’ den you kin tell it ter yo’ pa, kaze it’s one he ain’t never hear tell ’bout.

                “Well, den, one time, ’way back yander dey wuz a man what live neighbor ter de creeturs. Dey wa’n’t nothin’ quare ’bout dis Mr. Man; he wuz des a plain, eve’yday kinder man, an’ he try ter git ’long de best he kin. He ain’t had no easy time, needer, kaze ’twant den like ’tis now, when you kin take yo’ cotton er yo’ corn ter town an’ have de money planked down fer you.

                “In dem times dey wa’n’t no town, an’ not much money. What folks dey wuz hatter git ’long by swappin’ an’ traffickin’. How dey done it, I’ll never tell you, but do it dey did, an’ it seem like dey wuz in about ez happy ez folks is deze days.

                “Well, dish yer Mr. Man what I’m a-tellin’ you ’bout, he had a truck patch, an’ a roas’in’-year patch, an’ a goober patch. He grow’d wheat an’ barley, an’ likewise rye, an’ kiss de gals an’ make um cry. An’ on top er dat, he had a whole yard full er chickens, an’ dar’s whar de trouble come in. In dem times, all er de creeturs wuz meat-eaters, an’ twuz in about ez much ez dey kin do, an’ sometimes a little mo’, fer ter git ’long so dey won’t go ter bed hongry. Dey got in de habit er bein’ hongry, an’ dey ain’t never git over it. Look at Brer Wolf--gaunt; look at Brer Fox--gaunt! Dey ain’t never been able fer ter make deyse’f fat.

                “So den, ez you see um now, dat de way dey wuz in dem days, an’ a little mo’ so. Mr. Man, he had chickens, des like I tell you. Hens ez plump ez a pa’tridge; pullets so slick dey’d make yo’ mouf water, an’ fryin’-size chickens dat look like dey want ter git right in de pan. Now, when dat’s de case, what you reckon gwineter happen? Brer Wolf want chicken, Brer Fox want chicken, an’ Brer Rabbit want chicken. An’ dey ain’t got nothin’ what dey kin swap fer um. In deze days dey’d be called po’, but I take notice dat po’ folks gits des ez hongry ez de rich uns--an’ hongrier, when it comes ter dat; yes, Lord! lots hongrier.

                “Well, de creeturs got mighty frien’ly wid Mr. Man. Dey’d call on ’im, speshually on Sundays, an’ he ain’t had no better sense dan ter cluck up his chickens des ter show um what a nice passel he had. When dis happen, Brer Wolf under-jaw would trimble, an’ Brer Fox would dribble at de mouf same ez a baby what cuttin’ his toofies. Ez fer Brer Rabbit, he’d des laugh, an’ nobody ain’t know what he laughin’ at. It went on dis way twel it look like natur’ can’t stan’ it, an’ den, bimeby, one night when de moon ain’t shinin’, Brer Rabbit take a notion dat he’d call on Mr. Man; but when he got ter de place, Mr. Man done gone ter bed. De lights wuz all out, an’ de dog wuz quiled up un’ de house soun’ asleep.

                “Brer Rabbit shake his head. He ’low, ‘Sholy dey’s sump’n wrong, kaze allers, when I come, Mr. Man call up his chickens whar I kin look at um.’ I dunner what de matter wid ’im. An’ I don’t see no chickens, needer. I boun’ you sump’n done happen, an’ nobody ain’t tell me de news, kaze dey know how sorry I’d be. Ef I could git in de house, I’d go in dar an’ see ef ever’thing is all right; but I can’t git in.’

                “He walk all ’roun’, he did, but he ain’t see nobody. He wuz so skeer’d he’d wake um up dat he walk on his tippy-toes. He ’low, ‘Ef Mr. Man know’d I wuz here, he’d come out an’ show me his chickens, an’ I des might ez well look in an’ see ef deyer all right.’ Wid dat he went ter de chicken-house an’ peep in, but he can’t see nothin’. He went ter de door, an’ foun’ it onlocked. Brer Rabbit grin, he did, an’ ’low, ‘Mr. Man mos’ know’d dat I’d be ’long some time ter-day, an’ done gone an’ lef’ his chicken-house open so I kin see his pullets--an’ he know’d dat ef I can’t see um, I’d wanter feel um fer ter see how slick an’ purty dey is.’

                “Brer Rabbit slap hisse’f on de leg an’ laugh fit ter kill. He ain’t make fuss nuff fer ter wake Mr. Man, but he woke de fat hens an’ de slick pullets, an’ dey ax one an’er what de name er goodness is de matter. Brer Rabbit laugh an’ say ter hisse’f dat ef he’d ’a’ brung a bag, it’d make a good overcoat fer four er five er de fat hens, an’ six er sev’m er de slick pullets. Den he ’low, ‘Why, what is I thinkin’ ’bout? I got a bag in my han’, an’ I fergit dat I had it. It’s mighty lucky fer de chickens dat I fotch it, kaze a little mo’--an’ dey’d ’a’ been friz stiff!’ So he scoop in de bag ez many ez he kin tote. He ’low, ‘I’ll take um home an’ kinder git um warm, an’ ter-morrer Mr. Man kin have um back--ef he want um.’ an’ wid dat he mighty nigh choke hisse’f tryin’ fer ter keep fum laughin’. De chickens kinder flutter, but dey ain’t make much fuss, an’ Brer Rabbit flung de sack ’cross his shoulders an’ went off home des ez gayly ez a colt in a barley patch.”

                “Wouldn’t you call that stealing, Uncle Remus?” inquired the little boy very seriously.

                “Ef Brer Rabbit had ’a’ been folks, it’d be called stealin’, but you know mighty well dat de creeturs dunno de diffunce ’twix’ takin’ an’ stealin’. When it come ter dat, dey’s a-plenty folks dat ain’t know de diffunce, an’ how you gwineter blame de creeturs?” Uncle Remus paused to see what comment the little boy would make, but he was silent, though it is doubtful if he was satisfied.

                “Brer Rabbit tuck de chickens on home, he did, an’ made way wid um. Now, dat wuz de las’ er de chickens, but des de beginnin’s er de feathers. Ol’ Miss Rabbit, she wanter burn um in de fier, but Brer Rabbit say de whole neighborhood would smell um, an’ he ’low dat he got a better way dan dat. So, nex’ mornin’ atter brekkus, he borried a bag fum ol’ Brer Wolf, an’ inter dis he stuff de feathers, an’ start off down de road.

                “Well, suh, ez luck would have it, Brer Rabbit hatter pass by Brer Fox house, an’ who should be stannin’ at de gate wid his walkin’-cane in han’, but Brer Fox? Brer Fox, he fetched a bow, wid, ‘Brer Rabbit, whar you gwine?’ Brer Rabbit ’low, ‘Ef I had de win’, Brer Fox, I’d be gwine to mill. Dish yer’s a turrible load I got, an’ I dunner how soon I’ll gi’ out. I ain’t strong in de back an’ limber in de knees like I useter be, Brer Fox. You may be holdin’ yo’ own, an’ I hope you is, but I’m on de down grade, dey ain’t no two ways ’bout dat.’ Wid dat, he sot de bag down by de side er de road, an’ wipe his face wid his hankcher.

                “Brer Fox, he come on whar Brer Rabbit wuz a-settin’ at, an’ ax ef it’s corn er wheat. Brer Rabbit ’low dat tain’t na’er one; it’s des some stuff dat he gwine ter sell ter de miller. Brer Fox, he want ter know what ’tis so bad he ain’t know what ter do, an’ he up an’ ax Brer Rabbit p’intedly. Brer Rabbit say he fear’d ter tell ’im kaze de truck what he got in de bag is de onliest way he kin make big money. Brer Fox vow he won’t tell nobody, an’ den Brer Rabbit say dat bein’ ez him an’ Brer Fox is sech good frien’s--neighbors, ez you might say--he don’t min’ tellin’ ’im, kaze he know dat atter Brer Fox done prommus, he won’t breave a word ’bout it. Den he say dat de truck what he got in de bag is roots er de Winniannimus grass, an’ when deyer groun’ up at de mill, dey er wuff nine dollars a poun’.

                “Dis make Brer Fox open his eyes. He felt de heft er de bag, he did, an’ he say dat it’s mighty light, an’ he dunner what make Brer Rabbit pant an’ grunt when ’tain’t no heftier dan what it is.

                “Brer Rabbit ’low dat de bag wouldn’t ’a’ felt heavy ter him ef he wuz big an’ strong like Brer Fox. Dat kinder talk make Brer Fox feel biggity, an’ he ’low dat he’ll tote de bag ter mill ef Brer Rabbit feel like it’s too heavy. Brer Rabbit say he’ll be mighty much erbleeged, an’ be glad fer ter pay Brer Fox sump’n ter boot. An’ so, off dey put down de road, Brer Fox a-trottin’ an’ Brer Rabbit gwine in a canter.

                “Brer Fox ax what dey does wid de Winniannimus grass atter dey gits it groun’ up at de mill. Brer Rabbit ’low dat rich folks buys it fer ter make Whipmewhopme puddin’. Brer Fox say he’ll take some home when de miller git it groun’ an’ see how it tas’es, an’ Brer Rabbit say he’s mo’ dan welcome. Atter dey been gwine on some little time, Brer Rabbit look back an’ see Mr. Man a-comin’, an’ he say ter Brer Fox, sezee, ‘Brer Fox, you is de outdoinist man I ever is see. You done got me plum’ wo’ out, an’ I’m bleeze ter take a res’. You go on an’ I’ll ketch up wid you ef I kin; ef not, des wait fer me at de mill.’ Brer Fox ’low, ‘Shucks, Brer Rabbit! you ain’t ’quainted wid me; you dunner nothin’ ’tall ’bout me. I kin go on dis a-way all day long an’ half de night.’ Brer Rabbit roll his big eyes, an’ say, ‘Well, suh!’

                “An’ den he sot down by de side er de road, an’ ’twuz all he kin do fer ter keep fum bustin’ out in a big laugh.

                “Bimeby, Mr. Man come ’long an’ say, ‘Who dat wid de big bag on his back?’ Brer Rabbit make answer dat it’s Brer Fox. Mr. Man say, ‘What he got in his bag?’ Brer Rabbit ’low, ‘I ax ’im, an’ he say it’s some kinder grass what he takin’ ter de mill fer ter git groun’, but I seed mo’ dan one chicken feather stickin’ ter de bag.’ Mr. Man say, ‘Den he’s de chap what tuck an’ tuck my fat hens an’ my slick pullets, an’ I’ll make ’im sorry dat he yever is see a chicken.’

                “Wid dat he put out atter Brer Fox, an’ Brer Rabbit, he put out too, but he stay in de bushes, so dat nobody can’t see ’im. Mr. Man he cotch up wid Brer Fox, an’ ax ’im what he got in de bag. Brer Fox say he got Winniannimus grass what he gwineter have groun’ at de mill. Mr. Man say he wanter see what Winniannimus grass look like. Brer Fox sot de bag down an’ say dat when it’s groun’ up de rich folks buys it fer ter make Whipmewhopme puddin’. Mr. Man open de bag, an’ dey wa’n’t nothin’ in it but chicken feathers. He ’low, ‘Whipmewhopme puddin’! I’ll whip you an’ whop you,’ an’ wid dat he grab Brer Fox in de collar, an’ mighty nigh frailed de life out’n ’im.

                “Brer Rabbit seed it well done, an’ he des fell down in de bushes an’ roll an’ laugh twel he can’t laugh no mo’.”

                “Well, I don’t see why he should think it was funny,” the little boy remarked.

                Uncle Remus looked hard at this modern little boy before he answered: “Maybe you dunno Brer Fox, honey; I don’t speck you hear talk er de way he try ter git de inturn on Brer Rabbit. But on top er dat, Brer Rabbit wuz so ticklish dat mos’ anything would make ’im laugh. It sholy wuz scan’lous de way Brer Rabbit kin laugh.”

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Brother Rabbit and the Chickens
Tale Author/Editor: Harris, Joel Chandler
Book Title: Told by Uncle Remus: New Stories of the Old Plantation
Book Author/Editor: Harris, Joel Chandler
Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap
Publication City: New York
Year of Publication: 1903
Country of Origin: United States
Classification: unclassified

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