Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby. [Title from text].
Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby. [Title from text].
Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby. [Title from text].
Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby. [Title from text].
Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby. [Title from text].
Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby. [Title from text].
[Racism / Folktales]. [Harris, Joel Chandler]. Ropes[?], E. A.

Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby. [Title from text].

Regular price $150.00 $0.00

Honolulu: 1938. 9-3/4 x 7 inches. 12pp including inscription, on 16 leaves. Cord-bound wooden boards, possibly Koa wood. Holograph text and hand-drawn illustrations in black ink. Boards somewhat stained; minor occasional soiling to text. Very Good.

Manuscript version of this tale from Joel Chandler Harris's "Uncle Remus" folktales, which attempts to retell it exactly as Harris did. Further research is needed to compare the text to Harris's and find where it diverges (assuming it does). Nevertheless, the MS is an important record of the widespread popularity of Harris's version of the tale. From Bryan Wagner's The Tar Baby: A Global History:

"The tar baby is an electric figure in contemporary culture. As a racial epithet, a folk archetype, an existential symbol, and an artifact of mass culture, the term 'tar baby' stokes controversy, in the first place because of its racism. At least since the 1840s, 'tar baby' has been used as a grotesque term of abuse, and it continues to feel like an assault no matter the circumstances in which it is employed. At the same time, 'tar baby' has operated as a figure of speech suggesting a problem that gets worse the harder you try to solve it. The term takes both of these senses in the tar baby story .... By far the best-known version of the tar baby story is the one published by Joel Chandler Harris in his inaugural folklore collection, Uncle Remus: His Songs and His Sayings (1881). This was not the tar baby's first appearance in print, as other versions anticipated Uncle Remus by more than a decade, but it was 'The Wonderful Tar-Baby Story,' told in the manufactured voice of an imaginary ex-slave, that made the difference to the story's future transmission, documentation, and reception. Again and again, Uncle Remus's version of the tar baby was syndicated, translated, illustrated, excerpted, and interpolated in newspapers, magazines, folklore anthologies, and children's treasuries, as it was also repurposed in comic strips and advertising campaigns for products like Brer Rabbit Blackstrap Molasses. ... It is important to understand that there is more to the tar baby story than Uncle Remus. ... The tar baby exists in literally hundreds of versions derived over several centuries on at least five continents. Since the 1880s, collectors have claimed that they heard the tar baby 'over and over' in the field, leading some of them to speculate that the story was 'omnipresent' in world culture. ... As a counterexample to [claims that 'slavery destroyed the personalities of its victims'], the tar baby showed that slaves were neither deracinated nor submissive. It was a story that survived the brutality of the Middle Passage, a story that was passed down from generation to generation and continent to continent, demonstrating the independence that slaves retained under the worst conditions" (ix-xii).


More from this category