Sunday, September 1, 2019

Week 3 Reading: Aesop's Tortoise and Hare

I read Part A of Jacobs, and of course I know I want to write my story on the tortoise and the hare, a.k.a. Brer Terrapin and Brer Rabbit. The contrast between Aesop's version and the Brer Rabbit version is really fun and will make for a good story... you heard the version from Aesop, but you can't believe everything you hear from Aesop!

Bibliography: from The Fables of Aesop by Joseph Jacobs (1894).

The Aesop version does have some nice boasting by the Hare to get things started, and then the usual plot: the hare slept so long that the tortoise plodded along to win the race: "Plodding wins the race."

Some more expressions of the moral:

Slow and steady wins the race.
Slow but steady wins the race.
The race is not always to the swift.
Up and be doing, is an edifying Text; for Action is the Business of Life, and there’s no Thought of ever coming to the End of our Journey in time, if we sleep by the Way.

But in the Brer Rabbit version, things are very different: sure, the turtle is slow, but he's also a trickster. In fact, he's one of the few tricksters who can out-trick Brer Rabbit, which is what he does on this occasion: Mr. Rabbit Finds His Match at Last. Brer Rabbit and Brer Turtle had recently cooperated in playing a trick on Brer Fox at Miss Meadows' place, and they are on good terms, but then they start boasting about who is fastest, and they even bet $50 on it (that is a lot of money!). They make Brer Buzzard the judge and stakeholder. There is going to be a five-mile race, with mile-maker posts. Rabbit was going to run in the road, while Turtle said he wanted to run alongside the road in the woods. Turtle's wife and three children look just like him (one of Harris's correspondents pointed out that he needed four children for the trick to work), so he placed one at the start, one at each mile-marker, while he lurked at the finish line. There is a funny detail about Brer Rabbit wearing ribbons, as you can see in the illustration below (and feathers and ribbons show up in other versions; it's not explained here but in other versions it is the identity... which turtle can copy of course). There is cute vocabulary as each turtle shows up at the post: Here I come a-bulging... Here I come a-boiling... And of course when the time comes, Turtle comes crawling out at the finish line and wins.

This version of the story with the substitutes is African and also shows up in Native American stories (which Baer contends are borrowed from the African American storytellers). It also does show up in Brothers Grimm, so it's not strictly an African type. Here are the reference numbers from Baer:
Types ATU1074 Race won by deception
Motifs K0011.1 race won by deception: relative helpers
The better number is really ATU0275C (that's where Grimm shows up; it's very widespread), but Klipple reserve 275 for the hanging-onto-tail trick, and puts all the substitution-trick races under 1074 which she just calls "Race." She lists the following as English-language publications:
Kidd. Hare and Tortoise.
Brown. Stembuck and Tortoise.
Smith and Dale. Hare is Outwitted by Mrs. Tortoise
Doke. Mr. Duiker and Mr. Tortoise
Worthington. The Hare and the Tortoise
Rattray. The Tortoise and the Antelope.
Woodward. Tortoise and Falcon.
Lindblom. Girl, Young Man, and Tortoise.
Hobley. Tortoise and Fish Eagle
Zuure. Frog and Gazelle
Huffman. Frog and Ostrich
Mpongwe. Chameleon and Elephant
Stapleton. Esende and Mobembe (hare and tortoise)
Weeks. Squirrel and Elephant.
Casati. Chameleon and Elephant.
Dayrell. Frog and Bushbuck
Thomas. Bushbuck and Frog
Basden. Frog and Deer.
Bundy. Eagle and Sparrow
Ellis. Deer and Snail.
Migeod. Deer and Snail.
Renel. Frog and Wild Boar.
Woodson. Deer and Snail.
With the French and German stories also, Klipple has a total of 39 examples!

I don't have a comprehensive Native American inventory like Klipple's African inventory, but here are some Native American versions I have found based on "race" being in title (there maybe others):

Arikara: Turtle and Coyote
Ojibwa: Turtle and Elk 
Ojibwa: Turtle and Man (with ribbons in this one for turtle!)
Tewa: Rabbit and Turtle
Apache: Antelope and Frog
Apache: Frog and Coyote
Zuni: Mole and Hawk
Creek: Turtle and Wolf (Turtle wears feathers)
Zuni: Gopher and Human
Caddo: Turtle and Coyote (Turtle wears white feathers)
Alabama: Turtle and Wolf (Turtle wears feathers)
Hitchiti: Turtle and Wolf
Creek: Rabbit and Turtle (FIVE VERSIONS)

This Apache version is like Aesop: rabbit sleeps and turtle wins.

And more African-American versions:

Turtle and Deer
Turtle and Deer (2 versions)
Turtle and Deer
Rabbit and Hedgehog (see more bibliography here: Dorson)
Turtle and Deer
Judge Buzzard (song in Talley)
Turtle and Deer (two versions, plus weird turtle and snail race)
Turtle and Deer
Rabbit and Turtle
Turtle and Horse (with bibliography from Parsons)
Turtle and Deer

Also hare sleeping here.

Plus Caribbean:

Relay Race (detailed bibliography from Parsons; she has five versions: Horse and Toad; Horse and Tortoise; Horse and Tortoise; Tortoise and Horse; Horse and Toad)
Surinam: Deer and Tortoise
Jamaica: Horse and Turtle

Okay, such a huge heap of stuff. This is definitely an important story for me to work on both because of African origins and because of Native American uptake also. I am glad I will get to tell my own version!




No comments:

Post a Comment

To minimize spam, comments are restricted to Google accounts only. You can also contact me at laurakgibbs@gmail.com or at Twitter: @OnlineCrsLady