Sunday, September 1, 2019

Week 3 Topic Research: Mammy-Bammy-Big-Money

It was hard to choose but based on the feedback I got, I'm going with Mammy-Bammy-Big-Money the Witch-Rabbit as the way to do my Storybook project for class. This will be a way to surprise people (I'm guessing most people have not heard about this part of the Brer Rabbit tradition), and it's a good way to acknowledge African origins (Brer Rabbit is not a magical trickster himself, but Mammy-Bammy has conjure powers), plus it's a self-limiting topic, which is also good. Narrowing down stories is hard, but there are not that many Mammy-Bammy-Big-Money stories. Here is what I have to work with:

Brer Rabbit and the Witch-Rabbit. This is an essential African story type, "Rabbit seeks endowments." In terms of African origins, this is a fantastic story to have. (Note also that Brer Rabbit goes to a conjure-man for a love charm in one of Daddy Jack's stories.)

(illustration by Milo Winter)

Brother Rabbit and His Famous Foot. This is the story about how Brer Wolf steals Brer Rabbit's lucky rabbit's foot (which will be an excuse to talk about the rabbit-foot tradition in general, and also conjure-bags, etc.)

(illustration by J. A. Shepherd)

Brer Wolf and the Witch-Rabbit. This shows Mammy-Bammy in action outside of her remote home in the swamp, and it's a direct follow-up to the story about the Wolf and the rabbit's foot.

(illustration by J. A. Shepherd)

Taily-Po. I am excited about getting to include this story! It's one that Baer did not do a good job with in her notes, so I will do some research to fill in the gaps in her commentary.

(illustration by A. B. Frost)

I might also find a way to use the Aunt Nancy story: there the supernatural female is a danger, someone that Brer Rabbit wisely avoids. Maybe I can make her a sister to Mammy-Bammy or something like that, weaving that character into the other stories somehow.

I'm also thinking I would like for Mammy-Bammy to be connected to the magical bird who saves the little rabbits, although I'm not sure I can make that work. That is a really unusual story with strong supernatural elements, not otherwise explained. Anyway, it's something to think about.

There are two other stories where Brer Rabbit references Mammy-Bammy and how she is a source of knowledge for him (although in both cases, he could be totally lying of course ha ha):
Lion and Rabbit: After lion gets scalded, he goes to her for advice and claims that she told him a fox hide was required.
Gold Mine: Rabbit claims Mammy-Bammy told his grandfather there was a gold mine near Brer Bear's house.

Note also the story that mentions graveyard-rabbits, and I have other sources for this belief in the power of graveyard-rabbits.

(illustration by A. T. Elwes)

I didn't find much else from poking around in JSTOR or Google, except that it looks like there is a Disney version (Golden Book) of the story of Brer Rabbit's visit to the Witch-Rabbit after Brer Wolf steals his rabbit's-foot. That really surprised me; I didn't figure that Disney would be interested in the magic side of Brer Rabbit. So, I wasn't planning on reading the Disney Golden Book of Brer Rabbit stories, but I went ahead and ordered a copy. It wasn't as cheap as used books usually are, and it's kind of depressing how people have made "Song of the South" a kind of right-wing cause célèbre, but whatever: I bought the book, despite the noxious comment from the bookseller about how the "Thought Police" are trying to keep people from reading Disney's Brer Rabbit. Sigh.

Reading that kind of ignorant comment in defense of Disney just makes me all the more determined to publish a really good Brer Rabbit resource book as OER for anyone who wants to read and learn about this African American storytelling tradition... not a Disney product.

Through the Google search, I learned that she is a Magic: Gathering card! Now I'm wondering if that graphic doesn't come from the Disney version of the story in the Golden Book; I'll find out when the book arrives next week!


  1. Great article. I love the Brer rabbit folklore tales, but I wouldn't know anything about them If it wasnt for Disney introducing me to the character so it cant be all that bad. I have a couple of old Disney comics and stories with Aunt Mammy Bammy.

    1. Thank you for your comment! I don't know how many Disney stories there are from the comic books, and I hope they will all be in this Golden Book version that I ordered. If you are interested in all the Brer Rabbit stories, I have the Joel Chandler Harris stories all organized here: Joel Chander Harris: Brer Rabbit Books. There are about 180 stories!
      Then there are Brer Rabbit stories BEYOND Joel Chandler Harris, including some stories in Gullah dialect! I have those bookmarked here: More Brer Rabbit. Each title links to a story online... almost 250 stories from sources other than Harris. It's a lot of rabbits, ha ha. :-)

    2. Excellant. I have Enid Blyton versions to which are pretty good.

    3. I found one Blyton book at Internet Archive that was out of copyright for odd legal reasons, and I read somewhere that she did a LOT of Brer Rabbit stories. I should get her books too! My focus is on the public domain stuff published before 1923, since I can reuse that for my classes for free. Thanks for your comments here. My old projects were focused on Aesop's fables, and I'm enjoying Brer Rabbit even more than I did Aesop. :-)

  2. So enjoyed reading original Joel Harris Brer Rabbit Uncle Remus stories book and night stories to my son from books I received as a child in the 50s.
    also we were great lovers of Peter Rabbit Beatrix Potter and all of her
    I read these books to my son to teach him how to read and for the same reason my mother read them to me , so I would understand about black and white relationships in the south when I was growing up and when she was growing up and before she was growing up.... when these stories were
    originally written .
    My mother like myself using the African/Gula dialect as it was written in.
    I also read Peter Rabbit with shirking voices for old mother rabbit , farmer McGregor etc.
    My 35 year old son remembers all this fondly.
    I'm now teaching his two and four year old how to read and the joy of literature which of course includes the same things that I was read as a child and that my child was read which includes Brer Rabbit stories in Peter Rabbit stories .
    Havingt reread all these stories to myself first because it's been a long time. I was aware of the connection between Beatrix Potter the illustration and Brer Rabbit books but must admit I had forgotten the social commentary that has gone on for years this way and that way in reference to the Brer Rabbit books the Uncle Remus books and many of Joel Chandler Harris has other writings.
    I love the Uncle Remus stories and I love Beatrix Potter because of the lessons they talked and so many of the similarities to Esop and others.
    so at the writing of this July 2020 almost to Fourth of July I see that I will be reading my granddaughter's these books to try to make them understand what is happenimg now because I'm really not understanding myself. Child of the 60s.
    I thought we were past all this.
    So after reading your article I am left with this....
    Was Peter Rabbit the white trickster to mirror Brer Rabbit the Black Trickster???
    as in any boy can sneak under a gate , steal ,lose his blue coat and his boots ?
    it doesn't matter what color you are.
    Anyway i will sign off.... just an old chick waggling her tongue .

    1. Thank you so much for this wonderful comment! I actually learned from a book about Brer Rabbit by Emily Zobel-Marshall that Beatrix Potter probably was VERY MUCH INFLUENCED by the Brer Rabbit stories when she created her Peter Rabbit. She was writing in a different context... and certainly not as an African storyteller -- but I think it's safe to say that we would not have had Peter Rabbit if Potter had not met Brer Rabbit from African American stories via the books that Harris published and which were very popular in England. The illustration in this blog post of Brer Rabbit and Mammy-Bammy in the flame/smoke is from a British Edition of one of Harris's books in fact. So... you are absolutely right about that connection! I'm working on a new African story book project, collecting Anansi stories, Brer Rabbit stories, and African American stories that I'm telling in very short 100-word versions. If you are curious, I am posting the stories at another blog; I hope to have the Anansi book (free! of just 99 cents Kindle) finished by the end of November... and I'm posting the stories here as I go. Often the same stories are told about Anansi as about Brer Rabbit! Anansi Stories ... and thank you again for your comment! So glad to meet another friend of Brer Rabbit. :-)


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