04 Oct 2010 [ Prev | Next ]

Nights with Uncle Remus Podcast

The purpose of part 1 of the podcast is to introduce you to the way the Uncle Remus tales represent the African-American dialect. I suggest you listen to the podcast while looking at this web page.
Uncle Remus Podcast Part 1 -- Dialect.mp3 

Part 2 prepares you for the tales we'll be reading for class Wednesday, tales I through VIII of Nights With Uncle Remus.
Uncle Remus Podcast Part 2 -- Nights With Uncle Remus (I through VIII) .mp3

(There are two podcasts, but I am treating them as a single assigned text. You don't need to respond to both separately.)

Text to go along with Part 1 (there is no separate text file to go along with Part 2 of the podcast -- for that, refer to Nights with Uncle Remus itself.)

(Read along while you listen to Part 1)

We are studying Nights with Uncle Remus, which is the second collection of African-American folklore, collected and published by Joel Chandler Harris in the 1880s.

The first collection of Uncle Remus tales included the story, "The Wonderful Tar Baby." I'm going to use it in to introduce our reading selections, which are from Harris's second collection, Nights with Uncle Remus.

I won't try to translate every single instance of dialect, but this will get us started.

  • Brer Fox / Brer Rabbit = "Brother Fox" / "Brother Rabbit"
  • atter = "after"
  • sho's = "sure as"
  • fool 'im wid dat = "fool him with that" (the calamus root is a reference to a story from the previous chapter)
  • went tur wuk = "went to work"
  • en mix it wid = "and mix it with"
  • turkentime = "turpentine" (supposed to be a humorous mispronunciation)
  • w'at = "what" (Harris carefully uses an apostrophe to represent dropped letters.)
  • tuck dish yer = "took this here"
  • sot 'er in de big road = "set her [the tar baby] in the big road"
  • wuz qwine ter be = "was going to be"
  • hatter wait long, nudder = "have to wait long, neither"
  • kaze bimeby = "{be}cause by and by"
  • dez ez sassy ez = "just as sassy as"
  • fotch up on his behime legs = "fetch up on his behind legs"
  • sezee = "says he"
  • sym'tums seem ter segashuate = "symptoms seem to sagaciate"
    (This is humor -- the rabbit is speaking highly formal, superior language... "How do you feel" would be more appropriate. And the plot of the rest of the story shows that Brer Rabbit does indeed need to be brought down a peg or two.)
In order to accustom your inner ear to translate the written dialect into the sound of a genial African-American storyteller, I suggest that you look at the text while you listen to the story, as spoken by Scott Gadwa, from Classics Narrated (a great collection of free audiobooks).

The Wonderful Tar Baby

"Didn't the fox never catch the rabbit, Uncle Remus?" asked the little boy the next evening.

"He come mighty nigh it, honey, sho's you born--Brer Fox did. One day atter  Brer Rabbit   fool 'im wid dat calamus root, Brer Fox went ter wuk en got 'im some tar, en mix it wid some turkentime, en fix up a contrapshun w'at he call a Tar-Baby, en he tuck dish yer Tar-Baby en he sot 'er in de big road, en den he lay off in de bushes fer to see what de news wuz gwine ter be. En he didn't hatter wait long, nudder, kaze bimeby here come Brer Rabbit pacin' down de road--lippity-clippity, clippity-lippity--dez ez sassy ez a jay-bird. Brer Fox, he lay low. Brer Rabbit come prancin' 'long twel he spy de Tar-Baby, en den he fotch up on his behime legs like he wuz 'stonished. De Tar Baby, she sot dar, she did, en Brer Fox, he lay low.

"'Mawnin'!' sez Brer Rabbit, sezee--'nice wedder dis mawnin',' sezee.

"Tar-Baby ain't sayin' nuthin', en Brer Fox he lay low.

"'How duz yo' sym'tums seem ter segashuate?' sez Brer Rabbit, sezee.

"Brer Fox, he wink his eye slow, en lay low, en de Tar-Baby, she ain't sayin' nuthin'.

"'How you come on, den? Is you deaf?' sez Brer Rabbit, sezee.
'Kaze if you is, I kin holler louder,' sezee.

"Tar-Baby stay still, en Brer Fox, he lay low.

"'You er stuck up, dat's w'at you is,' says Brer Rabbit, sezee, 'en I'm gwine ter kyore you, dat's w'at I'm a gwine ter do,' sezee.

"Brer Fox, he sorter chuckle in his stummick, he did, but Tar-
Baby ain't sayin' nothin'.

"'I'm gwine ter larn you how ter talk ter 'spectubble folks ef hit's de las' ack,' sez Brer Rabbit, sezee. 'Ef you don't take off dat hat en tell me howdy, I'm gwine ter bus' you wide open,' sezee.

"Tar-Baby stay still, en Brer Fox, he lay low.

"Brer Rabbit keep on axin' 'im, en de Tar-Baby, she keep on sayin' nothin', twel present'y Brer Rabbit draw back wid his fis', he did, en blip he tuck 'er side er de head. Right dar's whar he broke his merlasses jug. His fis' stuck, en he can't pull loose. De tar hilt 'im. But Tar-Baby, she stay still, en Brer Fox, he lay low.

"'Ef you don't lemme loose, I'll knock you agin,' sez Brer Rabbit, sezee, en wid dat he fotch 'er a wipe wid de udder han', en dat stuck. Tar-Baby, she ain't sayin' nuthin', en Brer Fox, he lay low.

"'Tu'n me loose, fo' I kick de natchul stuffin' outen you,' sez Brer Rabbit, sezee, but de Tar-Baby, she ain't sayin' nuthin'. She des hilt on, en de Brer Rabbit lose de use er his feet in de same way. Brer Fox, he lay low. Den Brer Rabbit squall out dat ef de Tar-Baby don't tu'n 'im loose he butt 'er cranksided. En den he butted, en his head got stuck. Den Brer Fox, he sa'ntered fort', lookin' dez ez innercent ez wunner yo' mammy's mockin'- birds.

"Howdy, Brer Rabbit,' sez Brer Fox, sezee. 'You look sorter stuck up dis mawnin',' sezee, en den he rolled on de groun', en laft en laft twel he couldn't laff no mo'. 'I speck you'll take dinner wid me dis time, Brer Rabbit. I done laid in some calamus root, en I ain't gwineter take no skuse,' sez Brer Fox, sezee."

Here Uncle Remus paused, and drew a two-pound yam out of the ashes.

"Did the fox eat the rabbit?" asked the little boy to whom the story had been told.

"Dat's all de fur de tale goes," replied the old man. "He mout, an den agin he moutent. Some say Judge B'ar come 'long en loosed 'im--some say he didn't. I hear Miss Sally callin'. You better run 'long."

Here is another very famous one. What kind of a lesson does it teach? Consider not only what happens in the story, but the conversation between Uncle Remus and the little boy.

How Mr. Rabbit was Too Sharp for Mr. Fox

"UNCLE REMUS," said the little boy one evening, when he had found the old man with little or nothing to do, "did the fox kill and eat the rabbit when he caught him with the Tar-Baby?"

"Law, honey, ain't I tell you 'bout dat?" replied the old darkey, chuckling slyly. "I 'clar ter grashus I ought er tole you dat, but old man Nod wuz ridin' on my eyeleds 'twel a leetle mo'n I'd a dis'member'd my own name, en den on to dat here come yo mammy hollerin' atter you.

"W'at I tell you w'en I fus' begin? I tole you Brer Rabbit wuz a monstus soon creetur; leas'ways dat's w'at I laid out fer ter tell you. Well, den, honey, don't you go en make no udder calkalashuns, kaze in dem days Brer Rabbit en his fambly wuz at de head er de gang w'en enny racket wuz on han', en dar dey stayed. 'Fo' you begins fer ter wipe yo' eyes 'bout Brer Rabbit, you wait en see whar'bouts Brer Rabbit gwineter fetch up at. But dat's needer yer ner dar.

"W'en Brer Fox fine Brer Rabbit mixt up wid de Tar-Baby, he feel mighty good, en he roll on de groun' en laff. Bimeby he up'n say, sezee:

"'Well, I speck I got you dis time, Brer Rabbit, sezee; 'maybe I ain't, but I speck I is. You been runnin' roun' here sassin' atter me a mighty long time, but I speck you done come ter de een' er de row. You bin cuttin' up yo' capers en bouncin''roun' in dis neighberhood ontwel you come ter b'leeve yo'se'f de boss er de whole gang. En den you er allers somers whar you got no bizness,' sez Brer Fox, sezee. 'Who ax you fer ter come en strike up a 'quaintance wid dish yer Tar-Baby? En who stuck you up dar whar you iz? Nobody in de roun' worl'. You des tuck en jam yo'se'f on dat Tar-Baby widout waitin' fer enny invite,' sez Brer Fox, sezee, en dar you is, en dar you'll stay twel I fixes up a bresh-pile and fires her up, kaze I'm gwineter bobby-cue you dis day, sho,' sez Brer Fox, sezee.

"Den Brer Rabbit talk mighty 'umble.

"'I don't keer w'at you do wid me, Brer Fox,' sezee, 'so you don't fling me in dat brier-patch. Roas' me, Brer Fox' sezee, 'but don't fling me in dat brierpatch,' sezee.

"'Hit's so much trouble fer ter kindle a fier,' sez Brer Fox, sezee, 'dat I speck I'll hatter hang you,' sezee.

"'Hang me des ez high as you please, Brer Fox,' sez Brer Rabbit, sezee, 'but do fer de Lord's sake don't fling me in dat brier- patch,' sezee.

"'I ain't got no string,' sez Brer Fox, sezee, 'en now I speck
I'll hatter drown you,' sezee.

"'Drown me des ez deep ez you please, Brer Fox,' sez Brer Rabbit, sezee, 'but do don't fling me in dat brier-patch,' sezee.

"'Dey ain't no water nigh,' sez Brer Fox, sezee, 'en now I speck
I'll hatter skin you,' sezee.

"'Skin me, Brer Fox,' sez Brer Rabbit, sezee, 'snatch out my eyeballs, t'ar out my years by de roots, en cut off my legs,' sezee, 'but do please, Brer Fox, don't fling me in dat brier- patch,' sezee.

"Co'se Brer Fox wanter hurt Brer Rabbit bad ez he kin, so he cotch 'im by de behime legs en slung 'im right in de middle er de brier-patch. Dar wuz a considerbul flutter whar Brer Rabbit struck de bushes, en Brer Fox sorter hang 'roun' fer ter see w'at wuz gwineter happen. Bimeby he hear somebody call 'im, en way up de hill he see Brer Rabbit settin' crosslegged on a chinkapin log koamin' de pitch outen his har wid a chip. Den Brer Fox know dat he bin swop off mighty bad. Brer Rabbit wuz bleedzed fer ter fling back some er his sass, en he holler out:

"'Bred en bawn in a brier-patch, Brer Fox--bred en bawn in a brier-patch!' en wid dat he skip out des ez lively ez a cricket in de embers."



ValerieSusa said:

Never take anything for granite.....

ValerieSusa said:

I'm sure I mean't to say granted, not granite.

Valerie Susa said:

Entertaining, yet Mentally exhausting.....

how listening can be a lot more beneficial than just reading

Alexi J. Swank said:

Agreeing with Stefanie - listening helps a lot with confusing dialect.


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