The Tales of Uncle Remus / Сказки дядюшки Римуса. Книга для чтения на английском языке
Комментарии и словарь Е. Г. Тигонен
© КАРО, 2014
My lasting memories of my grandmother are of her telling me stories. I know that she told folktales and fairy tales from many parts of the world. I cried when she told Andersen’s Little Match Girl – it was so beautiful and so sad. But my favorites, and I’m sure they were hers as well, were the Brer Rabbit stories. I howled with laughter when Brer Rabbit asked the Tar Baby “and how does your symptoms segashuate?” My grandmother did not attempt to use the dialect of Joel Chandler Harris because, even though she had been born on a Maryland plantation in 1862, she did not speak the way Harris interpreted slave speech. Her mother had told her the stories and she told them to me with love and affection as she sat in her favorite rocking chair in the middle of a large, old-fashioned kitchen. It was a way for her to entertain me as she watched her cooking.
In 1917 when I was old enough to go to school I still wanted to hear about Brer Rabbit and Miz Meadows and the gals, so I would rush home to be there by “pot-watching” time. “Grandma,” I’d ask, “tell about how Brer Rabbit tricked Brer Fox.” We would get comfortable and start down Brer Rabbit’s road. Small, helpless Brer Rabbit always defeated his adversaries – the large animals – with his wit, humor, and wisdom. In my smallness I related to the clever little hare who could always get out of the most difficult situations through his sharp wit.
I soon wanted to read these stories myself, which led me to the only collections available, by Joel Chandler Harris. They were in a dialect that was like a foreign language and I could not handle it. I was frustrated and, although I loved the stories, I was too impatient to struggle with the words. Grandmother died and the Brer Rabbit stories were put into the storage of my mind.
It wasn’t until several years later, in college, that I learned about the importance of these stories as true American folklore. Dr. Harold Thompson, a leading American folklorist, gave a lecture on people from the West Coast of Africa who had been captured and sold as slaves. Some were settled in the southern states where they took stories from home about a hare – Wakaima – and adapted them to their new surroundings. Wakaima became Brer Rabbit and the clay man became the Tar Baby. Learning about this made me turn to the books again, and once again I tried unsuccessfully to read them.