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~ Est 1983 ~
|A Gullah Folktale from Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, by Genevieve Chandler of the WPA Writers' Project|
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Brother Rabbit, The Trickster: A Gullah Folktale from the Carolina Lowcountry
Recorded in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, by Genevieve Wilcox Chandler of the WPA Writers' Project
"Mrs. Chandler! Miss Dusenbury!" called the workman, rushing up the brick steps into the Museum almost out of breath. Theses two Hostesses and I (Corrie Dusenbury's young cousin ) had just finished unlocking the post card display cases and the cash register to begin another day of welcoming visitors to Brookgreen Gardens in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina. "Thereís a six foot alligator in the ladies restroom! Donít go in there until we can get him out. Weíll let you know as soon as itís safe!"
The workman hurried back to his task. I jumped up to follow him. This sounded like the most exciting event of the summer! Somehow the two elderly Hostesses did not share my enthusiasm for alligator chasing however, and I was quickly recalled to the safety of the Museum.
Perhaps in compensation, or to distract me from further attempts to "help," Miss Genevieve (as I called Genevieve Wilcox Chandler, the other Hostess) began telling me stories of Brother Gator and his fellow inhabitants of the swamp.
Miss Genevieve had learned these stories from the local people, who lived on Sandy Island and along the seashore here at Brookgreen Plantation and Murrells Inlet in the South Carolina Lowcountry. Cousin Corrie and my own grandmother had heard similar stories as young children from family servants who told the stories in Gullah, a creole language of the former slaves who lived along the South Carolina coast. Miss Genevieve collected these stories from the local Gullah people during the Depression as part of the federal governmentís WPA Writersí Project.
So that morning as I looked longingly through the open Museum window toward the ivy covered wall that shaded the walkway to the ladiesí restroom, Miss Genevieve told me how Brother Gator learned that there was Trouble in the world.
After telling that story about Brother Gator, Miss Genevieve told another Gullah story about Brother Rabbit who was always trying to be the trickster but was out-tricked this time by Brother Guinea Fowl.
One day Brother Rabbit and Brother Guinea were walking together down a path in the woods near Murrells Inlet when they came upon a stray cow grazing in a clearing. They could find no brand on the cow so, clearly, the cow now belonged to them. After some discussion, they agreed to butcher the cow and split the meat evenly. So they did.
When the meat was divided up evenly into two piles, Brother Rabbit said, "All that work made me so hungry! I canít wait for a meal of this good cow meat. Brother Guinea, why donít you fly up there in the sky and get a piece of that orange fire. Bring it back here while I gather some wood. Weíll make a nice fire and cook a piece of this meat to eat right now."
Brother Guinea wasnít too sure about that plan, but with Brother Rabbitís urging he started flying toward the orange ball of fire in the sky. He flew and he flew, but he never seemed to get any closer to it. Finally he was so worn out that he had to turn back.
When Brother Guinea got back to where he and Brother Rabbit had butchered the cow, all he saw was Brother Rabbit sitting by a pile of sticks at the edge of the clearing. The meat was all gone, expect for the scrawny cow tail.
"Where is all our meat?" cried Brother Guinea.
"I donít know," replied Brother Rabbit. "You were gone so long that after I gathered this wood, I lay down to take a nap. When I woke up the meat was gone, except for this scrawny tail here. Somebody must have stolen our meat!"
Brother Guinea studied this a while, then said, "Well, I am so tired and hungry I have got to have something to eat. At least I can chew on this scrawny tail." And he did.
As Brother Guinea finished the last little bit of meat on the scrawny tail he began flopping around, squawking and yelling.
"Whatís the matter?" asked Brother Rabbit in alarm.
"Iím poisoned! Iím poisoned!" cried Brother Guinea.
With that, he flopped over on his back with his wings stretched out in the middle of the clearing . . . dead.
"Oh no! Oh no!" cried Brother Rabbit, wringing his hands. "That meat was poisoned! What shall I do? Iíve got to get it back from my kinfolks! I donít want my whole family to die!"
Brother Rabbit raced around to all his many kinfolk, gathering up the meat, which he had secretly carried off and distributed to them while Brother Guinea was gone.
Brother Rabbit brought all the meat back, piece by piece, and piled it up in the middle of the clearing. When Brother Rabbit arrived with the last piece, Brother Guinea jumped up, suddenly resurrected from the dead!
As Brother Rabbit stared in astonishment, Brother Guinea shook his wing at Brother Rabbit and declared, "You thought you could fool me any time you wanted. You fooled me about the fire, but you canít fool me all the time! Now we are going to share this meat evenly!" And they did.
To read more Gullah folktales from Brookgreen Gardens and Murrells Inlet in the Carolina Lowcountry . . .
Buy the complete
(single copies or in bulk) of Lynn Michelsohn's
Shorter selections from Tales from Brookgreen are also available as ebooks . . .
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