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Negro or the North American Indian ever come in contact with the tribes of South America ? Upon this point the author of “ Brazil and the Amazons,” who is engaged in making a critical and comparative study of these myth-stories, writes :
"I am not prepared to form a theory about these stories. There can be no doubt that some of them, found among the Negroes and the Indians, had a common origin. The most natural solution would be to suppose that they originated in Africa, and were carried to South America by the Negro slaves. They are certainly found among the Red Negroes; but, unfortunately for the African theory, it is equally certain that they are told by savage Indians of the Amazons Valley, away up on the Tapajos, Red Negro, and Tapura. These Indians hardly ever see a Negro, and their languages are very distinct from the broken Portuguese spoken by the slaves. The form of the stories, as recounted in the Tupi and Mundurucú languages, seems to show that they were originally formed in those languages or have long been adopted in them.
“It is interesting to find a story from Upper Egypt (that of the fox who pretended to be dead) identical with an Amazonian story, and strongly resembling one found by you among the Negroes. Varnhagen, the Brazilian historian (now Visconde de Rio Branco), tried to prove a relationship between the ancient Egyptians, or other Turanian stock, and the Tupi Indians. His theory rested on rather a slender basis, yet it must be confessed that he had one or two strong points. Do the resemblances between Old and New World stories point to a similar conclusion? It would be hard to say, with the material that we now have.
“One thing is certain. The animal stories told by the Negroes in our Southern States and in Brazil were brought by them from Africa. Whether they originated there, or with the Arabs, or Egyptians, or with yet more ancient nations, must still be an open question. Whether the Indians got them from the Negroes or from some earlier source is equally uncertain. We have seen enough to know that a very interesting line of investigation has been opened."
Professor Hart, in his “ Amazonian Tortoise Myths,” quotes a story from the “Riverside Magazine” of November, 1868, which will be recognised as a variant of one given by Uncle Remus. I venture to append it here, with some necessary verbal and phonetic alterations, in order to give the reader an idea of the difference between the dialect of the cotton plantations, as used by Uncle Remus, and the lingo in vogue on the rice plantations and Seal Islands of the South Atlantic States :
“One time B’er Deer an' B'er Cooter (Terrapin) was courtin', and de lady did bin lub B'er Deer mo' so dan B'er Cooter. She did bin lub B'er Cooter, but she lub B'er Deer de morest. So de young lady say to B'er Deer and B'er Cooter bofe dat dey mus' hab a ten-mile race, an' de one dat beats, she will go
“So B'er Cooter say to B'er Deer: 'You has got mo' longer legs dan I has, but I will run you. You run ten mile on land, and I will run ten mile on de water!'
“So B'er Cooter went an' git nine er his fam'ly, an put one at ebery mile-pos', and he hisse'f, what was to run wid B’er Deer, he was right in front of de young lady's do', in de broom-grass.
"Dat mornin' at nine o'clock, B'er Deer he did met B'er Cooter at de fus mile-pos', wey dey was to start fum. So he call : Well, B'er Cooter, is you ready? Go long!' As he git on to de nex' mile-pos', he say: ‘B'er Cooter!' B'er Cooter say: 'Hullo !' B'er Deer say : ‘You dere?' B'er Cooter say: 'Yes, B'er Deer, I dere too.'
“ Nex' mile-pos' he jump, B’er Deer say: 'Hullo,
B'er Cooter!' B'er Cooter say: 'Hullo, B'er Deer! you dere too?' B'er Deer say: ‘Ki! it look like you gwine fer ter tie me; it look like we gwine fer de gal tie!
“W'en he git to de nine-mile pos' he tought he git dere fus, 'cause he mek two jump; so he holler: 'B'er Cooter !' B'er Cooter answer : 'You dere too ?' B'er Deer say: 'It look like you gwine tie me.' B'er Cooter say: 'Go long, B'er Deer. I git dere in due season time,' which he does, and wins the race.”
The story of the Rabbit and the Fox, as told by the Southern negroes, is artistically dramatic in this : it progresses in an orderly way from a beginning to a well-defined conclusion, and is full of striking episodes that suggest the culmination. It seems to me to be to a certain extent allegorical, albeit such an interpretation may be unreasonable. At least it is a fable thoroughly characteristic of the Negro; and it needs no scientific investigation to show why he selects as his hero the weakest and most harmless of all animals, and brings him out victorious in contests with the bear, the wolf, and the fox. It is not virtue that triumphs, but
helplessness; it is not malice, but mischievous
It would be presumptive in me to offer an opinion as to the origin of these curious myth-stories; but, if ethnologists should discover that they did not originate with the African, the proof to that effect should be accompanied with a good deal of persuasive eloquence.
Curiously enough, I have found few negroes who will acknowledge to a stranger that they know anything of these legends; and yet to relate one of these stories is the surest road to their confidence and esteem. In this way, and in this way only, I have been enabled to collect and verify the folk-lore included in this volume. There is an anecdote about the Irisliman and the Rabbit which a number of
have told to me with great unction, and which is both funny and characteristic, though I will not undertake to say that it has its origin with the blacks. One day an Irishman who had heard people talking about “mares' nests was going