Home  »  Volume XVIII: American LATER NATIONAL LITERATURE: PART III  »  § 9. Uncle Remus’s Debt to Amerind Invention

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XVIII. Later National Literature, Part III.

XXXII. Non-English Writings II

§ 9. Uncle Remus’s Debt to Amerind Invention

It appears that Joel Chandler Harris did not himself know, when he wrote them, that his Br’er Rabbit and Br’er Fox were original Cherokee inventions. In the reports of the Bureau of Ethnology, where you will find their Amerind forebears, the tales have a grim quality, a Spoon River quality, which to our understanding misses the humouresque which they had to the Indian. Coming to Harris as they did through the modified primitiveness of the negro, their essential frolicsomeness is transmitted with surprisingly few African interpolations. Undoubtedly there were exchanges between Indian and Negro slaves and assimilations took place at all their points of contact. But for the Americanness of the Uncle Remus stories, one has only to point to that other so popular folk hero, Get-Rich-Quick Wallingford, the Br’er Fox of the current hour.