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FOLK-TALES FROM STUDENTS IN TUSKEGEE INSTITUTE,
The following tales were selected from a considerable number of tales contributed to the Journal through the courtesy of the head of the English Department of the Tuskegee Institute, Mr. Clement Richardson, and of Mr. Monroe N. Work, editor of the Negro YearBook. No. 1, "Old man on a Hunt," is a very popular tale in North Carolina, I can testify, if not elsewhere in the South. In this literary version the substitution of a bear for a quasi-supernatural is of interest. The tale appears to be an instance of the development of anecdote or single incidentinto folk-tale, - a process occurring not infrequently in American Negro tales. No. 2, "Mr. Froggie went to ride,” is a well-known English nursery-rhyme.4 No. 3, “Escape up the Tree,” is a European tale brought over long since by immigrants from the west coast of Africa. I have collected it in elaborate versions from Portuguese Negroes from the Cape Verde Islands. Among American Indians as well as Negroes it has a wide dispersal. No. 4, “The Tree closes," is one of the numerous animal versions of “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves," 6 with the primary pattern of “The Password" omitted. No. 5, “Take my Place," is one of the equally numerous Negro variants' which appear to derive from the European cycle of "Big-John and Little-John." No. 6 is a tale which, outside of America, has been recorded, as far as I know, only in Southeast Africa, among the Baronga. In these six tales we get a fairly representative cross-section, as it were, of American Negro folk-tales in English, - the tale of local development, the tale of English provenience, the tale of African-Portuguese or African-Arab provenience, and the tale of African provenience.
1 See JAFL 30 (1917) : 184 (No. 26).
* From variants collected in New England, of the tale of "Dividing the Souls," I surmise that the incident of beating the dogs home may be taken from the concluding incident in “Dividing the Souls."
. See, for example, North Carolina (JAFL 30 : 186, 191, 194 (Nos. 30, 43, 48]); also Florida (Ibid., 223 (No. 4)); and this number, p. 370.
• Compare O. D. Campbell and C. J. Sharp, English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians (New York and London, 1917), No. 119, and Bibliography on pp. 335-336.
Compare MAFLS 13 (1918): 66 (No. 32); and see Bibliography (Ibid., pp. xvii). • Compare MAFLS 13 : 3 (No. 3); and see Bibliography (Ibid., p. xvii). See, too, S. H. De Soto, Cuentos Populares de Extremadura, XXI, XXII, Biblioteca de las Tradiciones Populares Españoles, X.
* Compare MAFLS 13 : 82 (No. 39), and Bibliography (p. xvii). • Compare Georgia (Harris 4 : 137-140, 144-152); North Carolina (JAFL 30 : 190). • Junod, 2 : 216–217.
From this list one conspicuous type of Negro tale has been omitted, — the ghost-story, the tale based on a belief about “hants" or "bugies” or “duppies." In the collection sent from Tuskegee there are a large number of these stories, all of which are spoiled as folktales by the rational or moral form their writers felt called upon to give them,' a transformation in itself of ethnologic, if not of folk-lorist interest. In spite of the transformation, however, definite folk-lore features persist. The ghost (in speaking, “hant” was probably the term used; even in these literary versions, “hanty place" is a common expression) is either an animal which grows larger and larger, 2 or a headless human being. The movement in the tale consists either of adventuring the night in a haunted house for the sake of a pot of gold, or being chased by the creature encountered.
1. OLD MAN ON A HUNT.4 Once there were an old man and his two sons who lived in a house not far from the wood, and they had four good dog. They were sitting down eating supper one night; and his dogs went out into the woods, and say, "See, can we get the old coon.” — "All right," smiled the boys. The old man hadn't walked in five years, so the boys put him on the cot and carried him to the woods. When they went down to the tree where the dogs were, the old man said to the boys, "Shoot! Shoot in the tree and knock that good meat out!” The boys shoot and shoot, but killed nothing. The old man told his son to climb into the tree. The son obeyed. When he got up in the tree, a bear jumped down on the ground, and the boys flew home, telling his other brother. But when he stepped into the door and began to tell the brother, the old man said to his sons, “Listen, listen, boy! tell that thing straight. I beat those dogs here.” He left his cot under the tree that night, and he has been walking ever since.
1 "He found out that it was a goat living in the house." – "It was only a railroad sign made in form of a cross. So I don't believe in ghost to-day." — "It was nothing but the trains coming down the track. ... His head was hid on the tracks, so he saw nothing but the body-part." — “He told her he was going to be a better boy (after he had been chased), and was going to obey her."
; "He began to stone it (a little dogl; but every time he threw a stone, it became larger." "They saw something look like a cat. As they went on, it grew larger and larger, until it was as large as a horse." — "When any one pass there (a haunty house), something would come out and get large as a cow, with eyes large as a saucer."
• "He looked back and saw a man dressed all in white, and he didn't have any head on his body." — "Just as I got to the graveyard, up sprang a very tall lady with absolutely no head at all, only a neck-bone with blood oozing out as if it had been freshly cut off."
• Written by Arnetta Perkins.
2. MR. FROGGIE WENT TO RIDE.1
3. ESCAPE UP THE TREE.2 A long time ago there were two little children who had three dogs. Their names were You-Know, I-Know, and God-Knows. One day, while these children were playing, a wild man came by and took the little girl with him and reared her. When she was grown, he married her. The child's parents had given her up. But one day, after Tom was grown, he took his dogs and went hunting. When night came, he was too far to return home the same night. While he was standing wondering what to do, he looked up and saw a house sitting on a hill up through the woods. Tom didn't know whether to take his dogs or to leave them there. At that moment God-Knows said, “Master, we will take care of everything." Tom didn't have any idea of finding his sister that was stolen a long time ago. When he reached the house, a lady met him at the door, and said, “Come in!” After a long conversation, Tom found out that was his sister, and she was overrejoiced to see her brother. After a few hours, she told Tom her husband was wild, and asked him to go into the closet and stay until she called. Before Tom was in the closet good, her husband walked up with half of a man on his shoulder. When they sat down to the supper-table, Mattie said, "If I show you a pretty(?), will you bother it?" He promised not to bother him. Mattie unlock the door and let Tom out. Her husband kissed him and was very kind to him. Mattie said, "Tomorrow I am going part the way with him." Her husband said, “Let me go." The next day Tom and Mattie's hus1 Written by Louise Freeman.
: Written by Wilhelmina Ivory.
band started on the way. When they were out of sight, the man said, “Go up that tree and pray, while I sharp my knife.” The boy went up the tree and called his dogs. “You-Know, I-Know, God-Knows, come and get the poor boy out of trouble.” When Tom said, “GodKnows," the man thought he was praying, and said, “Pray you are praying now.” The boy called again. At that time his dogs were there. They took the man and tore him into pieces. Tom came down the tree, and went back to the house and got his sister and took her home. After that the dogs were known all over the country as the three heroes.
4. THE TREE CLOSES. Once upon a time there was a rabbit and a bear. Mr. Rabbit was always a funny little fellow, so he would fool Mr. Bear. One day he told Mr. Bear to come and go with him to the bee-tree. Mr. Bear was willing to go, so the next morning Mr. Bear went by to go with him. When they got there, Mr. Rabbit went in the tree and ate much honey as he wanted, and came out for Mr. Bear to come in. Mr. Bear went in and eat much honey as he wanted. He ate so much, his head swell in the tree. So he hollered for Mr. Rabbit to run for the doctor. Mr. Rabbit would run down the road and come back, so he got tired of running. The last time he fooled Mr. Bear, he told him the doctor said give his head a hard jerk and jerk it out. So Mr. Bear gave his head a jerk and jerk it off. So Mr. Rabbit did laugh how he fooled Mr. Bear and made him lose his life.
5. TAKE MY PLACE.2
Once upon a time there lived a farmer who had a large garden. Every year he would plant all kinds of vegetables in it. One of the many different variety he planted was cabbage. Every morning he would go into his garden; and every time he went, he would find some of his cabbage gone. At last he decided to catch the greedy thief. He went around his garden and stopped up all the cracks but one, where he set a trap. The next morning he went into his garden and found a large rabbit in his trap. He was so angry that he did not know how to punish the rabbit. He at last turned him over to his boy, who declared that he would punish him so bitterly that he would scare all of the others from the place. The boy took the rabbit up the road toward town, and tied a rope around the rabbit's neck and tied him to a tree. The boy told the rabbit that he was going to kill him when he came back. While the boy was gone, Mr. Wolf, the rabbit's great friend, came along. "Why, hello there, Mr. Rabbit! What are you 1 Written by Gladys Gibson.
? Written by John W. Dearmon.
doing tied up to that tree?" – "Why, a boy tied me here, and told me if I staid until he came back, he would bring me some fresh meat; but I don't like meat. If you untie me and let me tie you, you may have the meat.” — “All right," said the wolf. The wolf untied the rabbit; and the rabbit tied the wolf to the tree, and ran off and got behind a tree, and began to dance and laugh, to think how he had fooled the wolf. After a while the boy came back. He was surprised to see a wolf tied to the tree where he had left a rabbit. "What are you doing here?" asked the boy. “When I left here, you was a rabbit; now you are a wolf." - "Meat," replied the wolf. “You just stay there until I get some pine-knots, then I will meat you," said the boy. He got an armful of knots, and began to beat the wolf. Every time he would hit the wolf, the wolf would cry, “Meat, meat!” The boy soon killed the wolf; and the rabbit was behind the tree, laughing and dancing just to think how he had fooled his friend the wolf.
6. FATAL IMITATION. Once there was a rabbit and a rooster. And the rooster put his head under his wing, and come out and said to the rabbit, “See here! I have left my head at home for my wife to comb it.” And the rabbit said, "Give me a hatchet, and let me cut off mine and leave it home, so my wife can comb mine, and I will go home with you." And he put his head on a block and chopped it off. And the rabbit cried. And that was the last of him.
1 Written by L. George.