Lester, Julius. The Tales of Uncle Remus: the Adventures of Brer Rabbit. New York: Dial Books, 1987.

Ethnic origin:

East African from the Zambezi River basin. In that story, Tar Baby is a tortoise and Brer Fox is a jackal.

Running time: 12-15 minutes

Power center:

Brer Rabbit pleading for Brer Fox not to throw him in the Briar Patch.


Brer Rabbit

Brer Fox

Tar Baby


Brer Fox digging the well and discovering Brer Rabbit is stealing his water

Brer Rabbit stuck to Tar Baby

Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox arguing

Brer Rabbit taunting Brer Fox


Brer Fox asks Brer Rabbit to help him dig a well so they won’t have to walk to the creek for water. Brer Rabbit refuses and promises not to drink water from Brer fox’s well. Brer Fox digs the well but wakes up to find that the water level is down. He sees Brer Rabbit’s footprint and vow revenge. Brer Fox boils pitch, makes a tar baby and puts it in the path. Brer Rabbit encounters the tar baby, is put out by her silent rudeness, and threatens her with bodily harm to teach her manners. Brer Rabbit follows through and becomes stuck in the tar. Brer Fox saunters out and thinks on ways to kill Brer Rabbit who pleads not to be thrown into the briar patch. Brer Fox throws him in, and Brer Rabbit escapes.


Tortures and Brer Rabbit’s response:

Fire (BBQ sauce ingredients) sigh

Hanging shudder

Drowning sniffle

Skinning (eyes, ears, legs) ears shiver

"Tar Baby, he don’t say nothin’, and Brer Fox, he lay low."


8-10: The Tar Baby has a linear plot with consequences for bad actions but a tricky humorous conclusion where the hero outwits the villain.

Sources recommending the collection as good literature:

Price, Anne and Juliette Yaadov, eds. Children’s Catalog. 17th ed. New York: H.W. Wilson Co., 1996.

Gillespie, John T. and Corinne J. Naden, eds. Best Books for Children Preschool through Grade 6. 5th ed. New Jersey: R.R. Bowker, 1994.

Sources recommending the story good for telling:

Was not listed in Storyteller’s Sourcebook because MacDonald’s is copyright 1982 and Lester’s book was published in 1987. I read the recommended sources and found Lester to be the best.

See comparison of versions below.

Other versions:

Harris, Joel Chandler. The Complete Tales of Uncle Remus. Compiled by Richard Chase. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1983.

Tracey, Hugh. The Lion on the Path and Other African Stories. New York: Frederick A. Praeger, Publishers, 1967.

Comparison of versions:


Good for reading aloud but hard to memorize

People might be offended by the dialect


The dialect is gone, but he inserts references to shopping malls and sports in an attempt to relate to the modern audience. His version was still the most tellable and allowed me to be free with my own words.

Arbuthnot, Mary:

Her version gives Harris’ telling first and then her reworking, which isn’t as easy to understand as Lester’s.

Tracey, Hugh:

Has none of the dialect, but provides a story closer to the original African one and helped me decide to include the scene of Brer Rabbit stealing the well water.

Faulkner, William:

His version includes much of the dialect but also sets up the Brer Fox’s revenge with Brer Rabbit stealing water.

By Sarah Holstead