Editor's Commentary to "A Story About Little Rabbits"


When Uncle Remus tells this tale to the little boy, it is to encourage him to follow the example of the little rabbits and obey his elders. Many of the Uncle Remus tales are documented by Harris in his introduction as having a didactic quality in shaping the behavior of those who heard them. When the tale begins, Uncle Remus reminds the little boy that the little rabbits were unfailingly good and always obeyed the words of their elders—a quality that ultimately allows them to elude the evil plots of Brer Fox.

Uncle Remus tells of Brer Fox invading Brer Rabbit's warren and finding the little rabbits home alone. He plans to kill them, but first he wants to give them a "chance" to earn their freedom by completing the impossible tasks he outlines for them. He asks them to cut him a piece of sugar cane (a difficult tasks for such small animals), and he asks them to water in a sieve. Faced with the impossibility of these tasks and their impending doom, the rabbits receive the aid of a bird who advises them in his songs:

"'Take yo' toofies en gnyaw it,
Take yo toofies en saw it,
Saw it en yoke it,
En den you kin broke it.'"

By obeying the words of the little bird, the little rabbits are able to complete the tasks, and ward off the advances of Brer Fox until their father returns home to protect them.

The story can be interpreted in many ways. First, as a moral tale designed to foster good behavior in the listener. However, it can also be read in social terms as a generational struggle between blacks and whites. Essentially, the character of Brer Fox can be interpreted as an adult determined to impose the societal dictums regarding racial roles and stereotypes upon the younger generation. This is especially potent when one considers that the tale is being told by an elderly black man to a young white boy—a reversal of the way the racial stereotypes are discussed in the tale itself, and ultimately a disavowal of those stereotypes when the young rabbits emerge safely from danger.


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