Uncle Remus folktale from African American folklore of how crafty Brer Rabbit and his friend Brer Coon get themselves an easy dinner. Written by Joel Chandler Harris.
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How Brer Coon Gets His Meat – Audio Story
Now, does everyone know what a raccoon is? Ol’ banded eyes with the rings around his tail? Well, in this story, we’re not gonna call him Brer Raccoon. We’re not gonna call him Brer Banded Eyes. You know what we’re gonna call him? Brer Coon.
You see, ol’ Brer Coon and Brer Rabbit were friends. They were also fishermen – that is, Brer Rabbit, he fished for fish, and Brer Coon, he fished for frogs. Now, what happened was that, one day, them ol’ frogs got so wild that Brer Coon couldn’t catch any of ’em. And when this happened, Brer Coon had some problems back at the household. You know why? Well, when he couldn’t catch any frogs, he didn’t have any frog meat to bring home. All the little Coon children got a little bit hungry – and when all the little Coon children got a little bit hungry, the little Coon wife got a little bit mad. And Brer Coon felt real, real sad about that.
So, one day, ol’ Brer Coon was walking slowly down toward the river, feeling so sad that his chin was about to drag the ground, when he ran into his good friend, Brer Rabbit. Ol’ Rabbit saw Brer Coon looking all sad and miserable, and he said, “Brer Coon! What’s the matter with you? What’s your situation?”
Brer Coon said, “Brer Rabbit, I got problems. You see them ol’ frogs out there in that river? They’ve gotten so wild that I can’t catch none of ’em! And I just feel so sad.”
Well, Brer Rabbit looked down at the river, and he saw the frogs out there just having a good ol’ time, splashing around, jumping in and out of the river. So he turned to his friend and said, “You know what, Brer Coon? I’m gonna help you catch every last one of them ol’ frogs.”
Brer Coon suddenly got all excited and said, “Okay, Brer Rabbit, let’s go! What you want me to do?”
Brer Rabbit said, “Coon, go down to the sandbar and lay down just like you was dead.”
Brer Coon looked at him funny and said, “Lay down like I’m dead? What good’s that gonna do?”
Brer Rabbit said, “Never you mind – just go out there and lay down like you was d-e-a-d, dead!”
Well, ol’ Brer Coon moseyed on down to the sandbar. And when the frogs heard Brer Coon comin’, the Big Frog yelled out to his friends, “Y’all better look out! Here comes that ol’ Coon again!”
And all the frogs hopped out of the river to hide from Brer Coon. Brer Coon went ahead and laid down in the sand. After he’d been lying there for a while, Brer Rabbit came down to the river and hollered out to the Frogs, “Hey, y’all! This ol’ coon is dead!”
The Big Frog peeked out from his hiding place and said to his fellow frogs, “I don’t believe it. No sir, I don’t believe it.”
Brer Rabbit sat down on the sand next to his friend Brer Coon and bowed his head like he was in mourning. The frogs saw this and moved in closer and closer. Brer Coon wasn’t moving a muscle. Whenever a fly would land on Brer Coon’s nose, Brer Rabbit would brush it off.
So all the frogs eventually hopped up on the sandbar and gathered around Brer Coon. Once they all saw that Brer Coon was dead, they started hopping up and down with excitement. Brer Rabbit turned to them and said, “You know, if I was you frogs, you know what I’d do? I’d dig a hole for this coon so deep that he’d never get out!”
The Big Frog heartily chuckled and said, “Hey, that’s a good idea. How we gonna do it?”
Brer Rabbit said, “Dig the sand out from under him and let him down in the hole.”
So the frogs went and got their little frog shovels. Then they came back to the sandbar and started digging a hole right around where Brer Coon was laying, with that ol’ coon smack dab in the middle of it.
After they had been digging a while, the Big Frog stopped everybody from digging and called up to Brer Rabbit. “Is it deep enough?” he hollered.
Brer Rabbit screamed back, “Can you get out?”
The Big Frog looked around him and shouted back, “Yes, we can! Yes, we can!”
“Then it ain’t deep enough! ” yelled Brer Rabbit. “You gotta dig it deeper!”
So the frogs went back to work. This time, they dug it real, real, real, real, real deep. The Big Frog stopped everyone again and said, “This hole should be deep enough by now. Let’s see what that ol’ rabbit has to say.” So he called up to Brer Rabbit again. “Is it deep enough?”
Brer Rabbit screamed back, “Can you get out?”
The Big Frog looked around him and shouted back, “No, we can’t! No, we can’t!”
Well, at this point, Brer Rabbit hollered down in the hole at his good friend, Brer Coon – “Brer Coon! Rise up and get your meat!”
And that ol’ Brer Coon opened up his big black eyes, saw them frogs hoppin’ around and started grabbin ’em left and right! After a while, Brer Rabbit threw a sack down in the hole, and Brer Coon bagged the frogs up, took ’em home, and they had enough Frog meet to last them a real long time. After that, Brer Coon and his family were real, real happy.
And that’s how Brer Coon got his meat.
– THE END –
Where Did This Story Come From?
“How Brer Coon Gets His Meat” is based on a short story called “Crazy Sue’s Story” collected by famed Georgia author, folklorist and journalist Joel Chandler Harris (1848-1908). “Crazy Sue’s Story” appeared in a collection of stories entitled Daddy Jake the Runaway and Short Stories Told After Dark, published in 1889.
Harris is best known, of course, for the Uncle Remus tales featuring Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox and other famous animal characters. Like the Uncle Remus tales, the stories found in Daddy Jake were African-American myth-legends that Harris heard from slaves while he was working on a plantation nearhis birthplace in Eatonton, Georgia. Harris had an extraordinarily sensitive ear and accurate memory, and wrote the stories as closely to the spoken versions as he could.
The cultural origins of the Daddy Jake stories are hard to trace. Folklorists argue that similar stories can be found in European and Native American cultures. Since these groups interacted with African-Americans during the United States’s early history, a sharing of these stories is entirely possible.
“Crazy Sue’s Story” is told by a fictional character named Crazy Sue, a runaway slave, to two white children named Lucien and Lillian Gaston. The Gaston children have left their father’s plantation to search for another runaway slave named Daddy Jake. As the story begins, the two children have found Daddy Jake sitting around a campfire with his friends, laughing and telling stories. The children are thrilled to find him, and fully expect him to return with them to the Gaston plantation.
While sitting around the fire, Lillian asks why the frogs in the swamp are making so much noise. The following is Crazy Sue’s response (dialect and text taken from the original story):
“I speck it’s kaze dey er mad wid Mr. Rabbit,” said Crazy Sue. “Dey ertryin’ der best ter drive ‘im out’n de swamp.”
“What are they mad with the Rabbit for?” asked Lucien, thinking there might be a story in the explanation.
“Hit’s one er dem ole-time fusses,” said Crazy Sue. “Hit’s most too oleter talk about.”
“Don’t you know what the fuss is about?” asked Lucien.
And so, the story begins…
How Brer Coon Gets His Meat – Story Credits
Collected by Joel Chandler Harris
Adapted by Akbar Imhotep with Craig Dominey
Told by Akbar Ihhotep
Artwork by Edward Windsor Kemble
Sound Design by Henry Howard