Week 6–African American Trickster Tales and The Persuasive Essay Final Draft

Week of October 20-24

This week you will work on the Final Draft of your essay. I asked you to write a 2nd Rough Draft last Thursday, and to walk away from it for a few days. Not looking at an essay for a few days is very important. It gives your brain a break. And then when you come back to it, you can see things that you want to change. Things that don’t sound right.

No journals this week πŸ™‚

Monday–Reading Your Essay Out Loud

So the first thing I want you to do on Monday is read your essay out loud to someone in your family, like your mom. As you read you will notice moments where you will want to say things differently out loud, than you wrote them on the page. Pause, and write on your paper the changes you want to make. Then keep reading.

Next, have a member of your family read your essay out loud to you. What you are hearing, is how the essay sounds in someone else’s head. Look for places where they sound confused, or they are not saying it the way you wanted them to. You might want to fix those places.

Then ask your mom to look for punctuation and spelling errors. She can mark them with a red marker or pen or colored pencil.

Then walk away from your paper. For the rest of the day.

Tuesday– Read The Introduction to African American Folktales and Watch the Following Video

The Trickster in African American Literature

Trudier Harris
J. Carlyle Sitterson Professor of English, Emerita
University of North Carolina
National Humanities Center Fellow
Β©National Humanities Center

Almost every oral tradition in the world has trickster figures, and African American culture is no exception. Tricksters dominate the folk tradition that peoples of African descent developed in the United States, especially those tales Trickster figures, present in every oral tradition, are weak, often amoral, characters who outsmart stronger opponents.that were influenced by African folk tradition, landscape, and wildlife. By definition, tricksters are animals or characters who, while ostensibly disadvantaged and weak in a contest of wills, power, and/or resources, succeed in getting the best of their larger, more powerful adversaries. Tricksters achieve their objectives through indirection and mask-wearing, through playing upon the gullibility of their opponents. In other words, tricksters succeed by outsmarting or outthinking their opponents. In executing their actions, they give no thought to right or wrong; indeed, they are amoral. Mostly, they are pictured in contest or quest situations, and they must use their wits to get out of trouble or bring about a particular result. For example, in one African American folktale, Brer Rabbit, the quintessential trickster figure in African American folklore, succeeds in getting Brer Fox to rescue him from a well by asserting that the moon reflected in the water at the bottom of the well is really a block of cheese. Brer Fox jumps into the other water bucket, descends into the well, and, in the process, enables Brer Rabbit to rise to freedom.

While frequently humorous, trickster tales often convey serious social critiques.Though trickster tales in African American culture are frequently a source of humor, they also contain serious commentary on the inequities of existence in a country where the promises of democracy were denied to a large portion of the citizenry, a pattern that becomes even clearer in the literary adaptations of trickster figures. As black people who were enslaved gained literacy and began to write about their experiences, they incorporated figures from oral tradition into their written creations. In fact, some scholars have argued that the African American oral tradition is the basis for all written literary production by African Americans. To get a sense of this influence and these interconnections, it is necessary to explore the African American oral tradition.

During slavery, trickster tales with human characters reflected the actual behavior of the people telling and hearing them.People of African descent who found themselves enslaved in the New World, and specifically on United States soil, were not brought to the West to create poems, plays, short stories, essays, and novels. They were brought for the bodies, their physical labor. Denied access to literacy by law and custom, anything they wanted to retain in the way of cultural creation had to be passed down by word of mouth, or, in terms of crafts, by demonstration and imitation. After long hours of work in cotton and tobacco fields, therefore, blacks would occasionally gather in the evenings for storytelling. Tales they shared during slavery were initially believed to focus almost exclusively on animals. However, as more and more researchers became interested in African American culture after slavery and in the early twentieth century, they discovered a strand of tales that focused on human actors. It is generally believed that enslaved persons did not share with prying researchers the tales containing human characters because the protagonists were primarily tricksters, and the tales showcased actions that allowed those tricksters to get the best of their so-called masters. In some of these instances, as Lawrence W. Levine notes, perhaps the actions of the characters did indeed reflect the actions of those enslaved.

The records left by nineteenth-century observers of slavery and by the masters themselves indicate that a significant number of slaves lied, cheated, stole, feigned illness, loafed, pretended to misunderstand the orders they were given, put rocks in the bottom of their cotton baskets in order to meet their quota, broke their tools, burned their masters’ property, mutilated themselves in order to escape work, took indifferent care of the crops they were cultivating, and mistreated the livestock placed in their care to the extent that masters often felt it necessary to use the less efficient mules rather than horses since the former could better withstand the brutal treatment of the slaves.1

Levine makes clear that there was a short distance between trickster tactics in life and those that constituted the tales black folks created.

Brer Rabbit as the primary African American trickster may have been an adaptation of the African cunnie rabbit, a small deer, and/or of Anansi, the well-known African spider trickster. Animals that appear Trickster tales themselves are tricky; their seriousness is hidden and often overlooked.frequently in the tales about Brer Rabbit, such as elephants and lions, are also believed to be African transplants, since these animals are not native to the United States. From these adaptations,enslaved African Americans created worlds in which animal actions mirrored human actions during and after slavery. Their kinship to fables thus enabled the seriousness of the tales to be overlooked at times. That is one way to explain the popularity of Joel Chandler Harris’s Uncle Remus stories, which were first published in 1881. The violence and comeuppance that characterize these tales, frequently with larger animals (whites) being bested by the smaller Brer Rabbit (blacks), were passed over as readers focused more on the fanciful portrayals of imaginary animal worlds. It was not until the 1880s and the founding of the American Folklore Society that collectors observed a strand of tales that did not disguise the actions between blacks and whites. They uncovered the β€œJohn and Old Master” cycle of tales. In these renderings, John, as representative of enslaved blacks, manages to get the best of Old Master in almost every situation in which they are pitted against each other. Contest dominates their interactions in a world where the weak and the witty always triumph over the powerful and the presumed intellectually superior.

Wednesday–Brer Rabbit Stories

So have you ever went on Splash Mountain at Disneyland? Well if so, you have cruised through the story of Brer Rabbit. That was an oral folktale told by African American slaves as passive aggressive stories of the oppressed tricking the oppressor! I love it!

Please enjoy these stories today. And remember they were first told orally to each other. They were not written down and published in some cute little book. They were passed down from generation to generation, the oral tradition.

Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby

Brer Fox Catches Old Man Tarrypin

Brer Rabbit Earns a Dollar a Minute

Brer Rabbit Fools Sis Cow

Please write a comment below about which story is your favorite and why.

Thursday– Final Draft

Look over your essay one more time. Make sure your paragraphs are developed nicely, your sentences sound right, your words are spelled correctly, and your essay is properly formatted. Please have a parent read over it one more time. This should be your BEST WORK. Here is a Final Draft Checklist that you might like to go through.

Organize all of your work to bring to class tomorrow:

  1. Your first rough draft (with underlines and notes)
  2. Your second rough draft (with underlines and notes)
  3. Your final draft (with perfection)
  4. Your paragraphs from last Friday, about atheists and God.
  5. *Also, make sure you posted your paragraph about the Afua Cooper video last week in the comment section for week 5. And a comment this week, in the section below about which trickster tale is your favorite and why.

I hope you enjoyed a lighter workload this week, and some cute little stories. I really enjoyed studying the African American trickster tales in college. I had an amazing teacher for African American Literature. Anyways, I wanted to give you less work so that you would be able to focus all your energy on your essay. There is no reason why your essay shouldn’t be amazing!!! I can’t wait to read it.


27 thoughts on “Week 6–African American Trickster Tales and The Persuasive Essay Final Draft

  1. Shoot! I packed all of my markers yesterday, seeing we are moving, and all I have is a pencil… will that work for making changes and punctuation errors? Sorry, Mrs. Brani! ❀

      1. I am actually finding this very comical. I mean, so many things are getting jumbled up in the move in XD Haha God DOES have a sense of humor…! ❀ I love you, Heavenly Father!

  2. My absolute favorite Trickster Tale was Brer Rabbit Earns a Dollar a Minute! The reason this story in particular is my favorite is because Brer Rabbit knew just how to cover his tracks, blame it on somebody else , and then get away with it! Plus, I thought it was quite humorous to see the gullible Brer Bear fall into the trap. I also favor this story because it is featured on Splash Mountain, one of my favorite rides at Disneyland! πŸ™‚

  3. My favorite story was Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby. I liked it because Brer Rabbit influenced Brer Fox. Brer Fox had a revenge plan for Brer Rabbit, and once he captured him and was deciding how to kill him, he let Brer Rabbit influence his thoughts which resulted in throwing him into his own freedom.

  4. My favorite trickster tale would be Brer Fox and Old Man Tarrypin, due to the fact that it is hilarious how Brer Fox was gullible enough to believe that Old Man Tarrypin, (who is a turtle!), would be able to drown in water. Another reason why I liked it was because it displays the Biblical moral: Do unto others what you want them to do unto you. Brer Fox thought that revenge on Old Man Tarrypin seemed like a good idea at the time, but in the end, it wasn’t.

  5. My favorite Trickster Tale would have to be Brer Rabbit Fools Sis Cow. I found it funny and clever. Brer Rabbit knew in advance she wouldn’t give him milk, yet he wanted some so badly he just had to get some no matter what! He tricked her into butting the tree and milked her when she was stuck. He also tricked her when she was chasing after him by disguising himself and leading her off. I was excited to read these cause when I was younger I would watch cartoons portraying these stories. So…I think I’m going to go watch those cartoons right now ;D

  6. My favorite trickster tale was Brer Rabbit Fools Sis Cow because it was really funny and it showed how smart Brer Rabbit is. Even though I have no idea why someone would want to drink fluid that comes from a cows udders (ew) it was still a really good story. Another reason why I liked it was because Sis Cow thought she could get back at Brer Rabbit for stealing her milk and getting her stuck in a tree, but Brer Rabbit was just too intelligent for her! πŸ™‚

  7. [Nait]

    I like all of them, actually, but I like “Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby” the best out of them by a slight bit. I like this the best because it’s quite a clever way to trick a rabbit. Just a Tar Baby sitting in the middle of the road.

    Also: “I’m gonna kick the stuffin’ out of you,” ~Brer Rabbit, *insert date that it was made here*

  8. I think that all the Brer Rabbit stories are fantastic. But if i had to choose a favorite, it would be “Brer Rabbit fools Sis Cow”. I like this story because even though Brer Rabbit knew something was up when he went to go see Sis Cow, he still went and managed to evade a trampling and managed to make her go in the opposite direction of him. I would be surprised if Brer Rabbit had any friends by the end of his life ;).

    And now… Yet ANOTHER text art


    (I was just feeling Disney while reading these.)

  9. And also… BRONIES FOR LIFE!!! (just kidding, but I found this and had to)


      1. Bronies are adult males that follow the My Little Pony series. Kinda wierd… So i try not to associate with them. (The art is one of the ponies from My Little Pony)

  10. I love all the Brer Rabbit tales, but my favourite one is Brer Rabbit fools Sis Cow, I love the way he knows what he wants and knows how to trick the gullible cow into such a position that he can milk her dry! He’s so cunning is Brer Rabbit! And he knows that brain is better than brawn!

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