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Monday, August 24, 2015

In Praise of Gutsy Fun

As a child, who was your favorite super-hero? What could he or she do that you wished you could:  Fly? Display superstrength? Always win? Talk his way out of anything? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1673).

As a child I listened to radio, then (when it came out) watched TV.  The superheroes were such men as The Lone Ranger, Wild Bill Hickok, and Superman – most of these shows aired on Saturday.  Their main attributes were action, power, passion, and cool rationality in the face of the enemy.  It was satisfying to see the bad guys always lose and the good guys always win. I even more greatly admired a far less glitzy hero--Brer Rabbit.  What he lacked in naked power was more than offset by his ready wit, fast talking magic, unassailable ego, and courageous faith.  In my later years Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy in the Beverly Hills Cop series, who was likewise outmatched in brute power) became one of my favorite staples.


Brer Rabbit is a trickster character in folktales of African, African-American, and Native American Culture. Brer Rabbit is the consummate trickster, who typically matches wits with Brer Fox, whom he always bests.


Brer Rabbit and the Triumph of Wit

"Roast me! Hang me! Do whatever you please," said Brer Rabbit. "Only please, Brer Fox, please don't throw me into the briar patch."

"If I'm going to hang you, I'll need some string," said Brer Fox. "And I don't have any string handy. But the stream's not far away, so maybe I'll drown you instead."

"Drown me! Roast me! Hang me! Do whatever you please," said Brer Rabbit. "Only please, Brer Fox, please don't throw me into the briar patch."

"The briar patch, eh?" said Brer Fox. "What a wonderful idea! You'll be torn into little pieces!"

Grabbing up the tar-covered rabbit, Brer Fox swung him around and around and then flung him head over heels into the briar patch. Brer Rabbit let out such a scream as he fell that all of Brer Fox's fur stood straight up. Brer Rabbit fell into the briar bushes with a crash and a mighty thump. Then there was silence.

Brer Fox cocked one ear toward the briar patch, listening for whimpers of pain. But he heard nothing. Brer Fox cocked the other ear toward the briar patch, listening for Brer Rabbit's death rattle. He heard nothing.

Then Brer Fox heard someone calling his name. He turned around and looked up the hill. Brer Rabbit was sitting on a log combing the tar out of his fur with a wood chip and looking smug.

"I was bred and born in the briar patch, Brer Fox," he called. "Born and bred in the briar patch."

And Brer Rabbit skipped away as merry as a cricket while Brer Fox ground his teeth in rage and went home.


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