Rus Articles Journal

Why the author of “Fairy tales of the uncle Rimus“ was accused of theft and racism?

One said that Harris`s role as author, it is very insignificant, called him “a little more than the copyist“ and even “the secretary of the black“. Also the black took offense. So the writer Alice Walker in article with the eloquent name “Uncle Rimus to Me not the Friend“ wrote that “Harris stole the most part of my heritage“. Why Harris was accused of such things?

After Joel Chandler Harris published the “Fairy tales of the uncle Rimus“ based on Black folklore, it unexpectedly found glory not only in the homeland - in the USA, but also worldwide.

The writer spent the last 20 years of the life in honor and respect. In 1888 it became the honorary member of the American Society of folklore, and in 1905 - m - the American academy of arts and literature. To Harris even reception at the president Theodor Roosevelt where the last declared was organized: “Presidents come and leave, and the uncle Rimus remains. Georgia made a lot of things for unity of the USA, but all state is not capable to make more than what was made for our unity by the citizen by the name of Joel Chandler Harris“ .

Harris on July 3, 1908 from sharp nephrite (the unlimited drinking habit affected), and his house in Atlanta died (so-called. “Wren`s nest“) became the museum.

In 1936 with “Fairy tales of the uncle Rimus“ also the Soviet readers got acquainted. The translation of the chosen 22 fairy tales was made by Mikhail Gershenzon. Despite a liberty (and try - give a Black dialect!) transfer came out so juicy that still it is considered initial.

Alexander Etoyev:

“... The name of Mikhail Abramovich Gershenzon can be put safely on a cover of “Fairy tales of the uncle Rimus“ near a name of Joel Harris.... In my opinion, it is already impossible to present the Brother Krolik, the Brother Lis, the Mother Midous, the Brother Cherepakhu and other characters of the fairy tale differently...

We do not know how these fairy tales in the original sound. Language in which they are written is so difficult and wild, it incorporated broken lines, the distorted words with which the local Black population living in a century before last on coast of Mississippi expressed among themselves so much what to translate it - means approximately the same as from Old French - Villon or Rabelais“.

Mark Twain “Life to Mississippi“:

“It (Harris - S. K.) deeply disappointed crowd of children who came running to Mr. Kebl, dreaming though to look at the famous wise man and the oracle of all American nurseries. They spoke:

- Yes it - white!

They were very afflicted with it. It was necessary to bring in the form of a consolation the book that they could hear “The tale of the black kid“ from lips of “Uncle Rimus“, - is more true, from the one who appeared instead of “Uncle Rimus“ before their offended look. But it turned out that he never read publicly and he was too timid to decide on it... and we had to read the tale of the brother Krolike.

Mr. Harris would probably manage to read on a Black dialect best of all because he best of all writes on it“.


However time and for “Fairy tales of the uncle Rimus“ went charges - from several parties fell down at once.

One declared that Harris`s role as author, it is very insignificant, called him “a little more than the copyist“ and even “the secretary of the black“. Also the black took offense. So the writer Alice Walker in article with the eloquent name “Uncle Rimus to Me not the Friend“ wrote that “Harris stole the most part of my heritage“ .

All for some reason forgot that Harris never applied for a role of “pioneer“. In the prefaces to fairy tales he noted that its fairy tales - “not ethnography and folklore researches, and just documentation“ .

Joel Harris:

“As for a folklore series, my purpose - to keep those amusing timepoints which, undoubtedly, will be sadly distorted by historians of the future in an invariable form“.
should be told

Here, he was overmodest a little... With a small shred of exaggeration it is possible to tell that Harris made for Black folklore the same that Longfello with the “Song about Gayavat“ for Indian - poeticized, ordered and spread.

The president Theodor Roosevelt remembered how he in the childhood heard a set of stories about the Brother Krolik from the aunt from Georgia, and his uncle Robert even published them in the form of the book. Here only this book “turned out a complete fiasco“. Unlike Harris`s collection...

The image of the story-teller - the uncle Rimus who united separate fairy tales in a uniform cycle became the main innovation, of course. Harris always recognized that he gathered idea about friendship of the good-natured old Black and white boy from the famous novel G. Beecher - Stou “The uncle Tom`s hut“. Certainly, also children`s memories of the writer of old Terrelle, whose stories affected he listened on a plantation (not without reason the boy from fairy tales is called Joel). All this the author mentioned in the prefaces.

In general, this easy natural style of the story-teller - one of the main jewelry of the book.

D. Harris of “Fairy tale of the uncle Rimus“:

“- Old Lis ate the Brother Krolik? - the boy asked the uncle Rimus.

- And who knows them, - the old man answered. - The fairy tale - that is over. Who speaks - the Brother Medved came, helped out him, and who speaks - is not present“.


Some black began to accuse Harris`s fairy tales not only of assignment of their culture over time, but also of the hidden racism. Especially the image of the kind uncle of the Black who is lovely talking with white “the boy - the exploiter was not pleasant“. For many years this “idyllic“ sketch became a cliche and a stereotype which new generations of “Afro-Americans“ considered humiliating.

Did not forget also about the humiliating nickname “Pitch Effigy“ (Tar - Baby) which was used once by white Americans concerning black. And it is valid, on pictures to the first edition of fairy tales of Harris Chuchelo it is represented in the form of the Black child.

However, today expression “Tar - Baby“ usually use in other context - describing a problem at which solution the situation does not improve, and, on the contrary, is aggravated.

Got for “racism“ and to Walt Disney who let out in 1946 semi-animation - the semi-feature film “Song of the South“ (“Song of the South“) which is partially based on tales of the Brother Krolike. Critics did not like both “an idyllic picture of slavery“, and the patronizing attitude of white owners towards black servants. In reply Disney`s company declared that Harris`s books and “the Song of the South“ appeared after cancellation of slavery therefore there are no slaves there. Though, considering sources and surroundings of fairy tales, hardly it sounded convincingly.

Certainly, it is difficult for us to understand that such awful in the word “Black“ (from isp. negro - “black“) as well as to experience all that humiliation which crippled and embittered souls of black residents of the USA during slavery and lawlessness. However it is impossible and to go into extremes. For example, to replace in Mark Twain`s words the word “Black“ with “Afro-American“. Well, Twain did not know such word! As did not know it and black slaves …