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Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby

Well now, that rascal Brer Fox hated Brer Rabbit on account of he was always cutting capers and bossing everyone around. So, Brer Fox decided to capture and kill Brer Rabbit if it was the last thing he ever did! He thought and he thought until he came up with a plan. He would make a tar baby! Brer Fox went and got some sticky coal tar and he mixed it with some turpentine and he sculpted it into the figure of a cute little baby. Then he stuck a hat on the tar sculpture and sat her in the middle of the road.

Brer Fox hid himself in the bushes near the road and he waited and waited for Brer Rabbit to come along. At long last, he heard someone whistling and chuckling to himself, and he knew that Brer Rabbit was coming up over the hill. As he reached the top, Brer Rabbit spotted the cute little Tar Baby sculpture. Brer Rabbit was surprised. He stopped and stared at this strange creature. He had never seen anything like it before!

“Good Morning,” said Brer Rabbit, doffing his hat. “Nice weather we’re having.”

The Tar Baby said nothing. Brer Fox laid low and grinned an evil grin.

Brer Rabbit tried again. “And how are you feeling this fine day?”

The Tar Baby, she said nothing. Brer Fox grinned an evil grin and lay low in the bushes.

Brer Rabbit frowned. This strange creature was not very polite. It was beginning to make him mad.

“Ahem!” said Brer Rabbit loudly, wondering if the Tar Baby were deaf. “I said ‘HOW ARE YOU THIS MORNING?”

The Tar Baby said nothing. Brer Fox curled up into a ball to hide his laugher. His plan was working perfectly!

“Are you deaf or just rude?” demanded Brer Rabbit, losing his temper. “I can’t stand folks that are stuck up! You take off that hat and say ‘Howdy-do’ or I’m going to give you such a lickin’!”

The Tar Baby just sat in the middle of the road looking as cute as a button and saying nothing at all. Brer Fox rolled over and over under the bushes, fit to bust because he didn’t dare laugh out loud.

“I’ll learn ya!” Brer Rabbit yelled. He took a swing at the cute little Tar Baby and his paw got stuck in the tar.

“Lemme go or I’ll hit you again,” shouted Brer Rabbit. The Tar Baby, she said nothing.

“Fine! Be that way,” said Brer Rabbit, swinging at the Tar Baby with his free paw. Now both his paws were stuck in the tar, and Brer Fox danced with glee behind the bushes.

“I’m gonna kick the stuffin’ out of you,” Brer Rabbit said and pounced on the Tar Baby with both feet. They sank deep into the Tar Baby. Brer Rabbit was so furious he head-butted the cute little creature until he was completely covered with tar and unable to move.

Brer Fox leapt out of the bushes and strolled over to Brer Rabbit. “Well, well, what have we here?” he asked, grinning an evil grin.

Brer Rabbit gulped. He was stuck fast. He did some fast thinking while Brer Fox rolled about on the road, laughing himself sick over Brer Rabbit’s dilemma.

“I’ve got you this time, Brer Rabbit,” said Brer Fox, jumping up and shaking off the dust. “You’ve sassed me for the very last time. Now I wonder what I should do with you?”

Brer Rabbit’s eyes got very large. “Oh please Brer Fox, whatever you do, please don’t throw me into the briar patch.”

“Maybe I should roast you over a fire and eat you,” mused Brer Fox. “No, that’s too much trouble. Maybe I’ll hang you instead.”

“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.


Copyrighted content: This is a retold folklore story by S.E. Schlosser, who owns the copyright. This version of the story may not be reproduced, reprinted or used in any other way without the permission of the author. Teachers may link to or photocopy this story as part of their classwork.

More Brer Rabbit Stories

  • Why Sis Pig Can See the Wind
    Did you hear how come that old Sis Pig can see the wind? You never heard that? Well, maybe you have noticed, many and many a time, how unrestful, and distracted-like the pigs are, when the wind blows, and how they squeal, and run this way and that way? Well, sir, all that is going on because pigs can see the wind.
  • How Brother Terrapin Rode in the Clouds
    One day, old Brother Terrapin was a-grumbling and a-fussing, because he had to creep on the ground. When he met Brother Rabbit, he grumbled because he can’t run like Brother Rabbit, and when he met Brother Buzzard, he grumbled because he can’t fly in the clouds like Brother Buzzard, and so on. Grumble, grumble, grumble. That was Brother Terrapin.
  • How Mr. Coon’s Daughter Came to Marry Brother Terrapin
    Well now, Brother Deer and Brother Terrapin were both courting of Mr. Coon’s daughter. Brother Deer was right sure enough a gentleman, that he was, while old Brother Terrapin was a poor, slow, old man. All the creatures wondered how the girl could smile on Brother Terrapin with Brother Deer around, but I tell you old man Terrapin had a real taking way with the girls when he put his mind to it.
  • Brother Fox Goes Hunting
    Well, it was a crisp autumn day, don’t ya know, and Brother Fox, he decided he wanted to go hunting. He’d made his peace with Brother Rabbit a few months back, and he thought it would be a fine thing if they went hunting together. So, Brother Fox stopped by Brother Rabbit’s place and invited him to come along.
  • Brother Bear’s House
    Well now, out of all the animals that live in the woods, Brother Bear had the biggest house. The house was warm and cozy on the inside, but it was also very crowded on account of Brother Bear having him a plump wife and two plump young ‘uns named Simon and Susannah.
S.E. Schlosser

S.E. Schlosser

S.E. Schlosser is the author of the Spooky Series published by Globe Pequot Press. She has been telling stories since she was a child, when games of “let’s pretend” quickly built themselves into full-length tales acted out with friends. A graduate of both Houghton College and the Institute of Children’s Literature, Sandy received her MLS from Rutgers University while working as a full-time music teacher and a freelance author.