previous next


The origin of these tales is still in a measure unsettled, and there is urgent need of more scientific investigation of them. For a while it was thought that the negroes learned these stories from the Indians. It is at least certain that many of the Uncle Remus stories are current among the Indians of North and South America. It is equally certain that more is known of Indian folk-lore than of negro folk-lore. The present status of the question is overwhelmingly in favour of an African origin. The negro slaves, in other words, brought these stories with them from Africa to Brazil and the United States. The Indians in both countries learned them from the negroes.

Of the negro dialect in general as spoken in the United States today, there are four varieties:

(1) The dialect of Virginia, especially of Eastern or Tidewater Virginia. It is best represented in the works of Thomas Nelson Page. Broad a is retained in this dialect and there is a vanishing y sound (as in few) heard after c and g when broad a follows: larst (last), farst (fast), grahss (grass), pahsture (pasture), chahmber (chamber), pahf (path), cyarna (can't), kyars (cars), gyardin (garden). Broad a is also heard in cyar (carry) and dyah (there). Such forms as gyardin, seegyar, kyards, kyarvina knife are also used by Uncle Remus, but they are evidences of Virginia influence. Uncle Remus himself says, though he had dropped the broad a, that he ‘come from Ferginny.’

(2) The dialect of the Sea Islands of the South Atlantic States, known as the Gullah (or Gulla) dialect. The name is probably derived from Angola, as many of the rice-field negroes of South Carolina and Georgia are known to have come from the west coast of Africa. This diminishing dialect is spoken on the rice plantations of coastal South Carolina and Georgia as the Uncle Remus dialect is spoken on the cotton and tobacco plantations further inland. Gullah diverges widely from English and in its most primitive state is, as Harris says, ‘merely a confused and untranslatable mixture of English and African words.’ Though it was used in a diluted form here and there by Poe and Simms and though Harris employs it for some of the stories in his Nights with Uncle Remus, it can hardly be said to have found a place in literature. It has given us, however, the only pure African word still current in

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Joel Chandler Harris (2)
Tidewater Virginia (1)
William Gilmore Simms (1)
Edgar Allan Poe (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: