Bushmen of South Africa;1 along the lower Congo;2 in West Central Africa;3 among the Hottentots;4 and among the Jatakas or ‘Birth-Stories’ of Buddha.5 As to the accuracy with which the Uncle Remus stories are reproduced, the author speaks as follows:6
With respect to the folk-lore series, my purpose has been to preserve the legends themselves in their original simplicity, and to wed them permanently to the quaint dialect—if, indeed it can be called a dialect—through the medium of which they have become a part of the domestic history of every Southern family; and I have endeavored to give the whole a genuine flavor of the old plantation. Each legend has its variants, but in every instance I have retained that particular version which seemed to me to be the most characteristic, and have given it without embellishment and without exaggeration.The animals that figure in these stories are, in addition to the fox and the rabbit, the opossum, the cow, the bull, the terrapin, the turtle, the wolf, the frog, the bear, the lion, the tiger, the pig, the billy goat, the deer, the alligator, the snake, the wildcat, the ram, the mink, the weasel, and the dog; among their feathered friends are the buzzard, the partridge, the guinea-fowl, the hawk, the sparrow, the chicken, and the goose. Why the rabbit should be the hero rather than the fox has been differently explained. Harris's own view seems, however, most in accord with the facts:
The story of the rabbit and the fox, as told by the Southern negroes . . . seems to me to be to a certain extent allegorical, albeit such an interpretation may be unreasonable. At least it is a fable thoroughly characteristic of the negro; and it needs no scientific investigation to show why he selects as his hero the weakest and most harmless of all animals, and brings him out victorious in contests with the bear, the wolf, and the fox. It is not virtue that triumphs, but helplessness; it is not malice but mischievousness.