|First appearance||19th century|
|Created by||Traditional, Robert Roosevelt, Joel Chandler Harris, Alcée Fortier, Enid Blyton|
|Voiced by||Johnny Lee (Song of the South)
Jess Harnell (Splash Mountain and modern Disney appearances)
Nick Cannon (2006 adaptation)
|Aliases||Riley, Compair Lapin|
Br'er Rabbit (pron.: //), also spelled Bre'r Rabbit or Brer Rabbit or Bruh Rabbit, is a central figure as Uncle Remus tells stories of the Southern United States. Br'er Rabbit is a trickster who succeeds by his wits rather than by brawn, tweaking authority figures and bending social mores as he sees fit. The name "Br'er Rabbit", a syncope of "Brother Rabbit", has been linked to both African and Cherokee cultures. The Walt Disney Company later adapted this character for its animated motion picture Song of the South.
African origins 
The Br'er Rabbit stories can be traced back to trickster figures in Africa, particularly the hare that figures prominently in the storytelling traditions in Western Africa, Central Africa, and Southern Africa. These tales continue to be part of the traditional folklore of numerous peoples throughout those regions. In the Akan traditions of West Africa, the trickster is usually the spider (see Anansi), though the plots of tales of the spider are often identical with those of stories of Br'er Rabbit.
Some scholars have suggested that in the American incarnation, Br'er Rabbit represented the enslaved Africans who used their wits to overcome adversity and to exact revenge on their adversaries, the White slave-owners. Though not always successful, the efforts of Br'er Rabbit made him a folk hero. However, the trickster is a multidimensional character. While he can be a hero, his amoral nature and his lack of any positive restraint can make him into a villain as well.
For both Africans and African Americans, the animal trickster represents an extreme form of behavior which people may be forced to use in extreme circumstances in order to survive. The trickster is not to be admired in every situation. He is an example of what to do, but also an example of what not to do. The trickster's behavior can be summed up in the common African proverb: "It's trouble that makes the monkey chew on hot peppers." In other words, sometimes people must use extreme measures in extreme circumstances.
The American versions of the stories are said[by whom?] to have originated among enslaved Africans. The stories of Br'er Rabbit were written down by Robert Roosevelt, an uncle of President Theodore Roosevelt. Theodore Roosevelt wrote in his autobiography about his aunt from the State of Georgia, that "She knew all the 'Br'er Rabbit' stories, and I was brought up on them. One of my uncles, Robert Roosevelt, was much struck with them, and took them down from her dictation, publishing them in Harper's, where they fell flat. This was a good many years before a genius arose who, in 'Uncle Remus', made the stories immortal."
These stories were popularized for the mainstream audience in the late 19th century by Joel Chandler Harris (1845–1908), who wrote down and published many of the stories that had been passed down by oral tradition. Harris also attributed the birth name, Riley, to Br'er Rabbit. Harris heard these tales in Georgia. Very similar versions of the same stories were recorded independently at the same time by the folklorist Alcée Fortier in southern Louisiana, where the Rabbit character was known as Compair Lapin in Creole French. Enid Blyton, the English writer of children's fiction, retold the stories for children.
Creek Indian origins 
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (August 2011)|
Many Native American cultures have oral traditions that involved animals that spoke. Throughout eastern North America, it was typically the rabbit that was the "trickster." However, the Uncle Remus Tales have similarities to the ancient children's stories of the Creek Indians of Georgia, the Carolinas and Alabama. Furthermore, Creek Indian farmers made frequent use of pine tar from long leaf pines. This was also applied to carved wooden objects and statues as a means of catching rodents near granaries and barns.
In 1929, an ethnologist for the Smithsonian Institute, John R. Swanton, published a book on Creek folklore. The stories correspond verbatim with the tales of Uncle Remus. Swanton directly linked the original stories published by Joel Chandler Harris to Creek oral literature that predated the arrival of Europeans or Africans. Both Joel Chandler Harris and Martha Ann "Minnie" Bulloch Roosevelt grew up in the heart of Creek Indian territory in Georgia. A significant percentage of the population in central Georgia (both nominally Caucasian and African) still has Creek ancestry. The Bullochs were a prominent family in Savannah, Georgia, on the eastern coast of Georgia. Harris began publishing the individual stories as special newspaper columns, immediately after being hired by the Atlanta Constitution newspaper. In its archives, the Georgia Historical Society has copies of Creek oral literature that match both Swanton's and Harris's books.
There are two possible explanations for the Creeks' stories being passed on by the Cherokee Indians and by African slaves. During the late 1600s and early 1700s, the Cherokees got most of their trade income from capturing Native American slaves. Cherokee slave raiding parties ranged from southern Florida to the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. The territory of the tribe spread southward as earlier tribes in that area were wiped out by the slave raids. Cherokee raiders often kept the most attractive of their female captives as concubines or wives. Thus, the Muskogean Indian culture was absorbed into the Cherokee culture.
The connection between Creek culture and African-American culture is more obvious. Once Muskogean slaves were mixed with African slaves, intermarriage occurred. King George II freed all of the Native American slaves in his North American territory in 1752. However, the individual colonial assemblies passed their own laws that classified slaves of mixed racial background as being African, not Native American. It was also common for Creek men or women to marry slaves of mixed heritage, and then buy up their freedom. By the early 1800s, many slaves in Georgia were practicing cultural traditions that mixed those of Africa and the Creeks.
Cherokee origins 
Although Joel Chandler Harris collected materials for his famous series of books featuring the character Br'er Rabbit in the 1870s, the Br'er Rabbit cycle had been recorded earlier among the Cherokees: The "tar baby" story was printed in an 1845 edition of the Cherokee Advocate the same year Joel Chandler Harris was born.
Rabbit and Hare myths abound among Algonquin Indians in Eastern North America, particularly under the name Nanabozho. The Great Hare is generally regarded as the supreme deity among tribes in eastern Canada.
In "That the People Might Live: Native American Literatures and Native American Community" by Jace Weaver, the origins of Br'er Rabbit and other literature are discussed. To say that a story only originates from one culture and not another can only be true when a group of people exist in complete isolation from others. Whereas, the Cherokee did live in isolation from Europeans in the far past, it's also true to say that a substantial amount of interaction happened between, not only North American tribes, but also between Europeans and, more often, those from the slave population during the 18th and 19th Centuries. That being understood, it is impossible to ascertain whether the Cherokee story pre-dated, independently, the African American story. Stories are told around communal fires in the evening and would have been told to travellers and visitors – they are the memorable currency of diplomacy.
In the Cherokee tale about the briar patch, "the fox and the wolf throw the trickster rabbit into a thicket from which the rabbit quickly escapes." There was a "melding of the Cherokee rabbit-trickster ... into the culture of African slaves." "In fact, most of the Br'er Rabbit stories originated in Cherokee myths."
In popular culture 
- The 1946 Disney film Song of the South is a frame story based on two Br'er Rabbit stories, "The Laughing Place" and "The Tar Baby". The character of Br'er Rabbit was voiced by Johnny Lee in the film, and was portrayed as more of a "lovable trickster" than previous tales. Disney comics starring that version of Br'er Rabbit have been done since 1945.
- The Magic Kingdom and Disneyland thrill rides, both known as Splash Mountain, are based on the above 1946 film's animated segments. Br'er Rabbit also appears at the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts for meet-and-greets, parades and shows. He also has a cameo appearance in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and appears as one of the guests in House of Mouse. He also appears in the film Mickey's Magical Christmas: Snowed in at the House of Mouse, often seen hopping in the applauding crowd, as well as in the video game Kinect Disneyland Adventures. Starting with the first Splash Mountain Disney park attraction in 1989, Jess Harnell has provided the voice acting for Br'er Rabbit in all his modern Disney appearances since.
- In 1975, the stories were retold for an adult audience in the cult film Coonskin, directed by Ralph Bakshi. A direct-to-video film based on the stories, The Adventures of Brer Rabbit, was released in 2006.
- In 1984, American composer Van Dyke Parks produced a children's album, Jump!, based on the Brer Rabbit Tales.
- 1998's Star Trek: Insurrection saw the Starship Enterprise enter a region of space called the Briar Patch. At some point during a battle with the Son'a, Commander Riker states that it is "time to use the Briar Patch the way Br'er Rabbit did".
- 1998, The African-American rapper Stephen Brackett of Flobots goes by the stage name Brer Rabbit
See also 
- Opala, Joseph A.. "Gullah Customs and Traditions". The Gullah: Rice, Slavery, and the Sierra Leone-American Connection.[self-published source?]
- Levine, Lawrence (1977). Black Culture and Black Consciousness: Afro-American Folk Thought from Slavery to Freedom. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Brasch, Walter M. (2000). Brer Rabbit, Uncle Remus, and the 'Cornfield Journalist': The Tale of Joel Chandler Harris. Mercer University Press. pp. 74, 275.
- "Brer Rabbit and Ananse Stories from Africa (article) by Peter E Adotey Addo on AuthorsDen". Authorsden.com. Retrieved 2010-07-03.
- "Cherokee Tales and Disney Films Explored". Powersource.com. 1996-06-15. Retrieved 2010-07-03.
- Latin American Indian literatures journal (Dept. of Foreign Languages at Geneva College) 6: 10. 1990.
- That the People Might Live: Native American Literatures and Native American Community, p. 4
- "Cherokee Place Names in the Southeastern U.S., Part 6 « Chenocetah’s Weblog". Chenocetah.wordpress.com. 2007-11-12. Retrieved 2010-07-03.
- Br'er Rabbit at INDUCKS
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Br'er Rabbit|
- Full text of Joel Chandler Harris from Project Gutenberg
- Brer Rabbit Stories at AmericanFolklore.net
- Robert Roosevelt's Brer Rabbit stories
- Theodore Roosevelt autobiography on Brer Rabbit and his Uncle
- Inducks' index of Disney comic stories featuring Br'er Rabbit
- Archived audio recording of an educational ArtsSmarts elementary school recording of "Brother Rabbit and Tar Baby"