A Story of Strength
Before we jump into the gloriously rich stories of African mythology, I need to say one more thing about Anansi the spider who convinced the Creator to release the stories of mankind. AS the stories we’ve already discussed were retold through the ages, some changes occurred. Anansi’s name became Anancy and the hare became Brer Rabbit or Brother Rabbit. In case, these names sound familiar, they should. In the late 1800’s an American from Georgia, using stories told by the African slaves on the Tutwold Plantation, published in an 1879 issue of the Atlantic Constitution “The Story of Mr. Rabbit and Mr. Fox as Told by Uncle Remus”.
These stories varied greatly from fairy tales that were popular at that time in America. Joel Chandler Harris would eventually publish nine books containing his Uncle Remus stories, three of which were published posthumously. They brought him attention and some wealth but also many fans, two of whom were noted authors themselves – Mark Twain and Rudyard Kipling.
The most notable thing about Harris’ retelling of the African myths was his use phonetically to illustrate the dialect of the slaves from whom he heard these myths. To people outside of the southern United States, the dialects of the slaves were a new language.
Joel Chandler Harris did much more than simply present African mythologies to a new audience. He published articles in the Saturday Evening Post that discussed racism. He and his son later published a successful magazine who purpose was “the obliteration of prejudice against the blacks, the demand for a square deal, and the uplifting of both races so that they can look justice in the face without blushing.”
Scholars, writers, and other learned “experts” still debate the legacy of Uncle Remus. Many point to the dialects, the differences in the myths, and the use of the South as proof of the stories’ illiteracy and nonvalue. Many others, though, use those same points to emphasize their value and strengths. The same could be said of mankind. Some of our weaknesses are the door to our greatest strengths. Likewise, each of us, as we write our own story, can turn that which hinders us into that which enables us.