Brer Rabbit: Mr. Fox Tackles Old Man Tarrypin

Here you will meet Old Man Tarrypin, the turtle inhabitant of Brer Rabbit's world. The word "terrapin" is, like opossum, another Native American word, also Algonquian (Abenaki turepe, Delaware tolpew). This story is a follow-up to an earlier encounter when Brer Rabbit and Brer Turtle humiliated Brer Fox when they were visiting at the house of Miss Meadows, a madame whose house of "gals" was a source of great interest for the animals.

If you are interested in parallel stories, there are both Buddhist and Native American stories about a turtle who tricks his enemies into throwing him back into the water. For a Buddhist version from India, see the Jataka unit: How the Turtle Saved His Own Life. For Native American versions, see the Senecan story Turtle on the War Path and the Pawnee story The Big Turtle's War Party. Here in the UnTextbook, you can find a Cherokee version here: The Terrapin's Escape From The Wolves. How did that happen? Many stories from India traveled to Africa, and then the stories came from Africa to the Americas and were then adopted and adapted by Native American storytellers.

[Notes by LKG]

This story is part of the Brer Rabbit unit. Story source: Uncle Remus: His Songs and His Sayings by Joel Chandler Harris (1881).


Mr. Fox Tackles Old Man Tarrypin

One day Brer Fox strike up with Brer Terrapin right in the middle of the big road. Brer Terrapin done heared him coming, and he allow to hisself that he'd sort of keep one eye open; but Brer Fox was monstrous polite, and he open up the confab, he did, like he ain't see Brer Terrapin since the last freshet.

"Heyo, Brer Terrapin, where you been this long-come-short?" says Brer Fox, says he.


"Lounging 'round, Brer Fox, lounging 'round," says Brer Terrapin.

"You don't look sprucy like you did, Brer Terrapin," says Brer Fox, says he.

"Lounging 'round and suffering," says Brer Terrapin, says he.


Then the talk sort of run on like this:

"What ail you, Brer Terrapin? Your eye look mighty red," says Brer Fox, says he.

"Lord, Brer Fox, you don' know what trouble is. You ain't been lounging 'round and suffering," says Brer Terrapin, says he.


"Both eyes red, and you look like you mighty weak, Brer Terrapin," says Brer Fox, says he.

"Lord, Brer Fox, you don't know what trouble is," says Brer Terrapin, says he.

"What ail you now, Brer Terrapin?" says Brer Fox, says he.

"Took a walk the other day, and man come long and set the field a-fire. Lord, Brer Fox, you don't know what trouble is," says Brer Terrapin, says he.

"How you get out the fire, Brer Terrapin?" says Brer Fox, says he.

"Sat and took it, Brer Fox," says Brer Terrapin, says he. "Sat and took it, and the smoke sift in my eye, and the fire scorch my back," says Brer Terrapin, says he.


"Likewise it burn your tail off," says Brer Fox, says he.

"Oh, no, there's the tail, Brer Fox," says Brer Terrapin, says he, and with that he uncurl his tail from under the shell, and no sooner did he do that than Brer Fox grab it, and holler out, "Oh, yes, Brer Terrapin! Oh, yes! And so you are the man what lam me on the head at Miss Meadows's is you? You are in with Brer Rabbit, is you? Well, I'm going to out you."

Brer Terrapin beg and beg, but it weren't no use. Brer Fox done been fool so much that he look like he determined for to have Brer Terrapin haslet. Then Brer Terrapin beg Brer Fox not for to drown him, but Brer Fox ain't making no promise, and then he beg Brer Fox for to burn him, 'cause he done used to fire, but Brer Fox don't say nothing.

By and by Brer Fox drag Brer Terrapin off little ways below the spring-house, and souse him under the water. Then Brer Terrapin begin for to holler, "Turn loose that stump root and catch hold of me—turn loose that stump root and catch hold of me."

Brer Fox he holler back, "I ain't got hold of no stump root, and I is got hold of you."

Brer Terrapin he keep on hollering, "Catch hold of me—I'm a-drowning—I'm a-drowning—turn loose the stump root and catch hold of me."


Sure enough, Brer Fox turn loose the tail, and Brer Terrapin, he went down to the bottom—kerblunkity-blink!


Old man Terrapin was at home I tell you. Kerblinkity-blunk!



(500 words)















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