Sacred Texts  Africa  Index  Previous  Next 
 [9. The Christening.]


9. The Christening.

The Jamaica version of this wide-spread tale (Grimm 3, discussed in Bolte u. Polívka, 1:9-13), has no local peculiarities. Compare Parsons, Sea Islands, 5-9 and references; also Frobenius 3:13-16.

It consists of two parts. (1) A rascal excuses himself three times for leaving his companion, on the plea of a summons to a christening, in order to rob a tub of butter which the two hold in common. (2) By smearing the innocent companion with the butter, he makes him appear the guilty one.

The first part is the distinguishing feature of the tale. A stolen food-supply is one of the commonest episodes in negro trickster stories and common tests to detect the thief occur:--(a) Taking a purge to detect stolen food as in Dennett, 92. (b) Jumping over a fire, as in Harris, Uncle Remus, 84; Nights, 253-254; JAFL 30: 193; 32: 394; and numbers 21 a and 36. (See Bolte u. Polívka 1:39). (c) Jumping over, or walking, a string, as in Theal, 115; Junod, 105; Boas and Simango JAFL 35:193; Compare also Monk Lewis's story of the test in crossing a river, 253-254, illustrated in number 80.

The trick to "incriminate another fellow" is, regularly, to smear the innocent victim with food while he sleeps. Compare: Bleek, 18; Callaway, 169; Theal, 93-97; Junod, 102; Dayrell, 53-54; Harris, Uncle Remus, 83; Parsons, Sea Islands, 8-14; also, Haida Indians, Swanton 113 (Bur. of Am. Ethn. Bull. 29).

The blood-smearing of the innocent victim in Leopard's Marriage Journey, Nassau, 85-95, is a particular instance of the same motive. The sheep-skin suit and the song in the mouth of the unsuspecting victim, serve as witty substitutes for this common device for the incriminating of an innocent person by the guilty.

In Arcin, 473, the common food-supply is stored in a granary of which Rabbit steals the key, eats the food, and scatters the remains in the house of the guardian Hyena.

{p. 239}

Next: Note 10. Eating Tiger's Guts.