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 [21. Anansi and the Tar-baby.]


21. Anansi and the Tar Baby.

For the distribution of the Tar-baby story in negro folk-lore and its relation to negro practices compare: Boas, JAFL 25:247-250; Tremearne, 20--24; Parsons, Andros Island, 12-13; Sea Islands, 26-29. For Spanish see Espinosa (Cuentos populares españoles, Stanford University 1923, Vol. 1, p. 80.)

Version (a). Of all the devices to catch a thief, the tar-baby story is by far the most popular in Jamaica. Despite its conformity to negro practices, the uniformity of style in which the story is treated shows that it is not here developed upon a naturalistic basis. On the other hand, the trick of the escape into the habitat does not often occur in Jamaica, perhaps because it is more amusing when coupled with the figure of Rabbit, as in 59 a. For other instances of the fire-test see notes to number 9.

Version (b). Jamaica thief stories lay emphasis upon the unexpectedness of the thief's identity. In version (a) and in number 50, it is the watchman himself who is robbing the garden. In (b) it is the intimate friend. In (c) it is the father of the family. Pains are taken, moreover, to divert suspicion. In number 20, Anansi establishes an alibi by playing all night at a dance while his gang rob the field; in Junod, 102, Rabbit makes his companion put him under a mortar at night and fasten his feet, then wriggles out of the trap and returns to it again. The device in version(b) seems to be native to Jamaica.

{p. 245}

The escape by means of a substitute is more dramatically handled than in Mrs. Parsons's Bahama versions, 15-16, but as Goat is generally a wary animal in Jamaica stories, the ending must be derived from the "Boukee and Rabby" cycle of the Bahama and Louisiana equivalents. For the substitute theme, compare numbers 2, 4, 5b, 10b, 58.

Version (c). Compare: Bleek, 80-82; Cronise and Ward, 101-111; Barker, 69-72, For the detection of the father by the son, see Cunnie-more-than-father, number 23.

Next: Note 22. Inside the Cow.