Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Essential Classics: The Uncle Remus Tales

Joel Chandler Harris was a printer's devil for four years on the Turnwold Plantation in Georgia during the Civil War.

Later, as a writer for the Atlanta Constitution, he published in serial form a collection of stories he claimed to have heard in the slave quarters on the Turnwold Plantation, which were collected and published in 1880 as Uncle Remus: His Songs and Sayings.

Some people have found these stories controversial, and I don't really want to get into the controversy.  I will say this: I have read them, and I don't believe that Joel Chandler Harris made these stories up.  And if the stories are the genuine folk tales of nineteenth century black Americans, then quashing them because you dislike their presentation or because you find them disagreeable for political reasons silences the voices of those black Americans.

Besides, the stories are really, really funny.  The Tar Baby is the single most repeated bedtime story request my kids make.

I own two editions, and like them both.  This one is a straight reprint.  This one had been updated in its grammar and some of its references, making the collection more accessible to modern kids, without, I think, bowdlerizing it.

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