Tag Archives: moral story

Brer rabbit and tar baby

Text (folktale): 

“The story has three characters. The brer rabbit, brer fox, and tar baby. It tells the moral story of how resourcefulness can allow you to reach your goals.”


My informant heard this story growing up as a child in Louisiana. It is an African-American folktale related to and a variation of the “Tortoise and the Hare” tale.

A: “This is the story of a sly fox and clever rabbit. The sly fox makes a tar baby figure, lays it in the path of bre’r rabbit, and hides behind a nearby bush. When the rabbit comes walking down the trail it gets stuck to the tar and can’t get free. The bre’r fox walks from behind the bush to see the effect of the trap he set, taunt, and contemplate how he wanted to kill bre’r rabbit. Bre’r rabbit begs and pleads to brer fox to do anything but throw him in the nearby briar patch. Bre’r fox hears this and decides to do exactly that. What he doesn’t know is that rabbits are brought up in dense thickets so he is accustomed to it and shouts “I was bred in a briar patch”. Being thrown in the briar patch ultimately allows him to escape from bre’r fox who is shocked and can’t really believe what had just happened.”

Q: “What do the names bre’r and tar baby mean or come from?”

A: “Bre’r is used a lot in African-American Vernacular English (AAVE) as another way to say brother or like acquaintance. In its original context, tar baby just represented a sticky situation that was harder to get out of the more you struggled but in other contexts it was interpreted as having negative racial connotations. In this story though, it refers to a black doll made of tar with a straw hat.”

Q: “Where did you hear this story?”

A: “Well these characters were part of James Harris’ “Uncle Remus” stories from the late 80s and my grandpa would read the stories to me and my siblings growing up. They would try to get across lessons like the the importance of community and resourcefulness, and the dangers of pride.”


This text is a folk tale or fable in my interpretation, specifically, a trickster tale. It is a variation of the commonly know fable “The Tortoise and the Hare” where the hare is over confident in his speed and takes a nap during the race meanwhile the tortoise takes its time moving steadily and wins the race. The rabbit and tar baby variation is more commonly heard in African American communities and is representative of the African American experience during times of slavery. The tar baby is a metaphor for the exploitation of African Americans by slave owners and the institution of slavery as a whole. It is a mild retelling for children of the “sticky situation” showing how it can be overcome through resourcefulness and intelligence. The brer rabbit symbolizes that ingenuity and resourcefulness of enslaved people as they used their creativity and astuteness to withstand and survive their oppressors. The fable is a form of trickster tales as the brer rabbit takes the role of the trickster as well as the fox. As Carroll describes, the trickster term is illustrative of a clever hero in a tale who uses their cunning ability and wits to achieve their end goal. The brer fox, the trickster “villain” of the variations of the brer rabbit and tar baby tale, is representative of a trickster who uses their sly nature to deceive others for their own personal gain often resulting in his own loss. In the variation from “The Tortoise and the Hare” tale, the moral of the story also adapts and is reflective of the cultural context from which it may have originated. As bre’r is a term stemming from AAVE, it implies a sense of African-American brotherhood making it clear the context and origin of the characters and story.

Children’s tales – Bird who poops gold


Once upon a time there was a magical bird who lived in the mountains. Every time her droppings fell to the ground, they turned into gold. A hunter was passing by and he noticed these droppings, and he wanted the gold for himself so he could be rich. He set a trap for the bird in the tree. The bird did not notice the trap. She was caught and was upset with herself for being careless.

The hunter walked away with the bird, thinking he could sell the gold droppings and get rich. But the next day, he got scared. He thought that if he becomes rich so suddenly, people will get suspicious and accuse him of all kinds of things. So the hunter decided he would give the bird to the king as a gift. The hunter went to the palace and told the king how the bird pooped gold. The king’s ministers did not believe the hunter and made fun of him. The king punished the hunter for lying and ordered the bird to be set free. The bird flew away and sat on the gates of the palace. That’s when the ministers saw the bird’s gold droppings. They realized the hunter was telling the truth. The ministers sent many hunters all over the kingdom to capture this bird. No one was successful. The magical bird had learnt her lesson and was always careful.


JG is 59 years old and my mother. She grew up in India with a very religious Hindu family, before immigrating to the USA. She passed down this story to me when I was a child. She had heard it from her parents as well. Though not a religious folktale, the story of the bird is often told to children in India, to reinforce morals at an early age.


This story somewhat echoes ancient Indian history – putting a heavy emphasis on hunting in the mountains and the woods, as well as featuring an interaction between a civilian and royals. It shows how India’s days as a monarchy affect its culture today. Furthermore, it instills morals important to Indian culture in young children, teaching audiences not to steal or be greedy. It teaches children that if you take what does not belong to you, it will never stay with you. Plus, through the bird’s perspective, a second moral of the story is to think through things and be aware of your surroundings. These universal themes make the story resonate. The fact that this fable is on the lengthier side, yet its plot is compelling and keeps you wondering what’s happening next, makes it a great one to pass down from generation to generation.

Andy and the Ghost

The Story (Over Zoom):
This story is about a little boy named Andy. And Andy was not very cooperative with his mother. He lived alone with his mother, and his mother became ill. She asked Andy to go to the well and get her a cool drink of water. And it was getting night time and Andy says “Nah, I’m scared to go to the well, there’s a ghost that lives in the well”. And his mom says “No, there’s no ghost that lives in the well”. But he wouldn’t go get her a cold drink of water. So that night when they went to bed, he was juuuuust about to sleep, when he heard this sound saying: “AAAAAAANDY I’m on my first step… AAAAAAAAAANDY I’m on my second step… AAAAAAAANDY I’m on your porch… AAAAANDY I’m in your house… AAAAAANDY I’m by your bed… AAAAAANDY I GOT YOU”. *lunges forward as if to grab me*

Context (as given by the informant):
The first time I remember that being played on me was when some of my cousins were visiting and they were three or four years older than what I was, and we were sitting on the front steps of the house where I grew up, and that was one of my early encounters with a ghost story.
It was told as a way to scare younger children.

This story serves two purposes, both as a joke to play on someone unaware, as the ending is a jump scare usually coupled with someone grabbing the listener, but also as a warning. The story tells us that because Andy didn’t listen to his mother and refused to get her water, he was haunted by a ghost. So there’s an element there about respecting one’s elders in addition to the comedic purpose of the tale.

The Goose and The Pearl

The 22-year-old informant was born in South Korea and moved to the U.S. at a very young age. She chose to share this story because it is commonly told in Korean culture.

“So in this one folktale, there’s this traveler, who needs a place to stay so he asks this farmer if he can stay in his house, and the farmer’s like, ‘No, but you can stay in the barn.’ So he’s sleeping there and he sees this little girl running, and she drops a pearl and he sees a duck eat it. And then in the morning, he’s shaken awake by the farmer who’s like, ‘I’m gonna call the police! You stole my daughter’s pearl, it’s missing!’ and he’s like, ‘No I didn’t, just wait until your duck poops.’ So then the duck poops and they find it.”

The moral of the story is to be nice to people. According to the storyteller, this story is a common one amongst Korean people.

I find this piece interesting because it talks about such a simple concept that is a sign of human decency, however, it doesn’t always come naturally to everyone, which is why this story is more relevant and eye-opening that one would think at first. People are always quick to point fingers or let others take the blame for things and it’s important to remember not to assume anything.

For another version of this story, see Kim, Jinrak. The Generous Scholar. Seoul: Baramedia Publishing Inc., 2007. Print.

High Achiever’s Story

The 54-year-old informant is a elementary school Chinese teacher and is originally from Taiyuan, China. She’s been hearing and telling Chinese folklore her entire life, and often shares it with her students. Her stories represent Chinese culture and the qualities that Chinese people value.

“Once upon a time, there was a young man who… uhm, passed a national test, and.. and his future will be very, very bright. So, suddenly, one lady knocked the door, and he opened the door, and that lady asked him, “Say, do you remember me?”

And uh, this young man said, “Oh yes! I remember you! And I remembered you rescued me and cured my illness.”

And the lady said, “Yes, that was me.”

She said, “Did you remember when you passed by our hometown on the way to the capital city that held the test, you were very, very sick. And one of the herb medical doctors said ‘We need one very special prescription that is probably somewhere, so then your illness can be cured.”

At this time, a lady– a young lady who’s sitting nearby and heard about it said ‘Wow it happens to be my family has one secret prescription. It might be cure your illness.’

So she found their family secret prescription and went to mountaintop and found every element on that prescription, and eventually, this young man was cured. After he was cured, he found he doesn’t want to go to capital city to take the test. He thought he recovered and stay here very comfortably. However, this young lady encouraged him and said, ‘Your future is set on the test. If you pass it, your future will be very, very bright. Why did you give up? You don’t need to give up.’

That man said, ‘Oh yes, probably you’re right.’ So he went to the test and he passed it. And I think he got the number one score. So that’s why he said to the young lady, ‘Thank you very much for rescuing me and curing my illness.’

However, on second thought, he looked at the young lady twice and thought, Wow this lady has very ordinary clothes–nothing special. I would find better girls with finer clothes to be my future wife instead of this lady.

So that’s why he turned around and said ‘Well, I don’t think you fit with my future lifestyle, so I would rather stop this kind of relationship.’

Then the girl was very sad and she left.

It was not long that this young man became ill. Same kind of illness caused by the same type of disease. He asked someone to look for this girl, but this girl was never found. So the man was not cured.

From this story, you can tell that anytime people help you– you should be thankful and not turn around and not recognize their kindness. There are a lot, a lot of similar stories like this in China, just to warn people to be thankful to people who provide convenience or help you. You should remember them and be thankful.”


This story has strong Chinese themes including, gratefulness and humbleness. These ideas are extremely important to Chinese culture and growing up, I was definitely taught the importance of these concepts.