Brother Rabbit and Brother Bull-Frog
by Joel Chandler Harris
The day that the little boy got permission to go to mill with Uncle
Remus was to be long remembered. It was a brand-new experience
to the little city-bred child, and he enjoyed it to the utmost. It is
true that Uncle Remus didn't go to mill in the old-fashioned way,
but even if the little chap had known of the old-fashioned way, his
enjoyment would not have been less. Instead of throwing a bag
of corn on the back of a horse, and perching himself on top in an
uneasy and a precarious position, Uncle Remus placed the corn in a
spring wagon, helped the little boy to climb into the seat, clucked to
the horse, and went along as smoothly and as rapidly as though they
were going to town.
Everything was new to the lad—the road, the scenery, the mill,
and the big mill pond, and, best of all, Uncle Remus allowed him to
enjoy himself in his own way when they came to the end of the
journey. He was such a cautious and timid child, having little or
none of the spirit of adventure that is supposed to dominate the
young, that the old negro was sure he would come to no harm. Instead
of wandering about, and going to places where he had no business
to go, the little boy sat where he could see the water flowing
over the big dam. He had never seen such a sight before, and the
water seemed to him to have a personality of its own—a personality
with both purpose and feeling.
The river was not a very large one, but it was large enough to be
impressive when its waters fell and tumbled over the big dam. The
little boy watched the tumbling water as it fell over the dam and
tossed itself into foam on the rocks below; he watched it so long
and he sat so still that he was able to see things that a noisier
youngster would have missed altogether. He saw a big bull-frog
creep warily from the water and wipe his mouth and eyes with one
of his fore legs, and he saw the same frog edge himself softly toward
a white butterfly that was flitting about near the edge of the stream.
He saw the frog lean forward, and then the butterfly vanished. It
seemed like a piece of magic. The child knew that the frog had
caught the butterfly, but how? The fluttering insect was more than
a foot from the frog when it disappeared, and he was sure that the
frog had neither jumped nor snapped at the butterfly. What he saw,
he saw as plainly as you see your hand in the light of day.
And he saw another sight too that is not given to every one to
see. While he was watching the tumbling water and wondering
where it all came from and where it was going, he thought he saw
swift-moving shadows flitting from the water below up and into
the mill pond above. He never would have been able to discover
just what the shadows were if one of them had not paused a
moment while halfway to the top of the falling water. It poised
itself for one brief instant, as a humming-bird poises over a flower,
but during that fraction of time the little boy was able to see that
what he thought was a shadow was really a fish going from the
water below to the mill pond above. The child could hardly believe
his eyes, and for a little while it seemed that the whole world
was turned topsy-turvy, especially as the shadows continued to flit
from the water below to the mill pond above.
And he was still more puzzled when he reported the strange
fact to Uncle Remus, for the old negro took the information as a
matter of course. With him the phenomenon was almost as old as
his experience. The only explanation that he could give of it was
that the fish—or some kinds of fish, and he didn't know rightly
what kind it was—had a habit of falling from the bottom of the
falls to the top. The most that he knew was that it was a fact,
and that it was occurring every day in the year when the fish were
running. It was certainly wonderful, as in fact everything would be
wonderful if it were not so familiar.
"We ain't got but one way er lookin' at things," remarked Uncle
Remus, "an' ef you'll b'lieve me, honey, it's a mighty one-sided way.
Ef you could git on a perch some'rs an' see things like dey reely is,
an' not like dey seem ter us, I be boun' you'd hol' yo' breff an' shet
The old man, without intending it, was going too deep into a deep
subject for the child to follow him, and so the latter told him about
the bull-frog and the butterfly. The statement seemed to call up
pleasing reminiscences, for Uncle Remus laughed in a hearty way.
And when his laughing had subsided, he continued to chuckle until
the little boy wondered what the source of his amusement could
be. Finally he asked the old negro point blank what had caused him
to laugh at such a rate.
"Yo' pa would 'a' know'd," Uncle Remus replied, and then he
grew solemn again and sighed heavily. For a little while he seemed
to be listening to the clatter of the mill, but, finally, he turned to the
little boy. "An' so you done made de 'quaintance er ol' Brer Bull-Frog?
Is you take notice whedder he had a tail er no?"
"Why, of course he didn't have a tail!" exclaimed the child.
"Neither toad-frogs nor bull-frogs have tails. I thought everybody
"Oh, well, ef dat de way you feel 'bout um, 'taint no use fer ter
pester wid um. It done got so now dat folks don't b'lieve nothin'
but what dey kin see, an' mo' dan half un um won't b'lieve what dey
see less'n dey kin feel un it too. But dat ain't de way wid dem
what's ol' 'nough fer ter know. Ef I'd 'a' tol' you 'bout de fishes
swimmin' ag'in fallin' water, you wouldn't 'a' b'lieved me, would
you? No, you wouldn't—an' yet, dar 'twuz right 'fo' yo' face an'
eyes. Dar dey wuz a-skeetin' fum de bottom er de dam right up in
de mill pon', an' you settin' dar lookin' at um. S'posin' you wuz ter
say dat you won't b'lieve um less'n you kin feel um; does you speck
de fish gwineter hang dar in de fallin' water an' wait twel you kin
wade 'cross de slipp'y rocks an' put yo' han' on um? Did you look
right close, fer ter see ef de bull-frog what you seed is got a tail
The little boy admitted that he had not. He knew as well as
anybody that no kind of a frog has a tail unless it is the Texas frog,
which is only a horned lizard, for he saw one once in Atlanta, and
it was nothing but a rusty-back lizard with a horn on his head.
"I ain't 'sputin' what you say, honey," said Uncle Remus, "but
de creetur what you seed mought 'a' been a frog an' you not know
it. One thing I does know is dat in times gone by de bull-frog had
a tail, kaze I hear de ol folks sesso, an' mo' dan dat, dey know'd
des how he los' it—de whar, an' de when an' de which-away. Fer
all I know it wuz right here at dish yer identual mill pon'. I ain't
gwine inter court an' make no affledave on it, but ef anybody wuz
ter walk up an' p'int der finger at me, an' say dat dis is de place
where ol' Brer Bull-Frog lose his tail, I'd up and 'low, 'Yasser, it
mus' be de place, kaze it look might'ly like de place what I been
hear tell 'bout.' An' den I'd set my eyes an' see ef I can't git it
straight in my dreams."
Uncle Remus paused and pretended to be counting a handful of
red grains of corn that he had found somewhere in the mill. Seeing
that he showed no disposition to tell how Brother Bull-Frog had
lost his tail, the little boy reminded him of it. But the old man
laughed. "Ef Brer Bull-Frog ain't never had no tail," he said,
"how de name er goodness he gwineter lose un? Ef he yever is had
a tail, why den dat's a gray boss uv an'er color. Dey's a tale 'bout
'im havin' a tail an' losin' it, but how kin dey be a tale when dey
ain't no tail?"
Well, the little boy didn't know at all, and he looked so disconsolate
and so confused that the old negro relented. "Now, den,"
he remarked, "ef ol' Brer Bull-Frog had a tail an' he ain't got none
now, dey must 'a' been sump'n happen. In dem times—de times
what all deze tales tells you 'bout—Brer Bull-Frog stayed in an'
aroun' still water des like he do now. De bad col' dat he had in
dem days, he's got it yit—de same pop-eyes, and de same bal'
head. Den, ez now, dey wa'n't a bunch er ha'r on it dat you could
pull out wid a pa'r er tweezers. Ez he bellers now, des dat a-way
he bellered den, mo' speshually at night. An' talk 'bout settin' up
late—why, ol' Brer Bull-Frog could beat dem what fust got in de
habits er settin' up late.
"Dey's one thing dat you'll hatter gi' 'im credit fer, an' dat wuz
keepin' his face an' han's clean, an' in takin' keer er his cloze. Nobody,
not even his mammy, had ter patch his britches er tack buttons
on his coat. See 'im whar you may an' when you mought, he wuz
allers lookin' spick an' span des like he done come right out'n a ban'-box.
You know what de riddle say 'bout 'im: when he stan' up he
sets down, an' when he walks he hops. He'd 'a' been mighty well
thunk un, ef it hadn't but 'a' been fer his habits. He holler so
much at night dat de yuther creeturs can't git no sleep. He'd holler
an' holler, an' 'bout de time you think he bleeze ter be 'shame' er
hollerin' so much, he'd up an' holler 'gi'n. It got so dat de creeturs
hatter go 'way off some'rs ef dey wanter git any sleep, an' it
seem like dey can't git so fur off but what Brer Bull-Frog would wake
um up time dey git ter dozin' good.
"He'd raise up an' low, 'Here I is! Here I is! Wharbouts is
you? Wharbouts is you? Come along! Come along!' It 'uz
des dat a-way de whole blessed night, an' de yuther creeturs, dey say
dat it sholy was a shame dat anybody would set right flat-footed an'
ruin der good name. Look like he pestered ev'ybody but ol' Brer
Rabbit, an' de reason dat he liked it wuz kaze it worried de yuther
creeturs. He'd set an' lissen, ol' Brer Rabbit would, an' den he'd
laugh fit ter kill kaze he ain't a-keerin' whedder er no he git any sleep
or not. Ef dey's anybody what kin set up twel de las' day in de
mornin' an' not git red-eyed an' heavy-headed, it's ol' Brer Rabbit.
When he wanter sleep, he'd des shet one eye an' sleep, an' when he
wanter stay 'wake, he'd des open bofe eyes, an' dar he wuz wid all
his foots under 'im, an' a-chawin' his terbacker same ez ef dey
wa'n't no Brer Bull-Frog in de whole Nunited State er Georgy.
"It went on dis way fer I dunner how long—ol' Brer Bull-Frog
a-bellerin' all night long an' keepin' de yuther creeturs 'wake, an'
Brer Rabbit a-laughin'. But, bimeby, de time come when Brer
Rabbit hatter lay in some mo' calamus root, ag'in de time when 't
would be too col' ter dig it, an' when he went fer ter hunt fer it,
his way led 'im down todes de mill pon' whar Brer Bull-Frog live
at. Dey wuz calamus root a-plenty down dar, an' Brer Rabbit, atter
lookin' de groun' over, promise hisse'f dat he'd fetch a basket de nex'
time he come, an' make one trip do fer two. He ain't been dar long
'fo' he had a good chance fer ter hear Brer Bull-Frog at close range.
He hear him, he did, an' he shake his head an' say dat a mighty
little bit er dat music would go a long ways, kaze dey ain't nobody
what kin stan' flat-footed an' say dat Brer Bull-Frog is a better singer
dan de mockin'-bird.
"Well, whiles Brer Rabbit wuz pirootin' roun' fer ter see what
mought be seed, he git de idee dat he kin hear thunder way off yander.
He lissen ag'in, an' he hear Brer Bull-Frog mumblin' an' grumblin'
ter hisse'f, an' he must 'a' had a mighty bad col', kaze his talk soun'
des like a bummil-eye bee been kotch in a sugar-barrel an' can't git
out. An' dat creetur must 'a' know'd dat Brer Rabbit wuz down in
dem neighborhoods, kaze, atter while, he 'gun to talk louder, an' yit
mo' louder. He say, 'Whar you gwine? Whar you gwine?' an'
den, 'Don't go too fur—don't go too fur!' an', atter so long a
time, 'Come back—come back! Come back soon!' Brer Rabbit, he
sot dar, he did, an' work his nose an' wiggle his mouf, an' wait fer
ter see what gwineter happen nex'.
"Whiles Brer Rabbit settin' dar, Brer Bull-Frog fall ter mumblin'
ag'in an' it look like he 'bout ter drap off ter sleep, but bimeby
he talk louder, 'Be my frien'—be my frien'! Oh, be my frien'!'
Brer Rabbit wunk one eye an' smole a smile, kaze he done hear a
heap er talk like dat. He wipe his face an' eyes wid his pocket-hankcher,
an' sot so still dat you'd 'a' thunk he wa'n't nothin' but a
chunk er wood. But Brer Bull-Frog, he know'd how ter stay still
hisse'f, an' he ain't so much ez bubble a bubble. But atter whiles,
when Brer Rabbit can't stay still no mo,' he got up fum whar he wuz
settin' at an' mosied out by de mill-race whar de grass is fresh an' de
trees is green.
"Brer Bull-Frog holla, 'Jug-er-rum—jug-er-rum! Wade in
here—I'll gi' you some!' Now der nothin' dat ol' Brer Rabbit
like better dan a little bit er dram fer de stomach-ache, an' his mouf
'gun ter water right den an' dar. He went a little closer ter de mill
pon', an' Brer Bull-Frog keep on a-talkin' 'bout de jug er rum,
an' what he gwine do ef Brer Rabbit'will wade in dar. He look at
de water, an' it look mighty col'; he look ag'in an' it look mighty
deep. It say, 'Lap-lap!' an' it look like it's a-creepin' higher.
Brer Rabbit drawed back wid a shiver, an' he wish mighty much dat
he'd a fotch his overcoat.
"Brer Bull-Frog say, 'Knee deep—knee deep! Wade in—
wade in!' an' he make de water bubble des like he takin' a dram.
Den an' dar, sump'n n'er happen, an' how it come ter happen Brer
Rabbit never kin tell; but he peeped in de pon' fer ter see ef he kin
ketch a glimp er de jug, an' in he went—kerchug! He ain't never
know whedder he fall in, er slip in, er ef he was pushed in, but
dar he wuz! He come mighty nigh not gittin' out; but he scramble
an' he scuffle twel he git back ter de bank whar he kin clim' out,
an' he stood dar, he did, an' kinder shuck hisse'f, kaze he mighty
glad fer ter fin' dat he's in de worl' once mo'. He know'd dat a
lettel mo' an' he'd 'a' been gone fer good, kaze when he drapped in,
er jumped in, er fell in, he wuz over his head an' years, an' he
hatter do a sight er kickin' an' scufflin' an' swallerin' water 'fo' he kin
git whar he kin grab de grass on de bank.
"He sneeze an' snoze, an' wheeze an' whoze, twel it look like he'd
drown right whar he wuz stan'in' anyway you kin fix it. He say ter
hisse'f dat he ain't never gwineter git de tas'e er river water outer
his mouf an' nose, an' he wonder how in de worl' dat plain water
kin be so watery. Ol' Brer Bull-Frog, he laugh like a bull in de
pastur', an' Brer Rabbit gi' a sidelong look dat oughter tol' 'im ez
much ez a map kin tell one er deze yer school scholars. Brer Rabbit
look at 'im, but he ain't say narry a word. He des shuck hisse'f
once mo', an' put out fer home whar he kin set in front er de fire
an' git dry.
"Atter dat day, Brer Rabbit riz mighty soon an' went ter bed late,
an' he watch Brer Bull-Frog so close dat dey wa'n't nothin' he kin do
but what Brer Rabbit know' 'bout it time it 'uz done; an' one
thing he know'd better dan all—he know' dat when de winter time
come Brer Bull-Frog would have ter pack up his duds an' move over
in de bog whar de water don't git friz up. Dat much he know'd, an'
when dat time come, he laid off fer ter make Brer Bull-Frog's journey,
short ez it wuz, ez full er hap'nin's ez de day when de ol' cow
went dry. He tuck an' move his bed an' board ter de big holler
poplar, not fur fum de mill pon', an' dar he stayed an' keep one eye
on Brer Bull-Frog bofe night an' day. He ain't lose no flesh whiles
he waitin', kaze he ain't one er deze yer kin' what mopes an' gits
sollumcolly; he wuz all de time betwixt a grin an' a giggle.
"He know'd mighty well—none better—dat time goes by turns
in deze low groun's, an' he wait fer de day when Brer Bull-Frog
gwineter move his belongin's fum pon' ter bog. An' bimeby dat
time come, an' when it come, Brer Bull-Frog is done fergit off'n his
mind all 'bout Brer Rabbit an' his splashification. He rig hisse'f
out in his Sunday best, an' he look kerscrumptious ter dem what like
dat kinder doin's. He had on a little sojer hat wid green an' white
speckles all over it, an' a long green coat, an' satin britches, an'
a white silk wescut, an' shoes wid silver buckles. Mo' dan dat, he
had a green umbrell fer ter keep fum havin' freckles, an' his long
spotted tail wuz done up in de umbrell kivver so dat it won't drag on
Uncle Remus paused to see what the little boy would say to this
last statement, but the child's training prevented the asking of many
questions, and so he only laughed at the idea of a frog with a tail,
and the tail done up in the cover of a green umbrella. The laughter
of the youngster was hearty enough to satisfy the old negro, and he
went on with the story.
"Whiles all dis goin' on, honey, you better b'lieve dat Brer Rabbit
wa'n't so mighty fur fum dar. When Brer Bull-Frog come out
an' start fer ter promenade ter de bog, Brer Rabbit show hisse'f an'
make like he skeered. He broke an' run, an' den he stop fer ter see
what 'tis—an' den he run a leetle ways an' stop ag'in, an' he keep on
dodgin' an' runnin' twel he fool Brer Bull-Frog inter b'lievin' dat he
wuz skeer'd mighty nigh ter death.
"You know how folks does when dey git de idee dat somebody's
feared un um—ef you don't you'll fin' out long 'fo' yo' whiskers gits
ter hangin' to yo' knees. When folks take up dis idee, dey gits
biggity, an' dey ain't no stayin' in de same country wid um.
"Well, Brer Bull-Frog, he git de idee dat Brer Rabbit wuz 'fear'd
un 'im, an' he shuck his umbrell like he mad, an' he beller: 'Whar
my gun?' Brer Rabbit flung up bofe han's like he wuz skeer'd er
gittin' a load er shot in his vitals, an' den he broke an' run ez hard
ez he kin. Brer Bull-Frog holler out, 'Come yer, you vilyun, an'
le' me' gi' you de frailin' what I done promise you!' but ol' Brer
Rabbit, he keep on a-gwine. Brer Bull-Frog went hoppin' atter,
but he ain't make much headway, kaze all de time he wuz hoppin'
he wuz tryin' to strut.
"'Twuz e'en about ez much ez Brer Rabbit kin do ter keep fum
laughin', but he led Brer Bull-Frog ter de holler poplar, whar he
had his hatchet hid. Ez he went in' he 'low, 'You can't git me!'
He went in, he did, an' out he popped on t'er side. By dat time
Brer Bull-Frog wuz mighty certain an' sho dat Brer Rabbit wuz
skeer'd ez he kin be, an' inter de holler he went, widout so much ez
takin' de trouble ter shet up his umbrell. When he got in de holler,
in co'se he ain't see hide ner ha'r er Brer Rabbit, an' he beller out,
'Whar is you? You may hide, but I'll fin' you, an' when I does
—when I does!' He ain't say all he wanter say, kaze by dat time
Brer Rabbit wuz lammin' on de tree wid his hatchet. He hit it some
mighty heavy whacks, an' Brer Bull-Frog git de idee dat somebody
wuz cuttin' it down.
"Dat kinder skeer'd 'im, kaze he know dat ef de tree fell while he
in de holler, it'd be all-night Isom wid him. But when he make a
move fer ter turn roun' in dar fer ter come out, Brer Rabbit run
roun' ter whar he wuz, an' chop his tail off right smick-smack-smoove."
The veteran story-teller paused, and looked at the clouds that
were gathering in the sky. "'Twouldn't 'stonish me none," he
remarked dryly, "ef we wuz ter have some fallin' wedder."
"But, Uncle Remus, what happened when Brother Rabbit cut off
the Bull-Frog's tail?" inquired the little boy.
The old man sighed heavily, and looked around, as if he were
hunting for some way of escape. "Why, honey, when de Frog tail
wuz cut off, it stayed off, but dey tells me dat it kep' on a wigglin'
plum twel de sun went down. Dis much I does know, dat sence
dat day, none er de Frog fambly has been troubled wid tails. Ef
you don't believe me you kin ketch um an' see."