Tar baby


Tar baby

Tar-Baby was a doll made of tar and turpentine, used to entrap Br'er Rabbit in the second of the Uncle Remus stories. The more that Br'er Rabbit fought the Tar-Baby, the more entangled he became. In contemporary usage, "tar baby" refers to any "sticky situation" that is only aggravated by additional contact. The only way to solve such a situation is by separation. [http://www.randomhouse.com/wotd/index.pperl?date=19990212 Maven's Word of the Day: Tar Baby] , 1999-02-12, accessed 2008-03-07.]

Story

In one tale, Br'er Fox and Br'er Bear construct a doll out of a lump of tar and dressed it with some clothes. When Br'er Rabbit comes along he addresses the tar "baby" amiably, but receives no response. Br'er Rabbit becomes offended by what he perceives as the Tar Baby's lack of manners, kicks it, and in doing so becomes stuck. Now that Br'er Rabbit is stuck, Br'er Fox ponders how to dispose of him. The helpless, but cunning, Br'er Rabbit pleads, "Please don't throw me in the briar patch," prompting Fox to do exactly that. As rabbits are at home in thickets, the resourceful Br'er Rabbit escapes. Using the phrases "please don't throw me in the briar patch" and "tar baby" to refer to the idea of "a problem that gets worse the more one struggles against it" became part of the wider culture of the United States in the mid-20th century. The story was originally published in "Harper's Weekly" by Robert Roosevelt; years later Joel Chandler Harris wrote of the tar baby in his Uncle Remus stories. A similar tale from African folklore in Ghana has the trickster Anansi in the role of Br'er Rabbit.

Term

Although the term's provenance arose in African folklore, some Americans now consider "tar baby" to have negative connotations revolving around pejorative images of African-Americans. [ [http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/07/31/politics/main1851199.shtml Romney Apologizes For 'Tar Baby'] , 2006-07-31.] Specific reasons why the term developed negative racial aspects are difficult to identify. In recent years, several politicians who have publicly used the term have encountered some controversy, mocking, and censure from African-American civil rights leaders, members of the popular daily media, and other politicians. [ [http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/05/20060516-4.html White House Press Briefing] , 2006-05-16.] [Barbara Crossette [http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/k/john_kerry/index.html?offset=60&s=oldest&inline=nyt-per Washington at Work; The Senator Pursues 'Untold' M.I.A. Story] New York Times, 1992-08-10.] [ [http://www.creators.com/opinion/molly-ivins/molly-ivins-october-30.html Creators.com] .] [ [http://www.thespec.com/News/Local/article/235824 Hamilton Spectator] . Canadian Liberal candidate is referenced as 'tar baby', 2007-08-19.] [Seabrook City Councilman under fire for using term "tar baby"] [ [http://www.click2houston.com/news/5059431/detail.html Click2Houston.com] ]

In an interview, Toni Morrison said the following of its use in her book, in an acting of reclaiming: "Tar Baby is also a name, like 'nigger,' that white people call black children, black girls, as I recall…. At one time, a tar pit was a holy place, at least an important place, because tar was used to build things…. It held together things like Moses' little boat and the pyramids. For me, the tar baby came to mean the black woman who can hold things together." ("An Interview" 255) [ [http://www.luminarium.org/contemporary/tonimorrison/taressay.htm#1 The Inauthentic Tar Baby: An Essay on Toni Morrison's Tar Baby by Anniina Jokinen ] ]

Disney

Walt Disney Studios released "Song of the South", which contains the Tar-Baby story, in 1946. The film was never released on VHS in North America due to issues relating to race. Currently Disney is considering releasing the film on DVD. [cite web|url=http://www.songofthesouth.net/news/archives/shareholder07.html|title=News Archives: 2007 Disney Shareholder Meeting|accessdate=2007-03-21|date=2007-03-08|work=Song of the South.net] The ride Splash Mountain, which is in three of the Walt Disney theme parks, is based on the stories by Uncle Remus. However, instead of the Tar-Baby, Br'er rabbit is captured in a beehive. The changes were made most likely to avoid similar racial controversies that plagued "Song of the South" from being released on home video.

The Tar Baby was featured as one of the guests in House of Mouse.

Related stories

Variations on the tar baby legend are spread among the folklores of more than one culture. In the "Journal of American Folklore", Aurelio M. Espinosa examined 267 versions of the tar baby story. [Espinosa, A. (1943). A new classification of the fundamental elements of the tar-baby story on the basis of two hundred and sixty-seven versions. "Journal of American Folklore, 56," 31-37 as cited in Campbell, J. (1949). "The Hero with a Thousand Faces". New York, New York: MJF Books, 87. ISBN 1-56731-120-2.] The mythical West African hero Anansi is recorded as once being similarly trapped. [http://www.sacred-texts.com/afr/jas/jas021.htm] In a Spanish language version told in the mountainous parts of Colombia, an unnamed rabbit is trapped by the "Muñeco de Greda". A Buddhist myth tells of Prince Five-weapons (the Future Buddha) who encounters the ogre, Sticky Hair, in a forest. [Campbell, J. (1949). "The Hero with a Thousand Faces". New York, New York: MJF Books, 85-89.]

The Tar Baby theme is present the lores in various tribes of Meso-america and of South America : it is to be found such stories [Enrique Margery : "The Tar-Baby Motif", p. 9. In :- "LATIN AMERICAN INDIAN LITERATURES JOURNAL", Vol. 6 (1990), pp. 1-13] as the Nahuatl (of Mexico) "Lazy Boy and Little Rabbit" (González Casanova 1946, pp. 55-67), Pipil (of El Salvador) "Rabbit and Little Fox" (Schultes 1977, pp. 113-116), and Palenquero (of Colombia) "Rabbit, Toad, and Tiger" (Patiño Rosselli 1983, pp. 224-229).

See also

* Br'er Rabbit
* Anansi
* "Promise" (album) — an album by Sade that includes the song "Tar Baby"

Notes

References

*González Casanova, Pablo (1946) : "Cuentos indígenas".
*Schultze Jena, Leonhard (1977) : "Mito y Leyendas de los Pipiles de Izalco". El Salvador : Ediciones Cuscatlán.
*Patiño Rosselli, Carlos (1983) : "Lengua y sociedad en el Panlenque de San Basilio". Bogotá : Instituto Caro y Cuervo.


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • tar baby — A tar baby is a problem that gets worse when people try to sort it out …   The small dictionary of idiomes

  • tar baby — ☆ tar baby n. [after a small, sticky tar figure in a story by Joel Chandler Harris] something that is a persistent encumbrance …   English World dictionary

  • Tar-Baby — ▪ African American folktale  sticky tar doll, the central figure in black American folktales popularized in written literature by the American author Joel Chandler Harris (Harris, Joel Chandler). Harris “Tar Baby” (1879), one of the animal tales… …   Universalium

  • tar baby — ˈ ̷ ̷ ˌ ̷ ̷  ̷ ̷ noun Etymology: from Tar Baby, doll made of tar in which Brer Rabbit becomes entangled in a story by Joel Chandler Harris died 1908 American writer : something from which it is nearly impossible to extricate oneself the issue… …   Useful english dictionary

  • tar baby — noun Etymology: from the tar baby that trapped Brer Rabbit in an Uncle Remus story by Joel Chandler Harris Date: circa 1910 something from which it is nearly impossible to extricate oneself …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Tar\ Baby — Noun A person that behaves exactly like oneself, a kindrid spirit. Someone you know you can love forever and ever. A person who makes life seem like it s so easy. Ryan is my tar baby. He s so much like me …   Dictionary of american slang

  • Tar\ Baby — Noun A person that behaves exactly like oneself, a kindrid spirit. Someone you know you can love forever and ever. A person who makes life seem like it s so easy. Ryan is my tar baby. He s so much like me …   Dictionary of american slang

  • tar baby —    This term refers to a sticky situation or problem for which it is virtually impossible to find a solution.     He was advised not to get involved in the controversy which was considered a tar baby issue …   English Idioms & idiomatic expressions

  • tar baby — tar′ ba by n. cvb an inextricable problem or situation • Etymology: after the tar doll in an Uncle Remus story (1881) of J. C. Harris …   From formal English to slang

  • tar baby — a situation, problem, or the like, that is almost impossible to solve or to break away from. Also, tarbaby. [after the tar doll used to trap Brer Rabbit in an Uncle Remus story (1881) of Joel Chandler Harris] * * * …   Universalium


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