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"Bouki, Lapin et Rat de Bois" (Bouki, Lapin and Possum), #49 Swapping Stories
Enola Matthews, Jennings, Jefferson Davis Parish, Louisiana

Collected by Annette Huval on April 2, 1993. An English translation of this story follows.


Bouki, Lapin et Rat de Bois

Il y avait Bouki et Lapin et Rat de Bois. And Lapin était canaille. Et Bouki et Lapin et eux autres, ça travaillait. Ça fait, ils aviont plus d'eau.

Ça fait, Bouki et Rat de Bois, dit à Lapin (that is your [word for] "rabbit"), "Allons fouiller un puits d'eau."

"Oh," Lapin dit, "Moi," il dit, "Je vis sur la rosée."

Quand ils fouillaient le puits--mais le soir, quand ça allait le lendemain matin, le puits était sec. Lapin allait le soir, il volait l'eau.

Ça fait, Bouki dit à Rat de Bois, il dit, "O, je vas faire une dame en goudron. "Et," il dit, "Je vas la mettre là." Il dit, "Je connais c'est Lapin qui vient prendre l'eau et il aime beaucoup les filles."

Ça se fait, il a fait la catin en goudron puis il l'a mis au ras du puits. Quand Lapin arrivé avec ses baquets d'eau, il a vu la fille.

"Bonjour, petite mamselle," il dit.

Elle disait pas de rien.

"Bonjour, petite mamselle." Elle disait pas de rien.

Ça fait il l'a touchée. Well, il l'a touchée et il a resté stuck.

Il dit, "Petite mamselle, lâchez-moi." Elle lâchait pas.

Il dit, "Mo vas cogner vous, oui." Ça fait il l'a foutu la tape. Sa main ça a resté collée.

Il dit, "Petite mamselle, ma foutre vous un coup de pied." Elle la lâchait pas. Il l'a foutu un coup de pied. Il a resté collé.

Quand il a revenu, il dit, "Mon gain un autre pied oui." Il l'a foutu l'autre coup de pied. Il a resté trap, c'était du goudron. Il pouvait pas s'échapper.

Ça fait quand Bouki et Rat de Bois s'a élevé, ça dit, "Oh c'est toi, le coquin qui venait voler notre eau."

"Non, mais," il dit, "c'était la première fois moi t'apé vini pour l'eau. Mo vois petite mamselle, elle veut pas me lâcher."

Ça fait il l'a ramassé. Et force Lapin était canaille, il dit, "Jette-moi dans l'eau. Jette-moi dans le feu. Mais," il dit, "Jette pas moi dans les éronces. Parce que," il dit, "les éronces va tout gratter ma peau." Il dit, "Tu peux me jeter dans l'eau, n'importe d'autres choses, dans le feu, mais," il dit, "Jette pas moi--" parce qu'il connaissait ils l'auraient jeté dans les éronces. C'est là où il voulait aller. Ça fait quand il a été, "O mais," il dit, "c'est là où je veux être mettre." Quand ils l'ont tiré dans la talle d'éronces, il dit, "Ehhhh," il dit, "je suis dans mon pays." Il dit, "C'est là où je voulais tu me mets." Il les a toujours embêtés.

Bouki, Rabbit, and Possum

There were Bouki and Lapin and Possum. And Lapin was naughty. And Bouki and Lapin and the others, they were working. It happened that they ran out of water.

So Bouki and Possum say to Lapin (that means "rabbit"), "Let's dig a water well."

"Oh," Lapin says, "I," he says, "live on dew."

While they were digging the well . . . that night -- when they came the next morning, the well was dry. Lapin went in the night and stole the water.

So Bouki says to Possum, he says, "Oh, I'm going to make a woman out of tar. And," he said, "I'm going to put her there." He says, "I know that it's Lapin who comes to take the water -- and he loves girls."

So he made the doll from tar and he put it near the well. When Lapin came with his water buckets, he saw the girl.

"Bonjour, little miss," he says.

She said nothing.

"Bonjour, little miss."

She said nothing.

So he touched her. Well, he touched her and he got stuck.

He says, "Little miss, let me go." She didn't let go.

He says, "I'm going to hit you for sure." So he gave her a hit. His hand got stuck.

He says, "Little miss, I'm going to give you a kick." She didn't let go. He gave her a kick. He got stuck.

When he revived, he says, "I have another foot for sure." He gave her another kick. He was trapped, trapped by the tar. He couldn't escape.

So when Bouki and Possum got up, they said, "Oh, you're the rascal who came to steal our water."

"No," he says, "that was the first time that I've come for water. I see the little miss, and now she doesn't want to let go of me."

So they seized him. And because Lapin was naughty, he says, "Throw me in the water. Throw me in the fire. But" -- he says -- "don't throw me in the briars. Because," he says, "the briars will scratch my skin all up." He says, "You can throw me in the water or in the fire, but," he says, "don't throw me" -- because he knew that they would throw him in the briars. That's where he wanted to go. When he was [in the briars], "But, oh," he says, "that's where I want to be put." When they had thrown him in the briar patch, he says, "Ehhh," he says, "I'm in my home." He says, "That's where I wanted you to put me." He always made fools of them.

This story is extremely popular in Louisiana. Already rendered famous by the nineteenth-century version appearing in Joel Chandler Harris' Uncle Remus (1880), the tarbaby tale attained even greater popularity through the animated version presented in Walt Disney's Song of the South (1946), a film that deeply affected Mme. Matthews. The widespread motif of the briar patch punishment is found at the end of this tale. In this variant, as well as in many other Louisiana versions, the trickster steals water from a well that he has not helped dig. There is no mention of the water well in Uncle Remus, but Klipple lists ten variants from Africa that include water of some sort (1991, 213-33). In this variant, there are three animals: Bouki, Lapin, and Rat de Bois (or Possum). Bouki and Rat de Bois use tar to fashion a catin (a doll in the image of a lady) to catch Lapin. Another interesting aspect of Mme. Matthews' version is the way in which she tends to switch from Cajun to Creole French when Lapin begins to speak in anger; the angry Lapin uses such Creole phrases as ma foutre, mon gain and t'apé vini.

For more information about this and related tales, refer to the book Swapping Stories: Folktales from Louisiana, published by University Press of Mississippi.

About the Transcriptions


National Endowment for the Arts.

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