Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 676
“The Sad Fate of Mr. Fox,” the last of Uncle Remus’s tales in Uncle Remus: His Songs and Sayings (1880), marks the end of Mr. Fox, as well as the end of the book. It is, as Uncle Remus says, “de las’rower stumps, sho.” For this reason, Uncle Remus is more serious when the evening storytelling session begins, and he states at the beginning that Brer Fox dies in this tale.
The focus of the tale, however, is, as usual, Brer Rabbit. Hoping to share Brer Fox’s dinner, he tells Brer Fox that his wife is sick and his children are cold, but Brer Fox offers him only a piece of fire to take home. Frustrated, but not defeated, Brer Rabbit returns to Brer Fox under the pretense that the fire went out. When he asks the fox about the beef that he is cooking for dinner, the fox offers to show him where he, too, can get as much meat as he wants. The next morning, Brer Fox takes Brer Rabbit down by Miss Meadows’s place, where a man keeps a special cow. When called by name, “Bookay,” this cow will open her mouth and let the fox (and the rabbit) inside her body where they can cut away as much meat as they can carry.
Inside this magical cow, they begin to cut off pieces of beef, but Brer Fox warns Brer Rabbit not to cut the “haslett” (the edible viscera of an animal such as the heart and lungs). When Brer Rabbit hacks the haslett, the cow dies. Brer Rabbit hides in the gall, Brer Fox in the maul. The next morning, the owner of the cow, upset to discover his cow dead, cuts her open to see who or what killed her. Brer Rabbit jumps out of the gall and tells the man that the killer of the cow is hiding in the maul. Immediately the man takes a stick and begins to beat the stomach of the dead cow, killing the fox hiding there.
However, the death of his old enemy is not enough for Brer Rabbit. He asks the man for the head of Brer Fox, which he takes to Miss Fox, telling her that it is a good piece of beef but that she should not look at it until after she cooks and eats it. Her son, Tobe, curious and hungry, looks in the pot and tells his mother what he sees. The angry Miss Fox and her dogs trap Brer Rabbit in a hollow log. Unfortunately, she leaves Tobe to guard the rabbit while she goes to fetch the ax. Tobe is no match for the wily rabbit, who tricks him into going to the nearby stream for water. When Miss Fox tries to whip Tobe for being so stupid, he too runs off through the woods, where he meets Brer Rabbit. While they are talking, Miss Fox catches them both and declares she will kill the rabbit and whip her son.
This time Brer Rabbit has another suggestion: He urges her to grind off his nose with the grindstone so that he will not be able to smell after he is dead. Hopping up on the grindstone, the cooperative, clever rabbit suggests that Tobe can turn the handle while Miss Fox gets water for the stone. The gullible widow agrees, and the rabbit escapes again. At this point the story ends. The little boy asks if that is the last of Brer Rabbit. Uncle Remus now bows to oral tradition and tells the child that the truth is hard to determine. Some people, he says, claim that Brer Rabbit actually married Miss Fox; others say that the rabbits and the foxes became friends. Uncle Remus does not take a stand. Instead he carries the little boy piggyback up to the big house for bedtime. Readers of the Uncle Remus tales need not despair. Nights with Uncle Remus, published in 1883, contains seventy-one more stories in which both Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox figure prominently.
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