Topic: "Brer Fox (2)"
The Wren's Nest Museum in Atlanta saw 10,000 visitors last year. Located in the West End, the Queen Anne-style farmhouse was purchased by Joel Chandler Harris in 1883, and it was where he lived until his death in 1908. The native of Eatonton, Georgia, was an Editor of the ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, and the author of the "Uncle Remus Tales." The house became a museum in 1913, and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1962. The privately-owned museum is managed by a not-for-profit association.
Until recently the Wren's Nest focused solely on African-American storytelling and preserving the life and legacy of Mr. Joel Chandler Harris. Dwindling visitors have forced management to expand the museum's scope as a central repository for the preservation of Southern folklore and for the renovated gardens surrounding the museum.
When Frodo was the smallest of Hobbits, the mother of Ted Sandyman, one of Frodo's closest playmates, was a substitute teacher. Every Hobbit from throughout the Shire knew Mrs. Sandyman and looked forward to the occasional day when their regular teacher was indisposed and Mrs. Sandyman stood in for the day. For after lunch was over, and before math studies were to begin, a quiet period was graced by Mrs. Sandyman reading from her golden volume of the "Tales of Uncle Remus."
A generation of Hobbits was entranced by her literal reading of the stories taken from the verbal Gullah of West Africans who had been forcibly brought into the Shire years before. How ironic it was that, in those days, there were no descendants of those West Africans in the schools of the Shire. For the Hobbits who were there it was the sing-songey and bouncey-bounce of "Brer Rabbit," and "Brer Bear," and how escapes through "de brier patch" ended when "de Tar Baby" say "nuttin'".
When Frodo spoke fondly of those days and those stories in the years that followed, he was pushed into many an argument about the propriety of verbiage and tonal inflection viewed as exclusionary in its' intent. Frodo was never embarrassed about his affection for the stories. Frodo believed, then and now, that re-telling the stories, just as they may first have been told is a tribute to the beauty of language and story.
Walt Disney produced an animated film during Frodo's youth which was entitled "Song of the South." Every Hobbit, everywhere, remembers
"Zip-a-dee-do-dah, Zip-a-dee-a, My oh my, what a wonderful day. Plenty of sunshine comin' my way, zip-a-dee-do-dah, Zip-a-dee-a."
Was it any wonder that Frodo envisioned the times of the story tellers as pleasant and, well, sing-songey? It was many years before Frodo understood the true significance of those stories, and how important it was, to all the Citizens of Middle Earth, that they be preserved.
Frodo has never been to the Wren's Nest. It is slightly off the beaten path, and time, ah precious time, pushes Frodo in other directions. He supposes that he will soon go and stroll among the revitalized azaleas and dogwoods. After walking through the museum, he will wander back into the garden and find a bench. Next to him will be "de Tar Baby." Perhaps they will speak of times past, and of Mrs. Sandyman.