Yesterday I wrote an article blasting the left for smearing Congressman Doug Lamborn for using the term “tar baby,” a reference to African folklore.
On the air, Boyles mentioned the African “gum baby” as a precursor to the American “tar baby.” (The original sort of tar was made from pine pitch and so closely related to gum.) I thought I’d track this down.
Google pointed me to a Kansas publication The Pitch, where Gina Kaufman writes:
While coauthoring African Tales of Anansiwith her father, Mackey discovered “Anansi and the Gum Doll,” the African ancestor of Joel Chandler Harris’ “Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby.” The dialect written into the Brer Rabbit stories is actually a remnant of the oral tradition of Ghana, and the wiley Brer Rabbit is the descendant of a trickster spider…
This tipped me off to the book, Framing Identities: Autobiography and the Politics of Pedagogy. That work (by Wendy Hesford) states the following (page 170):
The tar-baby image appropriates an African folktale. The basic elements of the tale are that a trickster approaches a figure made of tar, rubber, orj some other sticky substance. The trickster speaks to the figure and holds it until it can be apprehended. Versions of this folktale have been reported from the Guinea coast area, the Congo, and Angola, and are repeated throughout Africa. See, for example, “Anansi and the Gum Doll” and “Brer Rabbit” (Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology, and Legend).
I see that book remains for sale, though I’d have to buy a bound copy to read it. But, by now, the fact that the tar baby story comes from African folklore is incontestable.