The Tar-Baby

By Greg Baer M.D.

August 29, 2012

In 1879 the Atlanta Constitution began to publish a series of folk tales written by Joel Chandler Harris, a young journalist at the newspaper. He used the voice of an aged black man to tell a number of humorous and provocative stories set in the culture of the Deep South. The two most frequent stars of these tales, Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox, were perpetual enemies, and perhaps the most beloved of these anecdotes was "The Wonderful Tar-Baby Story." Because the language Mr. Chandler chose for his stories was both old and peculiar to a certain Southern culture, it can be quite difficult for us to read today, and I therefore choose to render the story in modern English and in an edited form.

Brer Fox mixed some tar and turpentine and fashioned it into a figure he called a Tar-Baby, which he set on the side of the road. Then he hid himself in the bushes to see what would happen. Before long Brer Rabbit came prancing down the road with all the energy in the world, but when he saw the Tar-Baby he immediately stopped in front of it, quite astonished.

"Good morning!" said Brer Rabbit. "Nice weather."

When the Tar-Baby failed to answer, Brer Rabbit tried some additional small talk, and when the Tar-Baby still refused to speak, Brer Rabbit said, "Are you deaf? Because if you are, I can shout louder."

After no answer from the Tar-Baby, Brer Rabbit said, "Oh, so you're stuck up and think you're better than me. Well then, I'm going to cure you of that. I'll teach you to speak to respectable people when they talk to you if it's the last thing I do. If you don't take off your hat and say hello, I'll bust you wide open."

There was still no response from the Tar-Baby, and all the while Brer Fox was laughing to himself as he watched the spectacle. Brer Rabbit punched the Tar-Baby in the side of his head, and now the Rabbit's fist was stuck in the Tar-Baby's head.

"If you don't let me go," said Brer Rabbit, "I'll hit you again," and he hit the Tar-Baby with the other hand, which was then stuck fast. "You turn me loose," said the Rabbit, "or I'll kick the stuffing out of you." And then he kicked the Tar-Baby with both feet, which then stuck in the tar.

Blind with anger, Brer Rabbit demanded that the Tar-Baby let him go or he'd butt him with his head, which he did. Now that the Rabbit was completely immobilized, the Fox came out from his hiding place, laughing until he was sick.

We're all so susceptible to being trapped by innumerable enticements around us, just as Brer Rabbit was by the Tar-Baby:

  • Indulging in the pleasures of Imitation Love.
  • Acting like a victim, or arguing with a victim.
  • Anger.
  • Feeling obligated to interact with people who drain us of all the love we have.
  • Guilt.

Each of these activities sinks us further into the binding goo. It's much easier to stay away from the Tar-Baby than it is to fight it.

The more we tell the truth, and find Real Love, and share it with others, the farther we travel down the road away from the prison of the Tar-Baby. Works every time.

Don't know where to start?

Start here:

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

About the author 

Greg Baer, M.D.

I am the founder of The Real Love® Company, Inc, a non-profit organization. Following the sale of my successful ophthalmology practice I have dedicated the past 25 years to teaching people a remarkable process that replaces all of life's "crazy" with peace, confidence and meaning in various aspects of their personal lives, including parenting, marriages, the workplace and more.

Subscribe to our newsletter now!