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Acadian Odyssey: Story Telling Among Cajuns

About This Daily Classroom Special
Acadian Odyssey, created by Ron Dupuis, explores the culture of his ancestors by visiting "real" Cajun towns, presenting folk stories and language, describing the unique Cajun way of cooking, and allowing web site visitors to experience numerous Cajun-related festivals in Southern Louisiana. Ron is a teacher at Scotlandville Magnet High School in Baton Rouge (LA) and former Teachers Network web mentor. 

Raconter des contes parmi les cajuns

In earlier days, it was quite common for children to be told stories by their older relatives, such as their "gro-mom" or their "vieille tante." I can still remember the stories that my grandmother use to tell me in her sweet-sounding cajun French. Apparently, there was a tradition of telling these stories, because my parents had the same experience and still recall the same kind of stories that they were told as children. The word "Bouki" still stands out in my mind as one of the key characters in the stories that my grandmother used to tell me at night before I fell asleep. One of these stories follows. The particular version has been chosen to show you an example of two of the dialects that are spoken in south Louisiana. The first dialect is the one that is spoken by those who came from Acadia. This dialect is very close to the French that was spoken in the seventeenth century in France and in Quebec. The second dialect is an example of the language that Blacks brought with them when they came from the French-speaking Carribean islands.

The following Bouki stories are courtesy of Barry Jean Ancelet's book Cajun and Creole Folktales: The French Oral Tradition of South Lousiana. Dr. Ancelet is a French professor at the University of Southwestern Louisiana. Ron Dupuis and TeachNet thank him for his generosity.

Bouki and Lapin and the Little Tar Man (English)

Brerrabbit Once, there was a great drought, and Bouki says to Lapin, he says, "Well, we'll have to dig a well for ourselves."

Lapin said, "I don't need a well. I drink the morning dew."

So, Bouki dug a well. So, the next morning, he saw tracks around his well, rabbit tracks around his well. So, he says, "Rascal Lapin, I'll fix you!"
He made himself a little man out of coal tar, a little man that looked like Bouki, you see?
Then Lapin came during the night to steal water. He saw the little man, and thought it was Bouki. "Well," he says, "I'll fix you, Bouki!" He hit him with his fist. The fist stayed stuck. He hit him again. The other fist stayed stuck. He kicked him, his foot stayed stuck. He kicked him again, the other foot stayed stuck. So, he butted him with his head, his head stayed stuck. Hit him with his belly, his belly stayed stuck.
So, the next morning, Bouki gets up. Lapin was stuck on his little tar man. And he says, "Ah rascal Lapin, now I've got you. And, " he says, "I'll fix you!"
So, he grabbed a big pile of branches. He made a big fire. There was a big briar patch nearby, you see?
So, he says, "Lapin, I wanted to burn you, but I'd rather throw you into those briars!" He says, "Lapin, I want to throw you into the briars to really scratch you."
"Oh, no!" he says, "Bouki," he says, "don't do that!"
"Yeah," he says, "that's what I want do do with you, throw you into the briars."
But Lapin says, "Yahoo! This is where my dad and mom raised me, in the briars!"

Bouki et Lapin et le bonhomme en coal tar (French)

Une fois, il a fait une grosse sécheresse, et Bouki dit à Lapin, il dit, "Well, faudra on se fouille un puits."
Lapin dit, "moi, j'ai pas besoin de puits. Je bois la rosée le matin."
Ça fait, Bouki a fouillé un puits. Ça fait, le matin, il voyait des traces autour de son puits, des traces à Lapin autour de son puits. Ça fait, il dit, "Coco de Lapin, je vas t'installer!"
Il s'a fait un bonhomme en coal tar, un bonhomme qui ressemblait a Bouki, tu vois?
Là, Lapin a venu le soir pour voler de l'eau. Il a vu le bonhomme, et a cru que c'était Bouki. "Mais," il dit, "je vas t'installer, Bouki!" Il fout un coup de poing, le poing reste collé. Il fout un autre coup de poing, l'autre poing reste collé. Il fout un coup de pied, le pied reste collé. Il fout un autre coup de pied, l'autre pied reste collé. Ca fait, il a foutu un coup de tête, la tête reste collé. Un coup de ventre, le ventre reste collé.
Ça fait, le lendemain matin, Bouki lève. Lapin etait collé apres son bonhomme en coal tar. Et il dit, "Ah! Coco Lapin, là je te tiens. Mais," il dit, "je vas t'installer!"
Ça fait, il s'a attrapé un gros tas de branches. Il s'a fait un gros feu. Il y avait une grosse talle d'éronces au ras-la, tu vois?
Ça fait, il dit, "Lapin, je voulais te brûler, mais je veux te jeter dans les éronces-la!" Il dit, "Lapin je veux te jeter dans les éronces pour bien te graffigner."
"O non!" il dit, "Bouki," il dit, "fait pas ça!"
"Ouais," il dit, "c'est ça, je veux faire avec toi, te jeter dans les éronces."
Ça fait, il le garroche dans les éronces.
Mais Lapin dit, "Yahou! C'est là mon papa et ma maman m'ont élevé, dans les éronces!"

In Another Dialect

Le petit bonhomme en coal tar
Ouais, mais, Bouki té gain un jardin. Li acheté un homme, et fait un petit n-homme en coal tar dans le milieu du jardin.
Ah, well, Bouki vient, li gardé comme ça-là. Li hèlè li, li dit, "Qui c'est ça, cil-là?"
Àriend répond pas.
"O!" li dit, "c'est bligé d'être quelque chose de malicieux que Bouki rangé moi,"li dit,"M'alé couri apé li, n-homme.
Quand il a arrivé là-là, il sacré gaillard-là un coup de poing. "Cabô!" Ça, c'était les jambes en bas, vous comprends?
Li dit, "Moi dis toi lâcher moi, moi té toi!"
C'est comme ça!
"Moi dis toi lâcher moi, moi gain l'autre, oui! Li piqué un qutre coup encore! Li lâché as, le resté collé! Li-Là, li voyé la tête, tout quelque chose resté collé comme ça-là.
Ah ouais, mais Bouki toujours resté en arrière. Lapin sorti devant.
Mais cette fois-là-là, Bouki sorti en avant!
Ouais, mais, le sorti en avant, mais li tient bon li, vous comprends ça? Bien là, c'était temps pour traper Lapin, vous comprends?
C'ést pas une affaire, non. Pas jouer avec Lapin, non!

The Little Tar Man

Yeah, well, Bouki had a garden. He bought a man and made a little tar man in the middle of the garden.
Ah, well, Bouki came and looked at him like this. Lapin came and looked at him like this. He yelled to him, he said, "Who is this?"
Nothing answered nothing.
"Oh!" he said, "this must be malicious thing that Bouki has prepared for me." He said, "I'll go and grab the man."
When he arrived, he stung the guy with his fist. "Kabo! he hit him on his legs, you understand?"
He said, "Let me tell you, I'd let me go if I were you!"
That's the way it was!
"I'd let me go if I were you. I have another! I'd let me go if I were you. I have another!" He stung him with another blow. He didn't let go. He stayed stuck! He stayed stuck! He-Then, he him him with his head, everything stayed stuck.
Oh yea, but Bouki always came out behind. Lapin came out ahead.
But this time, Bouki came out ahead!
Yeah, but he came out ahead, he had him, you understand? Well then it was time to catch Lapin, you understand? It was past time. It was time to catch him! That's really something. You can't play around with Lapin.

 

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