Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Z's reading book this week is Epaminondas - the story of an extremely stupid little black boy (or an over-obedient little black boy, it depends which way you look at it.)

I think I must have read this book at school when I was about the same age as Z. I remembered the passage where Epaminondas arrives home with butter streaming out of his hat.
"Law's sake! Epaminondas, what you got in your hat?"
"Butter, Mammy," said Epaminondas; "Auntie gave it to me."
"Butter!" said his Mammy.
"Epaminondas, you ain't got the sense you was born with! Don't you know that's no way to carry butter?

Amazon suggests buying Epaminondas along with "The Story of Little Black Sambo" which I also remember reading at school, before it was banned.

But then I lived on an island where there were no black people and the Pakistanis who came twice a year to sell clothes from the back of a van were known as "the darkies".


Anonymous said...

I remember the colour and size of the book we had at home ( Epaminondas was sent to buy a cabbage and got something wrong) ... not yellow but brown and white. Little Black Sambo was a blue and white book.

Just been reading about Billy Bunter and how the boys in the fifth form (?) called the Indian boy 'Inky'.

Lucy said...

I remember the story, my mum used to tell it to us, glossing over the bit where he inadvertently drowns the puppy by dragging it through the water wrapped in leaves, because this would have had a far more damaging effect on me than any perceived racism.
Actually I always thought Paminandus (as we called him) was a useful fable for humankind's erroneous and specious drawing of lessons from history, which never repeats itself as we always assume it's going to, so we always react to an event or crisis with the remedy or action that we should have taken for the one before, and consequently balls up.

Our copy of Little Black
Sambo had some fairly awful illustrations of caricatured black people in it, but the tigers were fantastic.

Lesley said...

Lucy: I notice that in the modern French version, the puppy doesn't actually drown, he just gets a good dunking.


Being confined indoors most of the day, just the four of us, is reminding me of the days when my children were wee and most of our weekends ...