Sunday, August 1, 2010


My mother used to tell us the story of Epamanondus. It is best told with a Southern accent and his mother should be in the higher registers! At least that is how I remember it.


Once upon a time there was a boy named Epamanondus. He lived in the forest with his mother. She liked to visit her mother when she could. One day she decided to send Epamanondus instead. It was a long walk and she had many things to do that day.

After a nice visit, his granny sent Epamanondus home with a cake she had just baked. Epamanondus carried all the way through the forest, climbing over logs and wading through the streams and by the time he got home it was a mess of sodden crumbs.

"EPAMANONDUS!," his mother cried. "What you got dere?"

"A cake, Mammy."

"That ain't no way to carry cake. The way you carry cake is you put it under your hat to protect it on the way home. Next time you go to your granny's that the way you supposed to do."

"Yes'm Mammy, " said Epamanondus.

The next week it came time to visit Granny on the other side of the forest. His mammy sent Epamanondus again. This time his granny sent home a pound of freshly churned butter. He carefully put it under his hat and walked home through the forest. Now, it was a very hot day and by the time he got home, it had melted and was dripping down his face. His hair was covered in butter and there wasn't even enough left to butter a biscuit.

"EPAMANONDUS!" cried his mother. "What you got dere?"

"Butter, Mammy," said Epamanondus.

"That ain't no way to carry butter! The way you carry butter is, you wrap it in the cool, dark leaves and every time you come to the stream you dip it in the water, dip it in the water. That the way you carry butter!"

"Yes'm, Mammy." said Epamanondus.

The next week it was time to visit Granny and Epamanondus went through the forest. After the visit his granny gave him a little puppy to take home. Epamanondus loved the little puppy and wanted to take very good care of it so he wrapped it in the cool, dark leaves and every time he came to a stream he dipped it in the water, dipped it in the water. By the time he got home he was carrying a poor, dead, little puppy.

His mammy saw him coming across the clearing to their house and about pulled her hair out. "EPAMANONDUS! What you got dere!"

"A puppy, Mammy," he said sadly, knowing he had once again done something wrong.

"That ain't no way to carry a puppy! The way you carry a puppy is, you tie a rope around its' neck and you drag it along behind you!"

"Yes'm, Mammy," said Epamanondus quietly.

Once again it was time for a visit to Granny. Epamanondus went off happily knowing that he knew how to carry any gift home. After his visit his Granny gave him a loaf of freshly baked bread. Epamanondus tied a rope around it and dragged it all the way home. You can imagine what it looked like when he came through the clearing.

"EPAMANONDUS!" yelled his mammy. "The next time you go to visit your granny, you ain't a goin'. I'se a goin'!"

So the next week she baked a bunch of pies so she would have something to take to her mother and something to have for supper when she returned. She placed them on the porch to cool and before she left she said to Epamanondus, "You be careful how you step in them pies!"

"Yes'm, Mammy," said Epamanondus. And he very carefully stepped in the middle of each and every pie!


  1. I was born in England but with Canadian older sisters and brother. My mom would read the Epamanondous stories to me and she would do the high Southern accent beautifully. Her favorite line was : "Epamanondous - you jist ain't got the sense youse was born wit'!"

  2. My mother, who was raised in the SE corner of the Old Dominion, told me this story, which was blatantly, but unnecessarily, racist, I think, like Black Sambo. In fact it plays on the colloquial "Be careful how you step...". Epamanandous may or may not have had good sense, but he was obedient to a fault, which may have been the more rewarded quality in those times. Sambo on the other hand was quite resourceful. So much for stereotypes.

    1. I'm sorry you feel this way. I never considered Epamanondous to be Black. Just sort of innocent and young. And Little Black Sambo was from India. Could it be your ideas are race centered?