Handed down from generation to generation through storytelling, the remarkable tales of Compere Lapin are designed to teach a particular moral or to explain some of nature’s mysteries.
Compere Lapin comes to the Caribbean
The origin of Compere Lapin (French for Brother Rabbit), the fun-loving yet cunning rabbit, and his woodland friends, is rooted in African folk tales. Compere Lapin found his way to the Americas through the slaves keeping their heritage alive, the practice of storytelling being one of the main forms of entertainment.
Over the years, the tales developed differently in each of the Caribbean islands. In Jamaica, Compere Lapin is called Brer Rabbit. In some islands Compere Lapin tales are known as Anancy stories. But no matter which version, these amusing stories are enjoyed by children of all ages, and remembered and told with fondness by adults.
Compere Lapin likes to use his wits to outsmart the other animals, especially Compere Tigre who is sometimes his best friend, sometimes his arch enemy. Occasionally he is outsmarted too, particularly when he is up to mischief, such as when building an oven to cook the village’s animals, or a school to trap all the children. The tales offer moral lessons and explain some of the beauty and puzzles of nature.
TALES IN PRINT
Lee adored the Compere Lapin stories that her mother told her when she was a child in Saint Lucia. Nowadays, not so many parents read to their children at bedtime. Fearing that the stories might be lost, and motivated by a wish to keep this traditional aspect of Saint Lucian culture alive, Jacintha Lee wrote down the tales and published them in ‘Compere Lapin Tales’.
Jacintha Lee’s beautifully illustrated book is available from Amazon or locally at Saint Lucia Books located in the Valmont Building on Laborie Street in Castries.
A RABBIT INSPIRES A MENU
Nina Compton, the award-winning Saint Lucian Chef who is now based in New Orleans, has such fond memories of Compere Lapin that she named her restaurant there after him! Mixing her Caribbean roots, the Creole style of New Orleans, her classical French culinary training and her experience of Italian cuisine, the menu, she says, is playful, taking food you know, and making it food you love. Compere Lapin would certainly approve!
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