The Tar Baby and the Tomahawk: Race and Ethnic Images in American Children's Literature, 1880-1939


The Little Brother of Loo Lee Loo

In flowery, fair Cathay,
That kingdom far away
Where, odd as it seems, 'tis always night when here we are having day,
In the time of the great Ching-Wang,
In the city of proud Shi-Bang,
In the glorious golden days of old when sage and poet sang,
There lived a nobleman who
Was known as the Prince Choo-Choo.
(It was long before the Chinaman wore his beautiful siklen queue.)
A learned prince was he,
As rich as a prince could be,
And his house so gay had a grand gateway, and a wonderful roof, sky-blue.
His garden was bright with tints
Of blossoming peach and quince,
And a million flowers whose like has not been seen before or since;
And set 'mid delicate odors
Were cute little toy pagodas,
That looked exactly as if you might go in for ice-cream sodas!
A silver fountain played
In a bowl of carven jade,
And pink and white in a crystal pond the water-lilies swayed.
But never a flower that grew
In the garden of Prince Choo-Choo
Was half so fair as his daughter there, the Princess Loo-lee Loo.
[illustration - Loo-lee Loo.]
Each day she came and sat
On her queer little bamboo mat.
(And I hope she carried a doll or two, but I can't be sure of that!)
She watched the fountain toss,
And she gazed the bridge across
And she worked a bit of embroidery fine with a thread of silken floss.

She touched her wee guitar,
The gift of her prince-papa,
And she hummed a queer little Chinese tune with a Chinese tra-la-la!
It was all that she had to do
To keep her from feeling blue,
[illustration - Su-See]
For terribly lonely and dull sometimes was poor little Loo-lee Loo.
Her father had kites to fly
Far up in the free blue sky
(For a Chinaman loves with this elegant sport his leisure to occupy);
And what with his drums and gongs,
And his numerous loud ding-dongs,
He could have any day, in a princely way,
a regular Fourth of July.
He mother, the fair Su-See,
Was as busy as she could be,
Though she never went out, except perhaps, to a neighboring afternoon tea;
She was young herself, as yet,
And the minutes that she could get
She spent in studying up on the rules of Elegant Etiquette.
So the princess nibbled her plums,
And twirled her dear little thumbs,
And lent sometimes a wistful ear to the beating of distant drums;
Until one April day—
Tsing Ming, as they would say—
She saw at the gate a sight that straight took Loo-lee's breath away.
Two dimples, soft and meek,
In a brown little baby cheek,
Two dear little eyes that met her own in a ravishing glance oblique;
A chubby hand thrust through
The palings of bamboo—
A little Celestial, dropped, it seemed, straight out of the shining blue.
[illustration - Loo-lee Loo and little Fing-Wee.]
A playmate, a friend, a toy,
A live little baby boy—
Conceive, if you can, in her lonely state, the Princess Loo-lee's joy!

How, as fast as her feet could toddle
(Her shoes were a Chinese model),
She hurried him in, and almost turned his dear little wondering noddle.
"Oh, is it," she bent to say
In her courteous Chinese way,
In my very contemptible garden, dear, your illustrious wish to play?"
And when he nodded his head
She knew that he would have said,
"My significant feet are proud your honored estate to tread!"
Oh, then, but the garden rang
With laughter and joy— ting, tang!
There was never a happier spot that day in the realm of the great Ching-Wang!
And oh, but it waned too soon,
That golden afternoon,
When the princess played with her Ray of the Sun, her darling Beam of the Moon!
For when the shadows crept
Where the folded lilies slept,
Out into the garden all at once the prince her father stepped,
With a dignified air benign,
And a smile of his features fine,
And a perfectly gorgeous gown of silk embroidered with flower and vine.
A fan in his princely hand,
Which he waved with a gesture bland
(Instead of a gentleman's walking-stick it was carried, you understand),
In splendor of girdle and shoe,
In a glitter of gold and of blue,
With the fair Su-See at his side came he, the lordly Prince Choo-Choo.
The princess bent her brow
In a truly Celestial bow,
Saluted her father with filial grace, and made him the grand kotow.
(For every child that's bright
Knows well the rule that's right,
That to knock your head on the ground nine times is the way to be polite.)
"And, pray, what have we here?"
In language kind though queer
The prince observed. "It looks to me like a little boy, my dear!"
"Why, that's what it is!" in glee
The princess cried. "Fing-Wee—
Most Perfectly Peerless Prince-Papa, a dear little brother for me!"
[illustration - Prince Choo-Choo.]
Loud laughed the Prince Choo-Choo,
And I fancy he said "Pooh-pooh!"
(That sounds very much like a Chinese word, and expresses his feelings, too!)
And the fair Su-See leaned low.
"My Bud of the Rose, you know
If little Fing-Wee our son should be, your honors to him must go!"
But the princess's eyes were wet,
For her dear little heart was set
On having her way till she quite forgot her daughterly etiquette.

"Oh, what do I care!" she said.
"If he only may stay," she plead,
"I will give him the half of my bowl of rice and all of my fish and bread!"
"Dear, dear!" said the Prince Choo-Choo,
"Now here is a how-do-you-do!
Is there nothing, O Jasmine-Flower, instead?
A parasol pink or blue?
A beautiful big balloon?"
But she wept to the same old tune,
[illustration - The tortoise test.]
"I'd rather have little Fing-Wee, papa, than anything under the moon!"
The the prince he called for lights,
And he called for the Book of Rites
And all of the classical literature that he loved to read o' nights;
And he read till the dawn of day
In his very remarkable way,
From end to beginning, from bottom to top, as only a Chinaman may.
"My father adopted a son,
His father the same had done;
Some thousands of years ago, it appears, the custom was thus begun."
He stopped for a pinch of snuff;
His logic was sound, though tough;
You may rightfully follow what plan you please, if it's only antique enough!
"A son," he thoughtfully said,
"To serve me with rice and bread;
To burn the paper above my grave and honor my aged head!
Oh, try me the tortoise sign
With a tortoise of ancient line:
If he turns his toes straight in as he goes, the boy is certainly mine!"
Oho! but the garden rang
On that wonderful night— ting, tang!
When a banquet meet was served the elite of the city of proud Shi-Bang!
And all who passed that way
Might read in letters gay
As long as your arm, "The Prince Choo-Choo adopts a son to-day!"

[illustration - "And the gifts that were brought for the little Fing-Wee would fill me a chapter or two."]
There was knocking of heads galore;
There were trumpets and drums a score;
The gay pavilions were lit with millions of lamps from ceiling to floor.
And oh, but the chop-sticks flew
In the palace of Prince Choo-Choo,
And the gifts that were brought for the little Fing-Wee would fill me a chapter or two.
But with never a single toy,
The princess cried for joy,
Nor cared she a jot that they all forgot it was she who had found the boy!
Her dear little heart it sang
Like a bird in her breast— ting, tang!
There was never a happier child that night in the realm of the great Ching-Wang!
And her mother, the fair Su-See,
She looked at the little Fing-Wee—
There were mothers in China some thousands of years before you were born, trust me!
She looked at the children two,
And down in the dusk and the dew,
With a tender mist in her eyes she kissed the Princess Loo-lee Loo!