Cable’s Bras-Coupe and Merimee’s Tamango: The Case of the Missing Arm
Source: The Mississippi Quarterly, Fall 1982, Vol. 35, No. 4 (Fall 1982), pp. 387-405
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Cable says Bras-Coupé gave himself that name, as a strong arm cut off from his tribe. But in New Orleans people believe he was one-armed, and get mad when this version of him is brought up. By being maimed he makes himself a type of slavery and they want to keep this image, which also adds to his bravery.

The version of the story Cable uses in Les Grandissimes comes from Mérimée’s Tamango.

The legend does come from Haiti and is about a slave who self-mutilates so as not to be able to work.

Squier, the Bras-Coupé of New Orleans, took the name after losing an arm.

Cable’s lost story “Bibi” was enriched by a reading of Tamango, and becomes his story of Bras-Coupé. By making the loss of the arm metaphorical, Cable gives the story greater punch and reach, but apparently Squier, the historical Bras-Coupé in New Orleans, really had lost an arm.

Note: Plaçage is presented as real in Les Grandissimes.


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