Tuesday's Tales - a story from West Africa

I like 'Anansi' or 'Spider' stories; I used to think that he reminded me of Brer Rabbit, only to find out that the Brer Rabbit stories can be traced back to the trickster figures in Africa!

The Conceited Spider

In the olden days all the stories which men told were stories of Nyankupon, the chief of the Gods.  Spider, who was very conceited, wanted the stories to be told about him.

One day he went to Nyankupon and asked that, in future, all tales told by men might be Anansi stories, instead of Nyankupon stories.  Nyankupon agreed, on one condition.  He told Spider (or Anansi) that he must bring him three things – the first was a jar full of live bees, the second was a boa constrictor, and the third a tiger.  Spider agreed.

He took an earthen vessel and went to where he knew there were a number of bees.  When he came within sight of the bees he began saying to himself, “They will not be able to fill this jar”; “Yes, they will be able”; “No, they will not be able” … until the bees came up to him and said, “What are you talking about, Mr Anansi?”  He explained to them that Nyankupon and he had had a great dispute.  Nyankupon had said the bees could not fly into the jar but Anansi had said they could.  The bees immediately said that of course they could fly into the jar, which they did.  As soon as they were inside, Anansi sealed the jar and sent it to Nyankupon.

Next day he took a long stick and set out in search of a boa-constrictor.  When he came to where one lived he began speaking to himself again.  “He will be just as long as this stick”; “No, he will not be so long as this”; Yes, he will be as long as this” … He kept repeating these words until the boa came out and asked him what was the matter.  “Oh we have been having a dispute.  Nyankupon’s people say you are not as long as this stick.  I say you are.  Please let me measure you by it.”  The boa innocently laid himself out straight, and Anansi quickly tied him to the stick from end to end.  He then sent it to Nyankupon.

The third day he took a needle and thread and sewed up his eye.  He then set out for a den where he knew a tiger lived.  As he approached, he began to shout and sing so loudly that the tiger came out to see what was the matter.  “Can you not see?” said Anansi.  “My eye is sewn up and now I can see such wonderful things that I must sing about them.”  “Sew up my eyes,” said the tiger, “then I too can see these surprising sights.”  Anansi immediately did so.  Having made the tiger helpless, he led him to Nyankupon’s house.  Nyankupon was amazed at Spider’s cleverness in fulfilling the three conditions.  And so he gave him permission for all the old tales to be called Anansi tales.