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Anansi Brings Stories to the World

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Anansi stretched his eight legs as he sat in the middle of his web, watching the people around their fires in the evening. They were restless and the children were bored. “How can I help them?” Anansi said to himself – he rather liked people, being one himself sometimes. “I know, stories! They need stories to tell and to listen to… mmm” he thought.

He knew that all the stories were kept in a beautiful wooden box by Nyame, the Sky God. He also knew that Nyame kept the box close to him at all times. For this, he would not be able to use trickery and sneak it away from the Sky God.

As the great sun rose in the morning sky, Anansi spun a beautiful silken thread, long enough to reach all the way to the clouds and he scampered up to heaven to talk to Nyame.

He knew he must be polite and on his best behaviour. He bowed low. “Oh Nyame, great and wise god of the Sky, I wish to have your box of stories to take back to the people. What is your price?”

Nyame’s laughter thundered out, shaking the clouds around. “Ho, ho, ho, little Anansi. My price is much too high for someone like you. Great princes and rich villages have tried to buy my box, but none has been able to pay the price.”

“I will pay,” said Anansi stoutly, “I will give you your price. Name it.”

“Very well little one. My price is Onini, the python who can swallow a goat; Osebo, the leopard with teeth as sharp as spears; Mmoboro, the hornet whose sting is like red hot needles and Mmoatia, the bad-tempered fairy that no-one can see. Bring to me all of these and my box with all the stories shall be yours.”

“I ..I ..w..will bring them,” stuttered Anansi as he backed away to the sound, once again, of Nyame’s thunderous laughter.

Swinging down his silken thread, Anansi knew he could be in trouble – any one of these dangerous creatures could end his life, like the lives of those who had tried before. He shared the problem with his wife Aso, and together they devised a plan to tackle first Onini, the python who can swallow a goat.

The next morning, Anansi marched into the forest waving a big palm stick and muttering, “She’s wrong, I know she is. He is much bigger and longer than this stick. Why does she not give him the respect he deserves? I know I am right and she is wrong. But will she listen? No.”

As he approached the water hole, the sleek head of Onini, the python, appeared over a branch in front of him. “What are you muttering about in this way, Anansi? You have disturbed my rest.” he hissed, irritably.

“Oh great Onini, it is my wife. She declares that you are shorter than this palm stick .. I say that you are certainly longer, but will she listen? I don’t know how to prove that I am right.”

“It is easy, you foolish spider,” jeered the python as he slithered off the branch. “Lay your stick on the ground and I will lie beside it. We shall soon see who is right.”

And so it happened, but the python had difficulty keeping his coils stretched out straight and did not seem to measure the full length.

“Let me use my silk to keep you fastened to the stick, as I am sure that we can then prove how very wrong my wife is, and how great in length and strength you are, oh Oninini,” suggested Anansi.

And so it happened, and when Onini was fully bound,
“You foolish python,” jeered the spider, “now you shall come with me to Nyame.”

So saying, he hauled him up his silken thread to the clouds and presented him to the Sky God who merely said. “I see what I see. There remains what remains.”

Anansi swung down his silken thread and once more consulted with his wife, and together they thought hard and devised a plan to ensnare Osebo, the leopard with teeth as sharp as spears.

Anansi searched in the forest until he came across the route that the leopard took every night to the water hole. He then looked around for a suitable place and dug a deep hole, too deep even for a leopard to escape from. It was exhausting work but little Anansi was very determined.

When he was satisfied, he carefully laid sticks across the hole and covered them with leaves and covered them with dusty earth.

By the time evening came, the hole was invisible and a tired Anansi went home to his supper and his bed, where he slept like a log.

As the great sun rose in the morning sky, Anansi went for a walk in the forest and heard screeching and scrabbling. Hurrying forward, he came to the pit and there saw an angry Osebo, desperately trying to claw his way up out of the hole.

He looked in and said, “Good morning Osebo, why are you in this hole?”

“You foolish spider” snarled Osebo, “cannot you see I have fallen into a trap? You must help me to get out.”

“Oh dear no, I cannot do that,” and Anansi started to back away adding, “You would eat me and my wife and children if I helped you out.”

“Come back, come back,” purred Osebo, “ I promise little one, I will do no such thing if only you will help me.”

“For that promise, I will indeed help you to get out,” said Anansi and went to the nearby willowy tree he had spotted yesterday. He pulled its top to reach down over the hole, tied it in place with his silk, and then spun another long, strong and sticky thread to reach down into the pit.

“Wind this thread well around your tail,” he called down to Osebo. When it was fastened, Anansi cut the silk holding the tree top down. It whooshed up into the air, taking the leopard with it by his tail.

As Osebo spun round and round the top of the tree, the rest of Anansi’s strong, sticky thread wound round and round his body. When he was completely trussed, Anansi went up and snipped the thread from the tree and Osebo landed with a bump on the ground.

“ You foolish leopard,” chuckled the spider, “now you shall come with me to Nyame.”

So saying, he hauled him up his silken thread to the clouds and presented him to the Sky God who merely said. “I see what I see. There remains what remains.”

Anansi swung down his silken thread and once more consulted with his wife, and together they thought and discussed and devised a plan to trap Mmoboro, the hornet whose sting is like red hot needles.

They hollowed out a large calabash and filled it with water. Anansi cut down a large plantain leaf and took it and the filled gourd to a tree in which there was a hornets’ nest.

He poured half the water over his head so that he was dripping and then threw the rest of the water over the hornets’ nest, so that it too was dripping. Anansi then held the plantain leaf over his head as though sheltering from rain as the angry Mmboro started to swarm out towards him.

“Oh dear, oh dear,” wailed Anansi, “the rains have come early. You poor creatures you have no shelter. Come, take cover in my calabash until the storm is over.”

“Thank you, thank you, Anansi,” buzzed the Mmboro as they flew into the gourd. When the last one had entered, Anansi clapped the plantain leaf over the hole and wound his silk around it to hold it in place.

“You foolish Mmboro,” crowed the spider, “now you shall come with me to Nyame.”

So saying, he hauled the calabash up his silken thread to the clouds and presented it, filled with the angry buzzing hornets, to the Sky God who merely said. “I see what I see. There remains what remains."

Anansi swung down his silken thread and once more consulted with his wife, and together they thought and discussed and argued, until at last they devised a plan to capture Mmoatia, the bad tempered fairy whom no one can see.

Anansi carved a doll from the wood of the gum tree. He then plastered it with sticky gum.

Meanwhile, his wife Aso, pounded yams into a paste with eggs and oil to make ano, which fairies love.

They knew the places the fairies like to play and dance, although they could not see them; so, in the middle of the hot day when all creatures are at rest, Anansi crept very quietly to the lovely clearing and sat the doll on the grass with the dish of yams beside it.

He spun a fine thread from the doll’s head to his hiding place in the trees. Then he waited.

As evening drew on, he heard a little voice saying, “Hello, little gum baby, may I have some of your ano?”
Anansi pulled the silken thread and the doll’s head nodded. “Oooh lovely,” squeaked the voice and Anansi watched as the dish appeared to float up into the air and the yam started to disappear. Soon it was all gone, the dish dropped to the ground and the voice said, “Thank you.”

Anansi remained still and then the voice spoke again more loudly, “Thank you”. And then again angrily “I said THANK YOU. Answer me or I shall have to slap you on your crying place.”
Almost immediately, the doll’s head wobbled and the voice squeaked, “Let me go, or I shall slap you on the other side.” Soon the doll’s head wobbled again and then rocked from side to side.
“Aaaah, let me go or I shall kick you,” screamed the fairy voice.

Thump, thump came the sound of feet landing on the sticky gum doll and it began to roll and bounce and toss around the clearing as the fairy’s voice shrieked ever more loudly.

Anansi leapt from his hiding place and in no time had his sticky thread wound round and round the doll and its captive fairy.

“ You foolish Mmoatia,” whooped the spider, “now you shall come with me to Nyame.”

So saying, he hauled the gum doll up the silken thread, with the invisible angry fairy still screaming threats, to the Sky God who stood and said. “ You have paid my price. Great princes and rich villages tried and failed, but you, Anansi, have succeeded.”

He called out loudly, “Listen to me, all you who can hear. Praise Kwaku Anansi for he has paid the price for the Sky God stories and they shall be given to him. Henceforth they shall be known as “spider stories”.

So saying, he bent down and lifted the beautiful wooden box and gave it to Anansi who had paid the price so that the people would have stories to tell for ever.

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