Man and Pirogue, Sunset, Niger River, Mali, West Africa

West African Folk-Tales  by  William H. Barker and Cecilia Sinclair

Garden Spider in Web, Argiope Aurantia

West African Folk-Tales
by William H. Barker and Cecilia Sinclair

How We Got the Name "Spider Tales"

How Wisdom Became the Property of the Human Race

Anansi and Nothing

Thunder and Anansi

Why the Lizard Moves His Head Up and Down

Tit For Tat

Why White Ants Always Harm Man's Property

The Squirrel and the Spider

Why We See Ants Carrying Bundles As Big As Themselves

Why Spiders Are Always Found in Corners of Ceilings

Anansi and the Blind Fisherman

Adzanumee and Her Mother

The Grinding-Stone That Ground Flour By Itself

Morning Sunrise

Why the Sea-turtle When Caught Beats Its Breast With Its Forelegs

How Beasts and Serpents Came into the World

Honourable Minu

Why the Moon and the Stars Receive Their Light From the Sun

Ohia and the Thieving Deer

How the Tortoise Got Its Shell

The Hunter and the Tortoise

Kwofi and the Gods

The Lion and the Wolf

Maku Mawu and Maku Fia

The Robber and the Old Man

The Leopard and the Ram

Why the Leopard Can Only Catch Prey On Its Left Side

Quarcoo Bah-Boni

King Chameleon and the Animals

To Lose an Elephant For the Sake of a Wren Is a Very Foolish Thing To Do

The Ungrateful Man

Why Tigers Never Attack Men Unless They Are Provoked

The Omanhene Who Liked Riddles

How Mushrooms First Grew

Farmer Mybrow and the Fairies

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To Lose an Elephant For the Sake of a Wren Is a Very Foolish Thing To Do

IN the olden times there stood in the King's town a very great tree. This tree was so huge that it began to overshadow the neighbouring fields. The King decided to have it cut down. He caused his servants to proclaim throughout the country that any one who succeeded in cutting down the tree with a wooden axe should have an elephant in payment.

People thought it would be impossible to cut down such a great tree with an axe of wood. Spider, however, decided to try by cunning to gain the elephant. He accordingly presented himself before the King and expressed his readiness to get rid of the tree.

A servant was sent with him to keep watch and to see that he only used the wooden axe given him. Spider, however, had taken care to have another, made of steel, hidden in his bag.

He now began to fell the tree. In a very few minutes, he said to the servant, "See, yonder is a fine antelope. If you are quick, you will be able to hit it with a stone. Run!" The lad did as he was bid, and ran a long way—but could see no sign of the antelope. In his absence, Spider seized the sharp axe and hastened to cut as much of the tree as he could, carefully hiding the axe in his bag before the servant's return.

This trick he repeated several times, till finally the tree was cut down. Spider went to the King to get the elephant, and took the servant to prove that he had used only the wooden axe. He got his promised reward, and started for home in great glee. On the way, however, he began to think over the matter. Shall I take this animal home?" thought he. "That would be foolish, for then I would be obliged to share it with my family. No! I will hide it in the forest, and eat it at my leisure. In that way I can have the whole of it for myself. Now what can I take home for the children's dinner?"

Thereupon he looked around and a little distance away saw a tiny wren sitting on a tree. "Exactly what I want," he said to himself. "That will be quite sufficient for them. I will tie my elephant to this tree while I catch the bird."

This he did, but when he tried to seize the latter, it flew off. He chased it for some time, without success. "Well! Well!" said he. "My family will just have to go without dinner. I will now go back and get my elephant." He returned to the spot where he had left the animal, but to his dismay the latter had escaped. Spider was obliged to go home empty-handed, and he, as well as his family, went dinnerless that day.

The text came from:

Barker, William H. and Cecilia Sinclair. West African Folk-tales. Lagos, Africa: Bookshop, 1917. Buy the book in paperback.

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The Girl Who Married a Lion and Other Tales From Africa by Alex McCall Smith

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