Cunnie Rabbit, Mr. Spider and the Other Beef: West African Folk Tales | Annotated Tale

COMPLETE! Entered into SurLaLune Database in October 2018 with all known ATU Classifications.

Mr Spider Wins a Wife

"ONE ooman get girl pickin (pickaninny). Dis girl done do fo' married, but no man no deh (there) wey (who) able fo' married um, because de mammy no 'gree. Well, Spider come, he say he go married de girl, en de mammy answer um, say:

               "'Yo' mus' fus' do dis t'ree t'ing; bring Lion teet' wey fresh wid blood 'pon um, en sass-wood palm-wine, en bowman'" (boa-constrictor).

               Here the story was interrupted by a chorus of "Eh! eh's!" and other exclamations of wonder at the impossibility of each of the three conditions imposed.

               "Lion 'trong too much," protested Dogbah, who was sadly wanting in the imaginative quality, and demanded hard, prosaic fact, "Spider no able fo' get heen teet' fresh wid blood 'pon um."

               Gondomah, who was of a rather silent and thoughtful turn, said meditatively, as if speaking to himself:

               "Palm-tree no get banana, sass-wood no get palm-wine." It was his way of asserting the impossibility of securing palm-wine from the poisonous sass-wood.

               "Spider leelee (little) too much fo' bring big, big bowman," was the verdict of Oleemah, and yet his tone contradicted his words.

               Sobah silenced the interruptions with the pertinent question: "Aintee Spider pass all fo' cunnie? He able fo' do um." Then he proceeded:

               "Spider say he go try fo' all dem t'ing fo' get de girl. He go inside one big forest wey (where) all de beef (animals) duh (do) pass. He make leelee fiah by de road. De part wey de smoke duh go he make good bench, so de beef kin sit down. He say: Make dem come wa'm fiah, [1] de cole too much, because nar (it is) rainy season. He say make dem no come togedder, make dem come one one. He kare (carried) one hammer, heaby one, wey he fo' hole wid two han'. He hide um. Well, den beef all duh come. De' one he no wan' he no hit um, he jus' duh coax, make dem go get de big beef fo' come. Well, w'en den beef all done come, w'en dey duh wa'm fiah, dey go call Lion fo' say: 'Eh! Spider one good man, dis make he duh make good fiah fo' we en we cumpin (companions).'

               "Well, one day Lion come, en Spider he make de smoke good fashion; put plenty leaf deh. W'en Lion come he say:

               "'Fren', I sorry fo' dah cole wey ketch yo'. Kahbo (welcome)! All day I duh make good fiah fo' yo'.'

               "Well, he go wipe de bench good fashion, he say, make Lion sit down fo' wa'm fiah. De Lion sit down. Spider take mo' leaf, raw one, fo' make smoke come out plenty. Dis yeah big smoke go 'pon Lion; he shut he yi, he duh open he teet', he duh wa'm hese'f; he no know say Spider duh watch um fo' hit um wid hammer 'pon heen teet'. Spider take de hammer soffle (softly), he hit Lion one tem, no mo', but dah hit wey he hit um! Lion he pull one big, big holler tay (until) all de groun' duh shake. He spit heen teet' out 'pon de groun', he run!"

               Sobah had been telling his story with voice, countenance, hands and suggestive motions of his whole body, and as the climax approached, his impressiveness increased. The hearers were shaking with suppressed mirth, and when they saw the result of Spider's cunning, and Lion beating an ignominious retreat, leaving his teeth behind him, they could restrain the inevitable outburst of laughter no longer. Some of the more excitable threw themselves upon the ground in an ecstasy of delight. Konah had become so identified with her favorite, Mr. Spider, and was so pleased with his success, that she forgot her own art of cunning, and crept boldly out of the shadow.

               Sobah chuckled contentedly, while the outburst was expending itself, then went on.

               "Spider hese'f run, he mean say de Lion go grip um. W'en he see Lion no duh follow, he turn back, he take de teet', he kare um go to de ooman, he say:

               "'Look me, I done bring dah raw lion teet' wid de blood.'"

               "De ooman say: 'All ret, but he lef' mo' t'ing fo' do. Go bring dah sass-wood palm-wine.'

               "Spider come out, he take heen ax, he sharp um, "Wahtah, wootah! wahtah, wootah!" [2] He fine one sass-wood 'tick (tree), he klim 'pon um, he dig hole, he come down. He go buy country-pot, big pot, he tie big rope 'pon um, make um 'trong; ef he no 'trong bimeby de pot go fa' down, he broke, because palm-wine go full um. W'en he done hang um he no sleep all net, he go 'roun' to den people all, he tief (steals) plenty palm-wine, he trow um 'way (empties it) inside de pot wey hang to dah dry sass-wood 'tick, en he full dis pot wid de people yown palm-wine [3] sotay he t'row 'way' nah groun'. He duh rub palm-wine inside de hole, en 'pon de 'tick all. He tell one man say:

               "'Make yo' follow me, look ef de palm-wine run.'"

               This bit of shrewdness on the part of Mr. Spider, Sobah unfolded with intensest appreciation in tone and gesture, and was rewarded at this point with grunts of satisfaction and approval from the listeners, and with exclamations of unbounded admiration for the clever little hero who could both steal and deceive without detection. As soon as the silence told him they were ready for more, he proceeded.

               "W'en dey go, dey meet de pot full. Spider tell heen cumpin fo' take um down, en dey two dey tote um sotay (until) dey reach de ole ooman. Spider pin (place) um down 'pon de groun', he say:

               "'Mammy, look dah sass-wood palm-wine!'

               "De ooman ax de man: 'Nar true?'

               "He say: 'Yes, nar me see um wid me yown yi.'

               "Well de ooman say:

               "'Odder t'ing lef' yet fo' do befo' I gie yo' me pickin. Go bring live Bowman.'

               "Spider go nah puttah-puttah, [4] he look sotay (until) he jus' meet Bowman, he say:

               "'Fren', how do?'

               "Bowman answer um: 'Tankee!'

               "Spider kare one long 'tick, big one, he say:

               "'One day me bin say Bowman long pass dis 'tick, but me cumpin done deny, dey say: "No, he no kin pass um fo' long." Make yo' lie down 'pon de 'tick fo' try ef yo' pass de 'tick fo' long, or de 'tick pass yo'.'

               "Well, Bowman lie down; Spider take leelee rope, he begin fo' tie Bowman to heen neck, he say:

               "'Nar play I duh play. [5] No make palaver, nar so I go tie yo' fo' make yo' no ben' ben' any place, fo' make yo' lie 'traight 'pon dis 'tick.'

               "Bowman 'gree; he lie down soffle. Spider no tie um 'trong, he jus' tie um leelee tay he reach de tail side. He go back to de head, he draw de rope tight, he say:

               "'Aintee I bin tell yo' nar play I duh play? I kare yo' fo' go to dem plenty people, fo' make den no deny me agin.'

               "W'en Spider finish fo' tie um, Bowman no get 'trenk (strength), [6] betty no dey agin fo' um. Spider tote um, he go gie um to dah mammy, he mudder-in-law. W'en de ooman see Spider done bring Bowman, he call plenty people, dey talk de palaver, dey say Spider do well, make de mammy gie um de girl fo' married, en he gie um. Nar so Spider do fo' he wef."

               Cold type does scant justice to the sympathetic tone and expressive movements with which the story was told, or to the low chuckling laugh with which its finer points were enforced.

               Gratified by the pleasure his story had given, Sobah was content to rest for the present, and after listening respectfully for some time to his less gifted companions, left the group and disappeared within his hut.

               As the inclination seized them, the others strolled away into the darkness. Careful Mammy Mamenah covered the fire, and soon the night was given over to the undisputed possession of spirits and other creatures of darkness.



[1] Wa'm fiah, i.e. warm themselves by the fire.

[2] These words represent the sound made by sharpening the axe.

[3] Sotáy he trow 'way nah groun', i.e. until it overflows upon the ground.

[4] Puttah-puttah, i.e. black mud deposited upon the banks of rivers or pools.

[5] i.e., It is play; I am playing; I am merely playing.

[6] i.e., There was no chance for improvement. It was a hopeless case.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Mr Spider Wins a Wife
Tale Author/Editor: Cronise, Florence M. & Ward, Henry W.
Book Title: Cunnie Rabbit, Mr. Spider and the Other Beef: West African Folk Tales
Book Author/Editor: Cronise, Florence M. & Ward, Henry W.
Publisher: E. P. Dutton & Co.
Publication City: New York
Year of Publication: 1903
Country of Origin: Sierra Leone
Classification: unclassified

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