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.

Goro, the Wonderful Wrestler

"ONE tem all dem beef (animals) dey gadder to one place, all dem beef dis wuld, but de head of dem all, dat now one ooman en he pickin (pickaninny). De pickin name Goro. One net big rain fa' down, he out all de fiah. Now de mawnin' cole, all dem beef dey trimble, dey cole too much. No fiah no deh fo' make demse'f wa'm. Dey see one leelee place deh wey smoke duh come out. Dey sen' Deer, dem say:

               "'Go bring fiah fo' we, over yandah to dat place.'

               "Deer go, he meet de ooman en he pickin wey duh sit down close de fiah. Dey try wa'm demse'f by de fiah. W'en Deer reach he tell de ooman 'Mawnin'; he say: "I come beg fiah."

               "De ooman say, 'I nebber greedy (begrudge) pusson fiah, but I get one law heah. Pusson wey wan' fiah mus' fet (fight) wid me pickin, mus' beat um. Yo' see de leelee girl? One place outside dah do', he nar (is) de fet place, he rub, he smooth. Go fet me pickin; ef yo' beat um yo' take de fiah.'

               "De Deer he look de pickin foolish nah heen [1] yi, he say:

               "'Mammy, yo' wan' make I kill yo' pickin?'

               "De ooman say: 'Nebber min', kill um, de fault not yo' yown.'

               "Deer say: 'All ret.'

               "De pickin come, dey two grip, dey begin fo' fet, de ooman begin fo' sing; he duh sing fo' he pickin, he no duh sing fo' de Deer. He sing:

"'Goro, Goro,    
Fet like how yo' bin fet ebery day,     
Tay (until) all de groun' duh shake.'"

               As if in sympathy with the rhythm of the song, Sobah's whole body began to sway back and forth, his voice rose and fell in musical cadences, and his hands began to clap in time to the movement of the song. All the listeners took up the rhythmic swaying of the body and the measured clapping of the hands, and as soon as they caught the words, joined heartily in the chant. Not satisfied with the first result, Sobah led off with a repetition. This time there was no occasion for dissatisfaction, and the story proceeded with increasing animation.

               "Goro fet, he fet. He hase (raised) de Deer up; de Deer go take one yeah up befo' he come down. W'en he fa' down he get cough. Some tem ef yo' deh nah (in) bush en Deer cough, yo' go say, 'Nar (is) pusson.'"

               "Dat nar true," broke in Dogbah eagerly, a spark of understanding falling on his dull mind. "Mese'f bin hearee um cough to-day nah bush. Dah fa' wey he bin fa' long tem make he cough so," and he shook with laughter, as if Mr. Deer's hard fall were highly amusing.

               Sobah, taking up the interrupted thread of the narrative, said: "Well, Deer go home widout no fiah."

               "Elephan' he say: 'I go go, I jus' wrap me mout' 'pon dis girl I twis' um, I hase (raise) um up, I wop um down, I take de fiah.' Well he begin root dem big, big 'tick wid he teet' fo' show how he 'trong; he say: 'Nar so I go meet de girl.'

               "Well, w'en Elephan' go, he tell de ooman how do, he meet de fiah, he wan' take um. De ooman say: 'All ret,' he say: 'Look me pickin. Go fet.' De pickin begin, de ooman sing de same sing w'en dey grip fo' fet.

"'Goro, Goro,    
Fet lek how yo' bin fet ebery day,     
Tay all de groun' duh shake.'"

               This time the apt imitators caught up the refrain at once, and gave it with great zest. "Soon," continued Sobah, after a momentary pause, "de girl he hase de Elephan' up, he sen' um up; but since de Elephan' stout he no able, he jus' sen' um up as far as one week. De one week finish, de Elephan' come down. W'en he fa' down 'pon de groun' he hurt he teet', en he teet' swell. Dat make Elephan' he teeth big."

               At this point Sobah struck an attitude suggestive of the Elephant's state of general dilapidation. His face took on a look of mingled pain and disgust, and this in turn was succeeded by a smile of self-approbation, and ended in a peculiar chuckling laugh that carried infectious mirth to all the circle of listeners.

               Settling back once more to his usual air of serious dignity, Sobah continued his recital.

               "Elephan' he go back, he no kare any fiah.

               "Well, Lepped come, he tell de ooman say: 'I come fo' fiah.'

               "De ooman say, 'All ret,' he say, 'Look me pickin, he go fet yo.'

               "Dey begin fo' fet, Goro en Lepped. Dey fet en fet. De girl he hase (raise) de Lepped up; he sen' um, he go, he take t'ree mont'; he come down, he fa' down 'pon 'tone, he cut hese'f, de blood sprinkle all 'pon um. Dat make de Lepped he spot, spot."

               This explanation of the Leopard's spots, seemed reasonable enough to these simple-minded people, who ask only that some cause out of the ordinary should account for ordinary things. Dogbah was about to offer a comment again, but before his slow wits could formulate his words, the story-teller had plunged into the next sentence.

               "De Lepped he go widout no fiah. De beef, w'en dey see um, dey say:

               "'Eh! We no get no fiah to-day.'

               "Now Puss he get up, he say: 'I go go.'

               "Dem beef dey laugh um, dey say: 'All ret.' Dey say: 'Yo' see all dem big beef? Dey go, dey no able fo' bring fiah. Yo' say yo' duh go? All ret, go try.'

               "De Cat he go, he say: 'Mammy, I come fo' fiah.'

               "De ooman say: 'All ret, go try wid me pickin.'

               "De Cat go, de ooman begin fo' sing. De girl he jus' take de Cat wid one han', he hebe (raise) um up, he go take one yeah en ha'f befo' he come down. He fa' hard, he begin fo' cry 'Meouw! meouw!' Dat make Puss duh cry anytem, net or day tem he duh cry. He go home widout no fiah.

               "Now Spider go, he say, 'Mammy, I come fo' fiah.'

               "De ooman say: 'All ret, oonah (you) go fet wid me pickin.' De ooman he no even se'f sing. Dah girl take Spider wid one fingah, he hebe (raise) um up fo' two yeah."

               A murmur of dissent caused the story-teller to pause and cast a look of inquiry around the company. It was evident that the ardent admirers of crafty little Mr. Spider could not bear to have him disposed of so easily. But Sobah checked the rising protest by a commanding gesture, and a look that seemed to say: "I am sorry, but I must tell the story just as it is." When the silence assured him of a hearing, he continued.

               "W'en Spider come he fa' down, he broke he foot. Dat make Spider duh crawl now; dat make he walker wid four foot, sometem six. Long tem [2] he walker wid two foot 'traight lek pusson. Spider go home widout no fiah.

               "Cunnie Rabbit he go, he say: 'Mammy, I come fo' fiah.'

               "De ooman say: 'All ret, go to dah pickin, fet wid um.'

               "W'en dey fet, de girl come hebe (raise) um up, he take six mont.' De t'ing wey make he no go far, he get too much sense."

               This was uttered with peculiar emphasis, and was answered by a prolonged "Y-a-h-oh; y-a-h-oh!" of assent that indicated a keen appreciation of Cunnie Rabbit's superior mental qualities. The next sentence was almost equally satisfactory, and regained for the story what favor it had lost by the humiliation of Mr. Spider.

               "W'en Cunnie Rabbit come down he fa' down, he get up one tem (at once), he begin fo' run, he run. Dat make tay (until) to-day he hard fo' ketch. He kin run fas' pass all dem beef.

               "All de odder beef duh go, dey no able fo' beat de pickin. Conk (snail) he get up, he go, he walker 'bout slow, slow. W'en he tell dem beef: 'I go go fo' fiah,' Cunnie Rabbit take um en hebe (threw) um nah (out) de do'. He fa' down, he hurt hese'f, he get blood 'pon um. De blood mark, mark um, but he say: 'Nebber min', I go go.'

               "He go, he tell de ooman, 'How do;' he say, 'Mammy I come fo' fiah, en I mus' kare dis fiah go home.'

               "De ooman say: 'All ret; look de place wey fo' fet wid me pickin.

               "De Conk do lek he duh walk 'roun de place slow, slow; but he duh get slipple (slippery) spit, he duh rub all de place. W'en he done finis' fo' rub, he say: 'Come fet now.'

               "De girl come, he duh boas', he no know de cunnie wey de Conk bin pull fo' beat um. Den grip fo' fet, he en de Conk. De Conk he hase (raise) de girl up, he go fo' five yeah. De ooman no see he pickin, he duh cry. Conk take de fiah, he go home. Dey cook, dey yeat, dey gladee. Dey done finis' fo' cook en yeat befo' de girl fa' down. W'en de ooman see how de Conk hebe (raise) he pickin up, he begin fo' cry. Nar (It is) de ooman bring cry nah (into) de wuld.

               "Story come, story go."

               This well-known form of ending was followed by a long silence. The night was already far advanced, but the black man is a creature of the night. Deeper than the color of his skin lies his kinship with the darkness, however much he may dread the powers of evil that creep forth as soon as the day is gone.

               At last the silence was broken by Gondomah, a man of modest bearing, who, though seldom essaying the rôle of a story-teller, could not yet be reconciled to the place assigned to Spider in the last story. Half to himself he said: "Spider nar smart man, nobody no go pass um." Then, emboldened by the sound of his own voice, and by the encouraging silence, he proceeded in the fewest possible words to relate how.



 [1] "Heen" refers to Deer. The proposal to wrestle with the little child appeared foolish in the Deer's estimation.

[2] "Long tem" is usually, as in this case, the equivalent of a long time ago. The remote past, rather than duration, is intended.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Goro, the Wonderful Wrestler
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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