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 Chameleon Is Transformed into a Boat

"ONE tem Spider, Lizzad en Chameleon, dem t'ree beef bin meet up 'pon de road. Dey wan' go nah Freetown, but none no get boat fo' kare dem. So now dey go talk to dense'f who go be de boat. Well, dey come fine say, Chameleon, he go be de boat, because he favor boat. He han' nar de row-lock, heen tail wey fo' place de rudder, heen head nar de bow, de inside part fo' put de load. Chameleon 'gree. W'en dey ready fo' start, Chameleon say: 'Make I turn over; w'en I lay down flat, make yo' sit down 'pon me.'

               "Spider say: 'All ret.'

               "W'en he en Lizzad done klim 'pon dis boat-Chameleon, Chameleon say: 'Make Lizzad take dem hoe (oars).'"

               Here Dogbah, who was rather slow of comprehension, interrupted with a question as to how Lizard was to use oars without row-locks.

               Oleemah cast a disapproving glance at the questioner, then good-naturedly went on to explain what seemed to him self-evident. Holding up two fingers and a thumb as nearly in the shape of Chameleon's hand as possible, he said:

               "Aintee yo' know Chameleon get two fingah en one t'umb so?" Lizzad put de hoe between um; he begin fo' pull, en dey begin fo' go. Spider nar de cappen; Lizzad dey take fo' boatman, because he kin pull wid he four foot.

               "W'en dey go dey meet one place wey de stone plenty; Cappen Spider wey duh steer, he make de boat go agin de stone. So he duh do all tem, he jus' duh jam Chameleon 'pon dem stone. Chameleon done tire, he say: 'We no reach yet?'

               "Spider say: 'We no half, yet.'

               "Now he duh steer close one big, big rock, en de same tem Lizzad duh pull hard. Chameleon he back broosh 'pon stone, en he say: 'Wee-ee! Fren', I no lek dah trick wey yo' do me to-day.'

               "Spider make lek he sorry, he say: 'Fren', hush yah!' [1]

               "So Chameleon lay down agin. Lizzad pull, he pull, he pull, he pull, he pull so-t-a-y (till) Chameleon ax um, he say: 'Wey t'ing do de place far so?' [2]

               "Spider say: 'He no far agin; we go reach jus' now.'

               "W'en dey go long tem, dey begin fo' see de town. Chameleon ax um agin, he say: 'Fren', we no reach yet?'

               "Spider say: 'Look de town yandah.'

               "Chameleon say: 'I no ax yo' fo' dat; I say, Ef we done reach dey?'

               "Spider say: 'No, look de town yandah agin.'

               "Chameleon say: 'Fren, I no lek dah trick. Tell me one tem ef we done reach dey.'

               "Spider tell de same word agin, en Chameleon vex, he say 'I mus' come out jus' now under yo', make all man swim fo' hese'f.'

               "Spider beg, he beg sotay (till) Chameleon say: 'All ret.'

               "Den dey go agin, go reach de place, en Chameleon say: 'We done reach?'

               "Spider say: 'Yes.'

               "Chameleon ax: 'Ef make I turn over?'

               "Spider say: 'No, come make yo' go to de sho' mo' leelee bit.' W'en dey reach to de sho,' Spider say: 'Turn over now, we done ketch Freetown.'

               "Dis tem Chameleon get one foot en one han', en leelee nose, because Spider 'deed bin jam um 'pon dem stone. Dat make Chameleon walker slow tay to-day." [3]

               Oleemah leaned back against the side of the boat, and gave himself up to a train of memories that had been awakened by the story just ended. The men, less meditative, renewed their enjoyment by various comments on Spider and his guileful ways.

               "Aintee now dat rascal trick wey Spider do heen boat Chameleon?" asked Dogbah, and his broad grin showed that Spider's rascality was not looked upon with any great disfavor. "Dat rascal trick" recalled the time when Spider was worsted in his encounter with the Wax Girl, and again the men shook with merry laughter.

               Sobah, feeling a little hurt by some of the rude jests at Spider's expense, had been turning over the leaves of his memory in search of some exploit of that little hero, more than usually clever, in order to offset the somewhat inglorious part he had played in the two other tales.

               "Well, Spider he 'trong man," he finally retorted to the slighting comment of Dogbah.

               Challenged for proof of his assertion, Sobah began to relate Mr. Spider's marvellous achievement in a trial of strength with Elephant and Hippopotamus.



[1] "Hush yah," or "as-yah," is the strongest expression of sympathy in the Sierra Leone dialect.

[2] "Wey t'ing do de place far so?" i.e., Why is the place so far?

[3] To an African mind, everything in the least unusual needs to be accounted for. Consequently some solution, however fanciful, must be offered for the slow locomotion of such a pompous appearing character in the native stories as the Chameleon. Raising one foot after the other slowly, very slowly, he puts it down with a meditative precision that leads the people to ascribe to him these words: "I duh walker, mash (take) one step, den odder step. Ef I walker hard I go sink de groun', de groun' go bus', he too sof', en bimeby de wuld go broke. Dat make I duh walker soffle, so I no fa' down."


Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Mr Chameleon Is Transformed into a Boat
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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