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 Initiates the Fowls

"ONE tem fowl bin gadder all togedder." There was a tone of solemnity in the woman's voice when she made this simple introduction to her tale, a note which showed that her thoughts were more serious than if fowls were the only beings concerned. The child felt the change of tone at once, but merely leaned a little nearer, and listened more intently. In the same serious tone the story went on.

               "Dey say dey wan' put Bundo, [1] but dey no get nobody fo' put dem Bundo. W'en dey duh talk dis word so, Spider come, he meet dem duh talk. He say, he go put de Bundo. He go to de town, he tell de chief he wan' to put all fowl Bundo. Now de chief say: 'All ret.'

               "Spider tell de chief fo' sen' plenty man fo' buil' one big, big ho'se. Well, w'en dey done buil' dis ho'se heah, Spider say to de fowl:

               "'To-morrow so, now make yo' se'f ready, oonah (you) all.'

               "Now he go sharp he knef, Wahtah, wootah! wahtah, wootah! De fowl dey too plenty; dey get one town fo' demse'f, soso fowl (only fowls). Now Spider he sharp he knef good fashion, he come tell de fowl, he say:

               "'Oonah go make de fench 'roun de ho'se, so nobody see de Bundo.'

               "Well, w'en dey finis' buil' dis fench wid palm 'roun de ho'se, he tell de chief, say:

               "'I wan' one big, big pot; I wan' plenty ress (rice) fo' de Bundo fo' yeat.' [2]

               "W'en de chief done gie um all dis, Spider say:

               "'I wan' plenty palm-ile, twelve jug [3] palm-ile.'

               "Well, w'en de chief done gie um all dis, he ax Spider, say:

               "'Wey t'ing yo' wan' agin? Talk, make I gie yo'.'

               "Now Spider say: 'I wan' make de fowl gadder one place, make dem go inside de ho'se.'

               "De chief say: 'Dis net heah I go sen' word.'

               "Befo' de net done fa' down good fashion, w'en de place dark leelee bit, de chief heen (his) messenger walker all 'bout wid dis de chief heen command. [4] He tell de fowl all, make dem mus' gadder mawnin' early, make dem go inside de ho'se wey dey done buil' fo' um, make nobody no lef de town fo' go odder place.

               "Nah (in the) mawnin' early, all dem fowl meet up one place; dey go inside de big, big ho'se, en Spider hese'f go inside. Ebery mawnin' Spider kill 'bout one t'ousan', he put um inside pot."

               Konah's quick wit had anticipated Spider's selfish designs, but a thousand fowls for breakfast seemed such an enormous amount even for his notorious appetite, that she laughed outright at the absurdity of it.

               The cunning scheme of Mr. Spider, hidden under a cloak of disinterested service, appealed more strongly to the woman, so she went on with a touch of irony in her voice:

               "Nar dis de Bundo he duh put. He duh yeat all dem fowl him one (alone), he done um. Only leelee one wey duh hatch he lef.

               "Nar de chief ax um, say: 'Which side yo' duh pull de Bundo?' [5]

               By the query: "Which side yo' duh pull de Bundo," the chief implies that the preparatory rites over which Spider has been supposed to preside are at an end, and a statement should be made as to the place where the new members are to be introduced to the public.

               "Spider tell de chief de place, den he say:

               "'I wan' make yo' buy plenty dress fo' dem. Which tem yo' go buy de dress? Because I wan' pull de Bundo one tem, make I go.'

               "Now the chief gie um all dem t'ing fo' dress dem; hankercher, bead, all t'ing wey kin tie nah han' nah foot, all t'ing de chief gie um.

               "Well, w'en Spider done yeat de fowl, he pack de bone all one place. Now he tell de chief, he say:

               "'To-morrow, w'en de sun middle de sky, I go pull de Bundo.'

               "Well, dah net he gadder he pickin all, he say, make dem ready fo' go dis net.

               "Well, all t'ing wey de chief gie Spider fo' de Bundo, he tie um in bundle, in mat; he gie um to he pickin (pickaninnies) fo' tote (carry); he lock de do' tight. [6] Now he tell de pickin, say:

               "'Dis net yeah, make we come go, make we go walker all net; bimeby de chief go ketch we, go flog we.'

               "Dey walker all net. Well, w'en do' clean, dey hide nah bush. Spider know dat Lepped inside dis bush, en Spider hese'f he 'fraid. Well, w'en de sun middle de sky, dat de tem fo' pull de Bundo, en plenty people duh gadder. Dey no see Spider nah de ho'se, so dey try fo' open de do'. Fus' dey no able; dey try long tem befo' dey open dis yeah do'. Now dey see dis great t'ing wey Spider done do. He pack de bone one side, he pack de fedder one side. Now de chief say make dem go ketch Spider. He sen' plenty pusson aftah um. Well, nar de Lepped holler inside bush, en Spider 'fraid bad; hese'f duh holler because 'fraid duh ketch um. W'en dem people hearee how Spider holler, dey know which side he duh hide, en dey go ketch um. W'en dey done ketch um, w'en dey done bring um nah de road, dey get de pickin all, but Spider he loss f'om dem han'. He go to one Mory [7] man, he tell um say:

               "Make sebby (charm) fo' me, fo' make me joomp lek monkey.'

               "De Mory man answer, he say:

               "'Yo' mus' gie me one fine present fus'.'

               Natives will sacrifice almost any other possession to procure such charms. Their awed faith in the potency of charms and fetiches is one of the most dumbly pathetic facts in African life.

               "Now Spider tief plenty clot' en bead f'om de t'ing wey de chief gie um fo' pull Bundo. He gie um to de Mory man. Now de man make sebby, he tie um 'pon Spider. He tie one 'pon heen foot, he tie one 'pon de odder foot; one 'pon de han', one 'pon de odder han'. W'en he finis' he say:

               "'Go show yo'se'f to de chief.'

               "Well, w'en de chief see Spider, he tell de people, say:

               "'Make all man mus' ketch Spider.'

               "Dey dribe um, dey dribe um sotay (till) dey reach nah bush. Spider joomp nah 'tick, he joomp nah odder 'tick lek monkey. He bin get one sebby (charm) inside he han'. Dis he no fo' wop down. Ef he fo' get en wop um down, dat go make he lose he power fo' joomp lek monkey do, en de people dey go ketch um. All day dem people dribe um. W'en net come dey turn back, go nah town. Dey say dey done try all dem bes' fo' ketch Spider. Dey wan' ketch um, dey no able, because he duh joomp lek monkey. Nobody no able ketch monkey nah tree.

               "Now all man duh hang head (think) fo' sabbee (know) wey t'ing dey go do fo' ketch Spider. At las' dey grap (get up), dey go to dis same Mory man wey Spider bin go to. He de bes' Mory man nah de wuld. W'en dey meet dis man, dey tell um all t'ing. Now de man say: 'Because oonah wan' ketch um, make oonah mus' gie me big, big present befo' I go gie yo' sebby (charm) fo' ketch Spider.'

               "Now dey go get de present. He pass de one wey Spider gie, far 'way. Dey gie um to de man, en de man say:

               "'Go ketch one black monkey, come bring me, but make he black fo' true.'

               "Well, dey go make trap, dey go ketch dis black monkey heah, but he no die. Dey go gie um to de man. Now dis Mory man he make one sebby (charm), same wid Spider yown; he tie um 'pon dis monkey heen neck. He gie um good whip, fine one; de whip get six rope. He gie dis monkey sebben man, sebben 'trong man fo' wait tay he ketch Spider, so dey kin go tie um, bring um come to de chief. Five man no able hole um; because he get de five sebby, he get five man 'trenk.

               "Well, now dis monkey hese'f grap, he go fo' ketch Spider. Spider se'f grap. He duh joomp, duh joomp, duh joomp sotay he t'ink dis black monkey yeah he no able fo' ketch um; dat make he no joomp lek wey he duh joomp befo'. Den de monkey he meet up wid um, he gie Spider one cut. Nar so dey do, dey joomp all day. De black monkey he follow behine Spider, he duh flog Spider ef he no joomp quick. Well, Spider he make hase (haste) agin; he joomp, he joomp, he joomp. Bimeby he go nah one rock place. De sebby (charm) wey he hole nah he han', de one wey he no fo' wop down, he take um, lay um 'pon de 'tone weh he sit down. He done lef dis monkey far distance, because he get five sebby; de monkey he only get one, so Spider joomp mo' pass monkey. He t'ink fo' say de monkey no meet um agin. He go nah one fa'm, he root cassada (cassava), he sit down 'pon rock, he yeat de cassada. Well, dis black monkey come up wid um. Spider no know; he duh yeat. Now de monkey flog Spider, he duh flog um. But Spider bin lef de sebby wey he get to he han', de sebby bin fa' down, so he no get 'trenk fo' joomp. He 'trenk inside de sebby. Now de monkey hole Spider sotay (till) de people reach de place. Spider look de sebby (charm) 'pon Monkey heen neck, he wan' take um. W'en he jog um fo' try pull um, Monkey no 'gree. Now dey tie Spider, dey kare um go to de chief. De chief put um nah prison, he deh four day, dey no duh gie um yeat. Well, Spider en Cunnie Rabbit bin fren; de one cunnie, de odder cunnie. Two cunnie meet up, dey two 'gree togedder. W'en net come so, Cunnie Rabbit go tief Spider nah prison. He get magic, he able go inside place wey (which) lock.

               "Mawnin', w'en dey go nah prison, dey no see Spider inside. Spider he free, he done go home back.

               "So nar Spider bring tief long tem nah de wuld. He bin begin tief, so now we all duh tief."

               Another of Mamenah's neighbors came in just here, with an interesting bit of news, and story-telling was at an end for this evening.

               Konah still sat curled up on the mat, with her woolly head bent low, and her mind far away in fancy-land. Finally she crept inside the hut to her hard mud cot, and soon was flying before a black spectre that in the guise of a monkey kept pursuing her. Again she travelled a path with heaps of feathers on one side, and piles of bones on the other. Finally she lost the power to move, and felt herself bound and carried away to prison, and then in helpless loneliness she sobbed aloud. In the midst of her distress a kindly voice spoke: "Look me, I yo' fren', I go he'p yo' come out prison," and Cunning Rabbit stood beside her. With that her heart gave a bound of joy and relief, the troubled dreams fled, and sound sleep held her until the light of a new day drove away all the spectres of the night.



[1] "Put Bundo" signifies to initiate into the mysteries of the Bundo, a powerful secret organization for women.

[2] The initiation lasts for several weeks, during which period the candidates are not allowed to mingle with the people of the town. A supply of food is therefore necessary, and it is this supply that Spider asks the chief to provide.

[3] The native jug for storing palm-oil, is a joint of bamboo, stopped up at both ends, or a gourd.

[4] The customary way for the chief to issue a proclamation is to send a town crier around, after the people have gathered in the town for the night.

[5] "Pull de Bundo" signifies a public display just after initiation, a procession with songs and dances. For this purpose special and numerous ornaments, and gaudy but scant covering are worn on the partially nude bodies, which are tattooed and greased until they shine.

[6] "Lock" means merely "close," as no stronger method for securing a door is known than bracing a stick against it. Sometimes a door is only a suspended mat.

[7] The Mory men, or Mohammedans, travel over the country, gaining a living by working on the credulity of the superstitious folk. They manufacture "sebbys" or charms, of which the most common are bits of Arabic writing, usually taken from the Koran, and enclosed in black leather of square or oblong shape, measuring an inch or two. These charms are worn around neck, wrists or ankles.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Mr Spider Initiates the Fowls
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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