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.

Spider Tries to Brush the Devil's Farm

"ONE tem Spider he go to 'trange lan'. Well, w'en he reach deh, he go to de king. De king nar he lan'lord. W'en tem reach fo' brush fa'm, he ax de king fo' one piece lan' wey de people nebber brush. Dey say one big debble get de lan', en no man no venture fo' go deh. Spider ax de king fo' dis same spot, he say he wan' fo' brush deh. De king he tell um, he say:

               "'Nobody wey brush deh kin bring de ress (rice) nah town, he no go even yeat de ress.'

               "Spider say: 'Me go yeat um; I go brush deh, en I go yeat de ress.'

               "De king say: 'Well, all ret;' he say. 'Try yo' bes'.'

               "Spider he bring cutlass, [1] he go early in de mawnin' fo' go commence brush befo' de sun hot. W'en he go he jus' duh chop one 'tick, den he hearee de debble ax:

               "'Who chop dah 'tick?'

               "Spider say hese'f duh chop dah 'tick.

               "Den de debble say: 'By to-morrow yo' go meet I done brush all dis bush heah.' He tell Spider make he no brush, because he go brush fo' um.

               "Spider go fo' drink wattah nah de fa'm-ho'se. Befo' he come back he meet de bush already brush. He run go nah town, he tell de king, he say:

               "'I done finis' brush de fa'm wey yo' gie me.'

               "De king answer, he say: 'All ret.'

               "Befo' one week tem, de place all done dry fo' burn. Nex' day w'en de sun all done hot, Spider he go, he set de fiah, he holler, he say: 'Hey! hey! hey!' He do dat fo' make de debble go hear um, so de debble go ax lek how he duh do befo'. Den de debble ax, he ax: 'Who dat duh bu'n fa'm?'

               "Spider answer um lek he bin do befo'.

               "Den de debble say: 'Go sit down, I go bu'n um jus' now fo' yo'.'

               "Soon w'en Spider go look, he see de fa'm done bu'n all, he swep' clean.

               "Spider go tell de king, he say: 'I done bu'n me fa'm.'

               "De king say: 'All ret.'

               "He tell de king, he say: 'Buy ress fo' me.'

               "De king gie um few hamper ress. Spider make hoe; long, long one. Nah mawnin' tem he get up, he take de ress, he go nah fa'm early, befo' do' clean. W'en he reach to he fa'm, he put down he bly (basket), he take he han', he dip de ress wid um, he hebe (scatter) um, schar-r-r!

               "Now de debble ax um, he say: 'Who hebe de ress?' He say: 'I go hebe de ress, make de pusson no humbug, [2] I go hebe de ress jus' now.'

               "But de Spider he no see de debble, he jus' duh see de wuk done, en jus' duh hear de voice, but he no duh see nobody. W'en he 'tay leelee bit, Spider he see ress all 'pon de groun'. Spider take de hoe, he scrape de groun', har-r-r!

               "W'en de debble he hear, he say: 'Who duh dig de groun' fo' cover de ress?'

               "He say: 'Go home;' he say: 'To-morrow mawnin' yo' go meet I finis' de place.'

               "Spider go, he tell de king, he say 'I finis' plant me ress.'

               "De king say: 'All ret.'

               "Spider go back agin to de fa'm, he meet de ress already done grow, done high, he meet de grass begin fo' grow middle de ress. He go fo' root de grass f'om dah ress; he root one de grass; he root um hard, so de debble kin hear. De debble he ax: 'Who root de grass?' He say: 'Befo' evenin' tem de pusson go meet I root all de grass.'

               "Spider go to de fa'm-ho'se wey he sit down. Evenin' tem he come out to de fa'm, he walk all 'bout, he see de fa'm clean. De ress he fine!

               "Bimeby de tem reach fo' de ress fo' begin bear, de ress done bear all; dem bird dey duh come fo' yeat de ress. Spider w'en he meet de bird, he holler, 'Shoo! shoo!' Dem bird dey all get up, dey fly.

               "Den de debble ax um, he say: 'Who duh dribe dem bird?' He say: 'De pusson no need fo' dribe de bird, I go dribe dem f'om de ress.'

               "De debble he dribe dem bird ebery day f'om de ress, tay de ress all done ripe fo' cut. De fus' day Spider go cut some. Yo' know de fus' day pusson kin cut leelee fo' yeat, dat all.  [3]W'en he go cut de ress, he go parch um, dry um to de pot; he beat um. He done beat de ress all, he begin fo' cook, he put big ress nah fiah fo' cook um, he cook all. Aftah he put de pot nah fiah, en de wattah in de pot done w'am nuff, he put de ress inside de pot. Jus' de ress done, he take de pot, pin um down close de fiah. Spider he go huntin', he kill bush beef, he cook um. Aftah de soup finis', he pull um f'om de fiah, he go was' dem dish fo' come take up. Spider come fo' touch de pot wey get de ress. De pot begin fo' run f'om Spider. Spider run aftah de pot, he duh run, duh run, duh run, duh run! Spider done tire, he stop fo' run, he 'tan' up; de pot se'f 'tan' up. W'en Spider 'tan' up, de pot stop fo' run. W'en he see dat de pot stop fo' run, well, him begin fo' run, fo' go take de pot quick. W'en Spider reach close de pot, de pot begin 'gain fo' run. Spider en de pot duh run sotay (till) Spider he tire; he lef en go back nah fa'm-ho'se, he go sit down. He stay leelee bit, he see dah empty pot come back inside de fa'm-ho'se en 'tan' up. Spider no know how fo' do; he sorry, he wan' fo' cry. He say: 'But nebber min', I tink odder sense wey I go do bimeby, evenin' tem.'

               "He stay hungry all day. Evenin' tem he cook de ress; he no even wait fo' de ress fo' finis' cook, he make big cottah, [4] he put um 'pon he head; he take de pot, he hase um up, put um 'pon he head; he tie de pot all wid rag 'roun' he head, fash'n um so he no able fo' loose. He start wid run fo' go nah town. De ress duh boil de same tem dat he duh run. Jus' he wan' fo' reach de town, de pot slip 'way f'om um. He begin fo' run aftah de pot, en de pot duh run tay Spider give up, he done tire. W'en he stay leelee bit, he see de empty pot agin. Spider, because he no get ress, he 'bliged fo' go pick de leelee young cassada; he cook, he yeat um.

               "De nex' day, de same; he get de same trouble tay he gie up de fa'm altogedder, en go home.

               "De king ax um, he say: 'Spider, how he 'tan'? Dat word wey I bin tell yo', dat nar (is it) story?'

               "He answer um, he say: 'No, nar true word dat yo' bin talk, but nebber min'.'

               "De king ax um, he say: 'Dah ress, yo' bin cut all?'

               "He say: 'Yes, I done cut all de ress, he deh 'pon top de fa'm-ho'se wey I pile um.'

               "De king he say: 'Yo' see 'trong head (obstinacy) no good, yo' labor fo' notting.'

               "Spider he bin get 'trong head, dat make he bin see all dis trouble."

               Konah followed the story through with intense interest, too absorbed to ask questions, even if she had dared. A rice pot that could perform such feats, was an entrancing object to her imagination. So delighted was she with the magical powers that were manifest in the story, that she forgot to hear the moral of the tale regarding obstinacy and self-will. Sobah, however, was so impressed with the application of the story, that he plunged into the recital of another tale teaching the same moral, and with a much more tragic outcome.



[1] The cutlass is the general purpose tool used for cutting away underbrush, for harvesting, and even for the felling of forest trees.

[2] "Humbug" in the Sierra Leone dialect always means "trouble", and contains no suggestion of trickery. The thought here is: Let the person give himself no trouble.

[3] The following account of how Mr. Spider cooks his rice before he goes to capture the animal from which he makes the stew for the rice, is an exaggerated illustration of the African tendency to allow each hour to provide for its need. The custom, however, is to cook the rice, set it aside to steam under a grass-woven cover, until the stew is made, and finally to wash the calabashes, i. e. gourds which serve as bowls for food and water. Usually eating from the pot dispenses with the last part of the ceremony.

[4] A circular pad worn upon the head when "toting" a hammock or other burden.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Spider Tries to Brush the Devil's Farm
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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