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.

Girl Who Plaited the Devil's Beard, The

"ONE tem debble bin sit down to de road-side. Any pusson wey bin go nah dat road, de debble bin yeat um. Well, one day, one girl say:

               "'I go kill to-day dis debble heah.'

               "W'en he go he meet de debble, he duh sleep close de road-side. De debble get long bear'-bear' (beard). De girl go soffle, he hole de bear'-bear', he duh plant (plait) um. Den he draw de debble go nah town. He draw um, he draw um tay de people inside de town hearee wey de girl duh draw um, en wey de debble duh sing:

"Tittie (sissy) duh kare me bear'-bear',      
Tittie duh kare me bear'-bear'.'

               "W'en de people hearee um, den go he'p de girl fo' draw. Dey go put de debble nah big road en kill um. W'en dey done kill um, dey wan' 'plit um, but somet'ing no bin deh fo' take. One leelee prophet bird [1] come nah bush, he say:

               "'Oonah mus' take dah leelee sharp t'ing nah bush (thorn), oonah kin 'plit um.'

               "Now dem people take dah bird, dey fling um far 'way, but he come agin back, he say:

               "'Oonah take dah leelee sharp t'ing nah bush, 'plit um.'

               "Dey fling um agin, but de bird come back agin en sing de same sing. Dah tem wey make t'ree, dem people say:

               "'Make we try ef de t'ing true wey de bird bin talk; ef so, we go make um fine present.'

               "Den dey go take de sharp t'ing. W'en dey jus' touch de debble heen body so, he 'plit. Wen he 'plit, all den people come out; dey no bin die, dey bin make fa'm inside de debble; dey bin bu'n fa'm, make ho'se, dey duh cook, dey duh yeat. W'en he done 'plit, all man come out, plenty people come out."

               Neither story-teller nor listeners realized that there was anything preposterous in such a being as the one here described. On the other hand, the gasps and groans that greeted each startling revelation, contained not a tinge of incredulity, but only a kind of reverence for this supernatural capacity so in accord with their conception of spirits and devils.

               The several steps leading up to the climax, were rolled off in rapid succession; "W'en dey touch heen body so, he 'plit, w'en he 'plit all dem people come out, dey no bin die, dey bin make fa'm inside de debble, dey bin bu'n fa'm, buil' ho'se, dey duh cook en yeat; plenty people come out," yet each was rounded off with such peculiar emphasis of tone and gesture, that it came with a distinct impression of its own, only heightened by the cumulative effect of succeeding revelations.

               A pause of several minutes was necessary before the story could proceed.

               "Well, one ole granny, w'en he come out, he say:

               "'I fo'get me leelee pot, en me pickin, en me med'cin'.'

               "Dem people say: 'No go agin inside dis debble heah!'

               "He answer um back, say: 'I mus' go.'

               "W'en he go inside, now de t'ing shut.

               "Dis tem de bird done fly go, den done present [2] um money en plenty fine t'ing. Dey try fo' 'plit de debble agin, lek how dey bin do fus' tem, but dey no able, because de bird bin make um open de fus' tem. Wey t'ing fo' do? Dey try all kin' of sharp t'ing nah dis wuld, but den no able. Dey go bury de debble so.

               "Dat make 'tronger head no good. Ef pusson tell yo' say, make yo' no mus' do anyt'ing, no do um."

               Others were eager to relate stories to match the ones already given, but quite naturally and woman-like, the one all were most ready to hear was the one that smacked of romance, and promised to recount the uncanny courtship and marriage of a beautiful young girl and the devil. It was Yamah, the youngest woman present, who told the story, and she told it with an earnestness that might have sprung from personal experience.



[1] The prophet bird is about the size of a hummingbird. It utters notes which are believed to indicate danger or success, especially when heard at the beginning of a journey, or just preceding the beginning of some task. The sounds from the tiny throat are sufficient to reverse the best laid plans, or to establish greater confidence in them.

[2] The accent falls upon the first syllable of the verb, the pronunciation being the same as that of the noun.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Girl Who Plaited the Devil's Beard, The
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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