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.

"Marry the Devil, There's the Devil to Pay"

"NOW one day, one mammy get girl pickin (pickaninny). Dis pickin he too fine. Dem rich people en eberybody go ax fo' um fo' married, but he no 'gree. One rich man he deh down, down, down (south), he get plenty hoss, plenty people, plenty goat, en plenty t'ing wey I no able fo' talk. Dis man come fo' see de girl he people, so he go get de girl, but w'en de people tell dis girl, he no 'gree. De mammy bin tell de girl, say:

               "'Anybody yo' see wey (whom) yo' lek, anyt'ing wey (which) yo' see I go kill um fo' present um. But de girl no see, anybody wey (whom) he (she) lek.

               "One day dah big, big, big, big debble, nah dah big, big bush, he hearee dis news, fo' say nobody no able fo' get dis girl heah, en dis debble he say: 'Nar me go married dis girl.' He grap, he go fix hese'f good fashion lek pusson. Aintee yo' know say debble he able make hese'f fine? He able fo' make hese'f fine pass anybody nah dis wuld. He put on all de bes' clot' wey he kin get fo' len' (borrow). He len' half side [1] head, half side body, all t'ing half side. So w'en dis debble finis' fix hese'f good fashion, he call he hammock en four man fo' tote (carry) um. He tell one man wey he lef' nah ho'se say: 'I duh go married,' en he start fo' come see dis girl heah. W'en he come, he reach nah de town wey de girl bin deh. De girl duh 'tan' up close de windah, he duh look de road. W'en he see dis man yeah duh come, he tell he mammy, say: 'I done see pusson wey I lek, nar he go marry me.'

               "W'en de debble come close de ho'se, de girl go meet um, he bring um come inside.

               "De debble say: 'I come fo' marry to yo'.' De girl say: 'All ret.'

               "Now de girl go tell he mammy, he say: 'Mammy, dah cow wan' die.'

               "Now de mammy say: 'Kill um fo' yo' man.'

               "Now de girl say: 'Mammy, dem fowl dey sick.'

               "De mammy say: 'Kill um fo' yo' man. Anyt'ing yo' wan', take um.'

               "Dis girl yeah, w'en he go cook de beef en de fowl, wid ress en plenty odder t'ing, he go gie um to de man nah heen ho'se. [2] But dis debble yeah, he nebber yeat ress oh, he jus' duh yeat pusson, he nebber yeat odder t'ing. W'en dis girl bin kare dis yeat nah debble heen ho'se, w'en dah girl done go, de debble dig nah fireside, he put all dis ress inside dah hole, he cover um. Bimeby de girl come, he t'ink say de man jus' yeat leelee bit, he ax um, say:

               "Wey t'ing yo' no duh yeat fo'?'

               "De debble say: 'I done yeat plenty.' But dis girl he (she) no know dis nar debble, oh!

               "Well, dis girl heah, he get one brudder wey sick wid craw-craw; craw-craw [3] 'pon heen skin all. Dis boy wan' go tell dis debble 'How do'. W'en he go, dis debble holler 'pon um. De boy 'fraid, he go sit down.

               "Well, dis debble wan' pass go home. De girl say he no go lef, he mus' go wid de man. Heen people dey no 'gree make he go yet, but he say he mus' go now, so dey say: 'All ret.'

               "Dey gie um all t'ing fo' make um go. Dis same day dey lef de town fo' go home. W'en dey go, dis boy wey (who) sick wan' fo' follow um. He say he mus' follow he sister, but de debble no 'gree, he say because de pickin too waw-waw (ugly).

               "So w'en dey go, dah pickin duh follow um leelee (at a distance). Well, dey walker all day. W'en de debble turn, he see dis pickin yeah, he ketch um, he flog um, he say: 'No go follow we!'

               "So de pickin go hide behine leelee bit, en de two pusson dey duh go. Soon de debble duck heen han' nah heen pocket, [4] he pull one white kola, [5] he open um; he gie de girl half, hese'f take half.

               "De pickin come meet dem agin. W'en de man wan' flog de pickin de ooman say: 'Fren', no flog um, make he follow we.' 'Den de pickin follow leelee, leelee. Well dey walker all day. W'en dey go, dis debble heen one side head come out, fa' down. Well dis girl yeah say: 'Fren', look, yo' head fa' down.'

               "Well, de debble pull one sing:

'Lef um deh (there), lef um deh, Berkinee;      
Lef um deh, oh Berkinee.'"

               The song, a weird chant in the minor key, had a slow swinging movement, and the whole company beat time with hand-claps, bringing the right hand down slowly upon the left, and swinging the body in unison. The song was given as a chorus, and served to quicken feeling and to intensify the interest of the story. When it was ended, Yamah proceeded:

               "Dey go sotay (till) de one foot fa' down. De girl call um back, he say: 'Fren', yo' foot fa' down.'

               "Den de debble pull de same sing:

'Lef um deh, lef um deh, Berkinee;      
Lef um deh, oh Berkinee.'

               "Aftah he done finis' sing, dey go sotay (till) all t'ing nah heen skin lef half. Dey reach evenin' tem nah (to) de man heen place, en dey come see dis leelee brudder. Den cook, den yeat.

               "Well, de net, w'en dis heen (his) wef done sleep, dis debble grap fo' kill um, fo' yeat um. He take one big, big knef, he duh sharp um. But dis pickin yeah, he no sleep, he jus' duh make lek pusson duh make nah net (snore). W'en de debble finis' fo' sharp he knef, de pickin cry: 'W-e-y-ee! Me craw-craw duh kratch me oh?'

               "Den de debble come to um, he say: 'Pickin, yo' no sleep yet?'

               "De pickin duh say: 'No, sah, me craw-craw duh hurt me, en me nebber sleep 'pon bed. I ken lay down 'pon pile country clo'es.' [6]

               "De debble go bring plenty country clo'es, he make fine bed fo' um. He put de pickin deh, make um sleep, so he kin yeat dis ooman. But dis ooman duh sleep oh! He duh sleep, he no know anyt'ing wey duh go on.

               "Well, de man mean say de pickin done sleep, en he take he knef, he duh sharp, sharp um, make he come broke de ooman he head. He say: 'Fo' yeat pusson, he good, he sweet, en dis ooman he fat.'

               "But dat pickin no sleep oh! He cough en de debble say: 'Pickin, yo' no sleep yet?'

               "De pickin say: 'No, sah, hangry done ketch me.'

               "De pickin know say dis man wan' yeat dah ooman, so he duh try make he mus' get some way fo' sabe um (save her); dah make he duh talk all light t'ing yeah. W'en dah debble gie um yeat, he go put de pickin agin nah de bed, make he lay down sleep. De tem nar middle net. Well, dis man yeah, w'en he done sit down long tem, he mean say de pickin done sleep. He take he knef agin, he sharp um. Now de pickin duh kratch, kratch he skin. De debble hebe he knef down quick, he go ax de pickin: 'Wey t'ing make yo' no sleep yet? Wey t'ing dey kin do fo' yo' craw-craw w'en yo' bin deh to yo' Mammy?'

               "De pickin say: 'Dey kin take fis'-net, go take wattah nah wattah-side fo' was' um. I wan' was', but I nebber was' wid wattah wey dey bin get nah bowl, excep' de wattah fus' inside fis'-net, befo' dey turn um nah de bowl.'

               "So de debble he grap (get up), he go nah wattah-side, he kare fis'-net en bowl. W'en he duh duck de fis'-net inside wattah so, en he hase de fis'-net, de wattah all lef back. Because he wan' hurry yeat de ooman, he stupid; he no wait t'ink he no able get wattah wid fis'-net. De pickin bin ax dis t'ing wey hard fo' do, fo' make leelee chance fo' sabe de ooman. He wake de ooman, he say: 'Yo' no know dat debble wan' kill yo' dis net yeah? Nar lie I tell um, say he mus' get wattah wid fis'-net befo' I kin was'. He done go. Grap (get up), make we come go; ef no so, ef he meet yo', he go kill yo'.'

               "Dis boy yeah en dis ooman dey start, dey walker hard dah net. Well, dah debble, w'en he no able get dis wattah, he come nah ho'se, he meet de ooman en de pickin done go. So he run go follow dem. He walker sotay he wan' go meet dem, but dis pickin hearee de debble duh come behine, he say: 'Come hide!' So dey hide. De debble go sotay he wan' reach nah town, but he no meet dem, so he come back. Dis ooman en de pickin pass, go home.

               "De girl tell him people all t'ing wey he see, he say: 'Trongah yase (ears) [7] no good. Ef I bin hearee oonah (you) w'en yo' bin say make I no go wid dis man, I no fo' see all dis trouble yeah'.

               "So now he make so. Ef yo' wan' go any place, ef any pickin wan' follow yo', no deny. Sometem (perhaps) dis pickin yeah go sabe yo' f'om big, big trouble."

               By the time this story was ended, most of the children were asleep, but Konah's insatiable hungering after the strange and mysterious, kept her wide awake. Some of the women, too, were beginning to feel the drowsy effects of the night, and especially of the close, smoke-laden air within the over-crowded little room.

               Magbindee went to the door, and seeing the moon just then peeping through a rift in the clouds, rudely awoke her sleeping child, and started with it to her own hut.

               Others followed her example, and soon Sobah's hut was left to stillness and to dreams.



[1] For explanation of "half side," see Introduction, page 21.

[2] The man's house signifies the hut assigned to him by the chief on his arrival in the town. This custom supplies the lack of hotels.

[3] Craw-craw is a very prevalent skin disease, a species of itch not very contagious.

[4] When the men choose to clothe themselves further than with the customary loin cloth, they wear a long loose gown of hand-spun and woven cloth. Often this has a large pocket sewed on the front.

[5] The kola is eaten to still the pangs of hunger, and because an appetite for it is easily acquired. Then its intense bitterness becomes sweet. The white kolas are slightly preferred to the pink, either being given as a token of friendship and hospitality.

[6] One country cloth is thought to be sufficient bed for anyone. The evident purpose of the little boy in asking for a "pile" of clothes is to give the devil a task requiring much time, in order to delay his designs against the young woman.

[7] "Trongah yase," i.e., "strong ears," wilful disregard of advice.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: "Marry the Devil, There's the Devil to Pay"
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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