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.

Dancing Bird, The

"WELL, I tell yo' story 'bout one man en one boy," he said after a little reflection. "Dis man bin huntin' man. One day he go huntin', en he ketch one fine beef, young beef, en he bring um home. Dis huntin' man he get plenty pickin. Ef he gie one boy de beef, all de odder go vex; so he gie dis beef to dem all, fo' make dem play wid um. De beef no die. Dey mine um [1] sotay (till) he begin use dem. Now one po' boy bin lib close to dis huntin' man heen ho'se. He en he mammy dey no get pusson fo' make fa'm fo' dem, en dis huntin' man heen pickin all, dey nebber 'gree fo' make dis po' boy play wid de beef wey dey get; en de man hese'f no 'gree. W'en dey go nah fa'm de po' boy take de beef, he play wid um all day. W'en de man en heen pickin wan' come home f'om de fa'm, he put um back. Nar so he duh do any day.

               "One day, w'en he take dis beef, de beef he die nah he han'. He done 'fraid, he lef de beef, he run go home.

               "Now dem people come back. W'en dey open de place, dey meet de beef done die.

               "Now dey ax de boy, dey say: 'Who kill dis beef heah?'

               "Fus' de boy no wan' fo' answer. Now dey begin fo' knock um, dey knock um tay (till) he say he kill de beef.

               "Now de man say: 'Yo' mus' surely gie back odder beef fo' dis one wey yo' bin kill.'

               "De boy beg so-t-a-y, but de man no 'gree. De boy take he cutlass, he go set trap. Any day he go, but not'ing no ketch. Any day w'en he come, de huntin' man mus' beat um fo' dat beef.

               "Now de mammy beg, he beg good fashion, but de man no 'gree fo' lef de palaver, he say de pickin mus' gie um dah beef.

               "De mammy say: 'Well, take me pickin one tem (at once), de t'ing yo' wan' fo' do, make yo' do um one tem, make I see.'

               "Mawnin' de boy set trap, but all day he no ketch. He come home evenin' tem. W'en he come home he cry, he say: 'Because dey go come beat me.' Dem pusson dey come home. Sometem de boy bin go hide under he mammy bed. Nar so dey bin do any day, dey bin beat um any day. Now one day de boy cry, he come out under rain, he go set trap, en he ketch dis beef yeah. He gladee, he gladee bad, fo' wey he get um. Now he bring um, he gie um to dis bad man.

               "One day de boy go walker, he go close one big, big wattah; de wattah 'roun'. Now he go meet dah fine, fine bird wey kin sing, kin dance. He 'tan' lek canary, but not to canary. Alligator bin deh inside de wattah. W'en dah boy see dah plenty bird over de wattah, he see dey duh dance, dey duh sing, he wan ketch one, make he sing fo' um. W'en he try fo' cross, now he fa' down nah de wattah, en alligator come yandah fo' yeat um. Now he swim, he make hase, en he cross; he go ketch one of dah bird heah. Now he cross over back, now he come home. W'en he reach to he ho'se, he put de bird down 'pon de flo'. De bird sing, he dance. Now plenty people come fo' look dis bird wey duh sing, weh duh dance. Ef anybody wan' look um, he bring one piece clot' sotay dis po' mammy rich. Anybody, dah chief, dah king, dey kin come look dis bird how he kin dance; dey bring present to dis boy. Dis boy keep dis bird inside bly (basket). Now he go to de fa'm wid he mammy. Well, dis bad huntin' man, he go pull dis pickin heen bird, he put um down inside de ho'se, en de bird begin fo' sing, he begin fo' dance. W'en de man see de boy duh come yandah, he take de bird back quick. De boy come say: 'Who bin pull dis bird heah?' De man nebber answer. Now de boy say: 'All ret,' en he lef fo' talk.

               "Plenty people come, dey say dey come look dis bird wey kin dance. Dey bring plenty present fo' gie dis boy heah. Now he pull de bird, de bird dance, he sing. Dis ooman he rich, he get plenty. Now de pickin put de bird inside bly agin, en he go to de fa'm wid he mammy. De man pull de bird agin, he look um. W'en he put de bird down he dance leelee bit, den he say:

               "'Ef yo' wan' make me dance fine, make yo' kare me nah yard. Dah dance wey I go dance, he go pass all fo' fine.'

               "De man he t'ink say dis nar true. He take de bird, kare um go nah yard; he put um down; de bird fly go. He bin 'deed make dis man fool."

               Both Sobah's tone and the drift of the story indicated that a rich climax was approaching, and many were shaking already with anticipated pleasure; so the story was interrupted here until the pent-up delight had been set free.

               "Now de boy come home. W'en he go look inside de place, he no see de bird, he ax he mammy. He mammy say he no know. Now he ax de man, en dis one say he no know. Now one ole ooman say, 'Dah huntin' man take de bird,' he say. 'W'en dem people come fo' look de bird, he bin pull um, bin put um nah yard, en de bird fly, he go.'

               "Now de boy go to de man, he say: 'I wan' me bird jus' now, to-day.'

               "De man wan' talk de boy, but he say: 'No talk, I go burn yo' ho'se jus now.'

               "De man he nebber sleep, he nebber sit down all day; he walker all day close de ribber, make trap fo' ketch bird. Now one day he fine de same wattah, wey de boy bin ketch dis bird. Now he see dem plenty bird wey duh sing, wey duh dance. W'en he wan' go ketch de bird he fa' down nah de wattah so, en alligator ketch um, he yeat um.

               "Dat make he no good fo' do leelee pickin bad. Ef pusson do leelee pickin t'ing wey (which) bad, trouble go ketch um wey (which) go pass he yown."

               Kindness towards children is not a part of the Temne social code, generally, at least not a conscious part; but Sobah was the unconscious embodiment of many of the better characteristics of his people, and personal experience had made him more than usually considerate and gentle. So he felt that this story contained a serious message, and he was the chosen mouthpiece.

               "Now dat bin true word," he added, looking reprovingly around the company. "Any pusson wey (who) do leelee pickin bad, trouble go ketch um wey (which) go pass him yown."

               After repeating this impressive warning, Sobah sat long in deep reflection. He was recalling another story, wherein the would-be evil doer received a just retribution. As soon as he felt moved to speak, he began his tale.



[1] "Dey mine um sotay he begin use dem," i.e. The boys cared for the animal until it became accustomed to them.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Dancing Bird, 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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