Cunnie Rabbit, Mr. Spider and the Other Beef: West African Folk Tales | Annotated Tale

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Devil's Magic Eggs, The

"DIS story 'bout two mate (two wives of one husband). De one he die, he lef he pickin to he mate. Dis ooman no lek um, he hate um, he cruel to um. De pickin get wattah, he beat ress (rice), he broke wood, he do eberyt'ing, but w'en he done do all dis, de ooman bin flog um. He yown pickin he no wuk, he no duh do not'ing. So dey do tay (till) de two pickin sick wid yaws. Now de ooman sorry fo' he yown pickin, he no scrub um good; de odder pickin he scrub good, he scrub um wid hatred, but he make de yaws done quick. Now he tire fo' mine dis pickin, he wan' make de debble yeat um.

               "One day w'en de pickin go nah de kitchen, he mistake, he t'row 'way (dropped) de ress-'tick nah groun'. So de ooman slap um, he curse, curse um all. De pickin beg, he beg, he say: 'Oh, Mammy, no do me so.'

               "De ooman answer: 'No call me mammy, me not to yo' mammy, yo' mammy done die wid witch. I no bin sen' um fo' make he go witch, make he mus' die.' So dis wicked ooman duh curse de pickin. Den he tell um, say, he mus' go was' dis 'tick nah de debble heen place, far place. Man mus' take one day fo' reach deh (there) en come back, en leelee pickin no able fo' walker quick lek man. So dis girl he get up, he start, he take de ress-'tick fo' go was' um to dah place wey dah debble bin. W'en de pickin walker 'pon de road, he meet den hoe handle wey bin tie up in bundle; dey get sense fo' talk, dey know one odder. De pickin meet dem handle, dey duh walker, dey ax um: 'Yo'! pickin, which way yo' duh go?'

               "He tell um all, say: 'Now me mammy sen' me fo' was' dah ress-'tick.'

               "W'en he go agin, he meet one man wey jus' get one grain (single) yi. He ax um, he say: 'Tittie (sissy), which way yo' duh go?'

               "De pickin say: 'Me mammy sen' me fo' was' dis ress-'tick.'

               "De man show um which way fo' pass. He go tay (till) he reach to de big debble him place. De debble he get so many yi. He get broad head, middle he get bald head. So de debble call um, he say: 'Tittie heah, come feel me louse.' [1]

               "So de pickin come feel, feel de debble heen louse. De debble get so many yi dat ef de pickin do anyt'ing at all fo' play trick, he kin see, but de pickin no do anyt'ing bad; so de debble take de ress-'tick, he was' um clean, he wrap um wid one silk hankercher, he gie um. Now he tell um say:

               "'Go back nah co'ner, take four egg.'

               "He duh try dis girl fo' see if he hones'. Plenty big egg bin deh, but de pickin jus' take four; now small, small one he take, he no take de big one. So de debble tell um say:

               "'W'en yo' go leelee far yo' mus' bus' one egg, w'en yo' go agin yo' bus' de odder, tay (till) yo' bus' de t'ree, but de las' one yo' bus' um de place wey yo' wan' buil' ho'se.'

               "So w'en dis girl go leelee far, he bus' one egg. Now plenty servant en hammock come out fo' kare um go, en plenty box full of clot' en any kind of bead.

               "W'en he go agin he bus' de odder one, wey make two; he see officer en sodjer all come out fo' guard um. W'en he go agin he bus' de one wey make t'ree, en behole gold, silver en diamond, en all dem good, good stone, en servant fo' tote (carry) dem. Now de las' egg lef'. W'en he go to one part town wey he wan' fo' buil' ho'se, he bus' de las' egg. Plenty big ho'se come out; fine buildin' en big wall 'roun' dem, en goat, en cow. He go inside, he en he sodjer en he servant all. Dem drum en different, different music all duh play fo' um now."

               Of course the interest was intense, while these marvels were being related. Little outbursts of wonder and delight greeted each new revelation, but when, to crown all, there was music of all kinds the children could restrain themselves no longer, but leaped up and performed an impromptu dance.

               This, however, was over in an incredibly short time, and the story was allowed to proceed.

               "De debble done tell dis girl one t'ing fo' do, fo' make heen mudder come out of de grabe (grave) back. He bin say: 'Bimeby w'en yo' go, yo' mus' pick ress plenty. W'en yo' done beat um yo' soak um, take de mottah en de mottah-pencil to yo' mammy heen grabe, make yo' beat de ress 'pon top de grabe. Wen yo' duh beat so, yo' mus' sing.'

               "De pickin do all t'ing lek de debble bin tell um. W'en he duh beat, he duh sing."

               At the first mention of "he duh sing", all hands came into position to beat time, and as soon as Konah set the measure, all joined in the rhythmical hand-clapping,

"Mammy, turn to de wuld back.     
Anyt'ing weh I do, w'en I do um,     
De mammy nebber tankee me.    
He bin jus' flog me, flog me.     
Aftah he flog me done, he say,    
Make I mus' tell um tankee.     
Mammy, come back, come back,    
I duh trouble too much.    
Me mammy come back,     
I done tire of dis mammy."

               They easily found a musical note in these lines, however impossible it may appear to any but an African ear. It was a peculiar, quavering, minor strain, full of pathetic pleading.

               When the song was ended, the story took its regular course.

               "De girl beat, he sing, tay (till) de grabe begin crack, begin open. He sing steady. De grabe 'plit mo', en de mudder head come out. De girl cry, he say: 'Mammy, come back nah wuld.'

               "He wan' go grip he mammy, make he draw um come out nah de hole, but de debble bin tell um, say: 'Ef yo' see yo' mammy come out, no draw um; ef yo' draw, he cut middle, en he no come out agin!'

               "So de girl no go, he gie de mammy tem, he jus' duh beat, he duh sing

'Mammy, turn to de wuld back.'

               "Now de grabe 'plit mo', en de mammy done pull all heen han'. De pickin wan' agin fo' go take heen mammy han', but he no do um, he 'member how de debble bin say: 'Girl, girl, gie yo' mammy tem, he go come nah wuld back agin.' He sing steady:

'Mammy, mammy, sorry fo' me,    
 I duh trouble.    
Come back nah wuld,     
Come back.'

               "By dis tem de mammy done pull all heen skin, he foot lef'. Now he pull he foot, one foot; de one lef'. De pickin beat, he beat, he beat. Now de mammy all come out. De girl go hole he mudder, take um go inside de ho'se dey get, but befo' he do dis, he bin take dis ress-'tick, he sen' um to he step-mudder, wey bin make um go to de debble place fo' was' de 'tick.

               "Well, de step-mudder, w'en he see all de money, en all de fine style, en all de plenty, plenty t'ing wey dis he mate (her associate wife's) pickin get, he do careless, he t'row 'way dis 'tick-'poon 'pon de groun', he tell he yown pickin, he say: 'Make yo' mus' go was' um.'

               "But he yown pickin he no train up, he no 'fraid anyt'ing, he no respec' anyt'ing wey he see. So w'en he duh go nah road, he meet de hoe-handle 'tan' up nah road, dey say: 'Tittie (sister), how do?'

               "De girl duh vex, he say: 'Make I pass. I nebber see t'ing lek dat, nebber see hoe-handle wey (which) duh talk.'

               "Dem 'tick heah bin de debble, wey turn hese'f to different t'ing.

               "De pickin go tay (till) he meet de one man wid one yi'. De man say: 'Tittie, how do?'

               "De girl vex, he say: 'I nebber see pusson get one yi' middle heen head.' He say: 'Make I pass, I duh go was' me mammy he ress-'tick; no tell me how do.'

               "De pickin duh talk bad all to dis man. He go tay he meet de daddy hese'f, se'f, se'f, wey get de wattah side. So de debble call um fo' try um, he say: 'Tittie, come feel me louse.'

               "De pickin no know say de debble get plenty yi', so w'en he duh feel dis debble he louse, he see de bald head, he make as ef he wan' fo' conk (strike) um."

               Konah gave this little scene with realistic mimicry, and naturally provoked a shout of laughter. As soon as it seemed safe, Konah added: 'He no mean do um, he jus' make trick.'

               "De debble he see um, he say: 'All ret', but he no talk. He was' de 'tick-'poon, he no wrap um. W'en he see dis girl nar bad girl, he duh try um agin, he say: 'Now yo' take four egg.'

               "So w'en de pickin go to de co'ner, he see dem big, big, big egg, he take um. He get big yi. De debble tell um, say: 'Wen yo' go far leelee bit, yo' mus' bus' de one; w'en yo' go far agin, yo' mus' bus' odder one; w'en yo' go agin, yo' bus' odder; w'en yo' reach to yo' mudder heen ho'se, de las' one yo' bus'.'

               "So w'en he go leelee far f'om de debble, he bus' one. Now de honey (bees) come out, dey sting um, dey sting um, dey sting um. W'en dey tire dey lef um. He go agin, he bus' de one wey make two. Dem snake dey come wrap um all nah (on) he foot, nah he han', nah he neck, nah he wais' all; he no know how fo' do agin. W'en dey done hole um long tem, now dey lef um. W'en he go leelee bit mo', he bus' odder one. So so big man come out, dey get big whip, dey flog um, dey flog um, dey flog um tay dey tire; so dey go. He mammy duh look nah road, he anxious. W'en he pickin come, he see he face all swell. W'en he reach to he mammy heen ho'se, he bus' de las' egg. Now fiah get out, burn de ho'se, burn he mammy en hese'f."

               This part of the story was quite as effective as that had been where the other child broke the magic eggs, but the interest, though equally intense, was of a different nature. Never had story heartier reception, or better rendering. Simple young hearts, naturally emotional and responsive, were enchanted by the fairy-tale; and Konah, all a-tremble with excitement, threw all the ardor of her fresh young soul into the telling.

               After the exclamations had quieted sufficiently, she added impressively, and with serious gravity:

               "Now dis story learn we fo' no do bad to pickin wey no get mammy or daddy."

               Other children were anxious to share in the story-telling; and a little girl, seizing the first favorable opportunity, repeated an impossible tale which she had once heard.



[1] A common sight among the natives is a little child busily engaged in picking the lice from the woolly head of some older person. Sometimes the child's place is taken by the pet monkey. If the monkey fails to find the object of his search, he loses his temper, and expresses his feelings in strong language, and in boxing the person's head.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Devil's Magic Eggs, 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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