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

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Watch-Pot and Greedy

IT WAS his desire to please the men, that led Sobah to choose this particular story. They could appreciate to the full every new move in the contest of wits, and expressed this appreciation by peals of laughter and boisterous exclamations. Sobah himself preserved a show of decorum, only giving way now and then to a pleased chuckle over some particularly clever trick. The story, minus the tone, facial expression and gestures was as follows:

               "Well, one man bin east, one bin wes'. De one wey bin east he greedy, de one wey bin wes' he duh Watch-pot. [1] Now de greedy one he hear 'bout de one wey duh Watch-pot, en he say: 'No matter how dis man kin Watch-pot, he no go yeat me yown yeat.' Now Watch-pot he hear 'bout how dis man greedy, no 'tranger ever yeat to um, nobody ever yeat heen yeat. Now he say: 'I mus' yeat he ress.' So one day he say he go go to de east to de greedy man. Well, w'en he wan' go he buy clo'es, [2] all kind of clo'es; he get box, he put de clo'es in de box. He take all t'ing wey de carpenter need, en sawyer all; nail, tool, en all t'ing. Den he get up, he start off, he go. He go far to de east wey de greedy man bin nah heen fa'm-ho'se. De day w'en he go reach, de greedy man done hear say he come, he no far 'way 'pon de road. De same day now, dis greedy man heah, he kill big bush-hog, he' jus' shabe (divide) de meat middle part, he wef cook plenty, nearly all, he cook half wid de ress. Well, jus' he cook so, dey see dis Watch-pot man he tell 'How do', he say, 'Brudder, how do?'

               "Dis heah man he say: 'How do, sit down, now.'

               "So de 'tranger sit down, he open he box, he pull one piece clo'es, he tell dis man heah, 'How do', wid de clo'es. He ax, he say: 'Wey yo' name?'

               "He answer um, say: 'Me name Greedy; wey yo' yown name?'

               "Dat one answer: 'Me name Watch-pot, I come tell yo' How do.' Because I bin heah 'bout yo', I come tell yo' How do.'

               "De greedy man say: 'All ret, go nah town now, I go meet yo' deh bimeby.'

               "De Watch-pot say: 'How I go do? I no know anybody nah de town 'cept yo'. Make I wait evenin' tem, make we two go togedder.'

               "Dey sit down all day. De ress sit down close de fire side.

               "De man he call he wef, he tell um, he say: 'Dis man heah no go yeat dis ress.'

               "Den leelee pickin dey duh cry, hangry ketch dem. Dey all sit down dey tay (till) young evenin' tem. Well, de man he call he wef nah (from) de room; dem pickin dey cry, he no know how fo' do agin. So he tell he wef, he say: 'I go lay down, I say I sick. W'en he stay leelee bit, I do lek I die. Den make yo' go tell de people in de town say I done die. Bimeby so, jus' de man go', I go grap, (get up) we go yeat de ress.'

               "Well, de man he lay down, he say he sick. Leelee bit, no mo', now de daddy he die, but not to true die.

               "Well, now de ooman he go tell de man, he say:

               "'Daddy, how we go do now? Yo' jus' come tell yo' brudder how do to-day, en look; he done die. Go now, tell de people wey in de town say he done die.'

               "De man say: 'Ee, ee! Yo' wey bin ooman, aintee yo' nar ooman, aintee yo' fo' come out wid holler? [3] Go nah de town, tell dem people all. Me, wey man, make me lef close me brudder; lef me fo' mine um tay yo' come.'

               "Den de ooman say: 'Well, who go was' um?'

               "De man say: 'I go was' um, he now me brudder, I no 'fraid um.'

               "Den de man go was' um all. De ooman say: 'Go nah town, make yo' buy white clo'es.'

               "De man say: 'Wait me.' He open he box, he pull de white clo'es.

               "De ooman he say: "W'en me man die, he say make me make [4] coffin fo' um. Make yo' go buy boa'd.'

               "De man say: 'Make yo' get up f'om dah 'tick wey yo' sit down 'pon.' He put one bench heah, he put one yandah, he take de 'tick, he put um 'pon top, he open he box, he take he saw, he saw all de 'tick, he make boa'd. Den he nail de coffin all.

               "De ooman duh watch, he duh t'ink: 'Wey t'ing I go do now fo' sabe (save) me man?' He say: 'Me man say, w'en he die, make dem make windah to he head, fo' pull he neck, come out.'

               "De man make all.

               "De ooman say: 'Well, make we wait nah mawnin' now, befo' we bury de man.'

               "Dis tem dark done come, en still de ress 'tan' up close de fire side. De ooman say: 'Well, how we go do fo' wood fo' make fiah?'

               "De man say: 'Dem piece, piece boa'd, heah.'

               "He come out do'-mout', he pick, pick all dem 'tick, he make big fiah all net, make big fiah tay do' clean. W'en do' clean, de wef say:

               "'Make yo' dig hole, make we go bury me man nah bush yandah.'

               "He jus' wan' make de 'tranger go, fo' make dem lef yeat de ress.

               "Den de man say: 'Ee! Me brudder wey get dis fa'm, yo' wan' go bury um inside de bush deh?' He say: 'Now inside dis fa'm-ho'se I go bury um. [5] W'en I done, I go fix de flo' so pusson no know se'f, eh!'

               "Well, de ooman say: 'Make yo' come out en go behine de ho'se, I wan' fo' tell me man goodbye.'

               "W'en he done go, de wef tell de man, he say: 'Dis yeah 'tranger go bury yo' heah fo' yo' yown yeat. Make yo' get up, make we yeat de ress.'

               "De man say: 'Lef fo' talk; me ress he no go yeat um. Make yo' hide de hoe, make he go nah town fo' fine hoe fo' come dig me grabe.'

               "De ooman say: 'All ret.'

               "Now de man come inside back. De ooman go hide de hoe, but de man no see w'en he hide um. De ooman say: 'We no get hoe, how we go manage? Make yo' go nah town fo' get hoe, fo' come dig de grabe.'

               "De man he say: 'Wait me.' He open he box, he pull dem digger wid shovel; he dig, he dig, he dig; de hole he deep. He go inside hole, de hole cover um all. De man he cunnie lek rabbit. He go inside, he come out quick. W'en he come out he put de coffin, he say: 'Make yo' tell um goodbye; ef yo' done, I go put um inside de coffin.'

               "De ooman say: 'Go back behine de ho'se, I wan' fo' talk to um.'

               "Well, de man he come out, but he no go far 'way, jus' 'roun' de ho'se. De ooman say: 'Get up, dis man go bury yo', get up!'

               "De ress duh 'tan' up, de pickin duh cry, but not fo' den daddy; dey duh cry fo' de ress, because de hangry duh ketch dem. W'en de ooman tell he man make he get up, ef not, de 'tranger go bury um, he say: 'Lef me, make he bury me, but he no yeat me ress.'

               "De Watch-pot man come inside, he take de Greedy man, he put um inside coffin, but he neck lef', because window bin lef' wey de head come out. W'en he put de coffin inside de hole 'traight-way, de ooman say: 'No put um 'traight, make he 'tan' up.'

               "Now de man take de coffin, he turn um over fo' make de head down. De ooman say: 'No, put um make de head up.'

               "So de man put de head up. W'en he done put de coffin, he begin fo' cover um wid de dirty (earth); he cover all 'roun', de neck lef', no mo'; he cover all 'roun' to de coffin. Now de ooman tell de man, he say: 'Come out, make me tell me man goodbye fo' de las' tem now.'

               "Watch-pot come out, de ooman tell he man, say: 'Come out, dis man go bury yo', eh!'

               "He answer he wef, say: 'Lef me, make he bury me, he no go yeat me ress.'

               "Well, now de man come fo' cover de half part wey lef', no mo'; he know say ef he jus' cover um, de man go come out de grave w'en he done go. De las' shovel lef' now. Well he dip de dirty hard fo' make he cut de man inside de hole, fo' make he kill um. De die man open he yi leelee w'en he see wey t'ing he cumpin wan' fo' do. He say yo' betty pull me; but me ress, yo' no go yeat um, ef nar fo' dat yo' do dis t'ing.'

               "So de man pull um. De greedy man heen wef say: 'Take up de ress, make we yeat um all. Den he tell de Watch-pot man, say: 'Go gie me dat calabas' wey 'tan' up yandah.'

               "De place far leelee bit, en befo' de man come back wid de calabas' so, Greedy tell he wef fo' take de ress, hese'f take de soup, en dey run inside de bush. Behole w'en dey run, dey fo'get de calabas' en de 'tick-'poon fo' dish up de ress. Den Watch-pot take de 'tick-'poon en de calabas', he run aftah dem; he go, he meet dem, he see dey go behine one big 'tick. Jus' dey done sit down deh, now de ooman say: 'Look, we no get calabas' en 'poon fo' take up, eh!'

               "Jus' now de Watch-pot come, he say: 'Aintee dis de 'tick en de calabas' wey yo' fo'get? I done bring um.'

               "De ooman say: 'Fetch um.' De man say: 'Make yo' come yeat.' He no know how fo' do agin, but he vex when he talk so.

               "De Watch-pot man come, dey yeat all de ress. W'en dey finis' fo' yeat, de Watch-pot man say: 'Tankee, tankee de pusson wey cook de ress.'

               "De man done vex, he say: 'Me no cook um.'

               "Den de man say: 'Well, tankee de pusson wey soak de ress.'

               "De Greedy man say: 'Me no soak um.'

               "De Watch-pot man say: 'Well, tankee de man wey brush de fa'm, plant um.'

               "De Greedy man answer um: 'Yo' no get bizzen deh, I no plant um.'

               "Watch-pot say: 'Well, how yo' bin do?'

               "He answer um: 'I no know, no ax me not'ing.'

               "Den de Watch-pot man say: 'Well, goodbye.'

               "Greedy answer um, say: 'Ef yo' lek, yo' no go; ef yo' lek yo' go', I no get bizzen deh.'

               "So Watch-pot take all he t'ing, he go pong!

               "Now dem two pusson deh, which one pass fo' cunnie?"

               The delight of the men over the narrative of Watch-pot and Greedy was so genuine and keen, that Sobah quite readily consented to tell another story. While trying to think of something appropriate, his eye fell upon an axe that was leaning against a post of the farm-house. The axe itself was a novelty in that part of the country, a result of one of Sobah's trips to the coast.

               "Yo' see dah axe yandah?" he asked, pointing to the article in question. "Yo' no know which side he come out? Well, I tell yo' 'bout um."



[1] Watch-pot is the usual expression for a protracted call, the chief aim of which is to remain until the next meal is prepared and served. Such a stay has an air of deliberation about it, something like taking one's knitting and remaining for tea.

[2] The "clo'es" were pieces of cloth for the customary present, which the stranger offers as indirect payment for the hospitality he expects to receive.

[3] As soon as a death is reported, the people gather around the corpse, and, prone upon the ground, indulge in the wildest lamentations and cries. This duty is especially incumbent upon the women, and their wailing and grovelling, accompanied by writhings and contortions of the body, must be something like the death-wail of the lost.

[4] Coffins are unknown to native life. The dead are wrapped in white cloth and grass woven mamats and laid in shallow graves.

[5] The place of burial for a baby, especially if it be the first, is usually a refuse heap, the belief being that if the child is too deeply mourned and honored, the parents will have no more offspring. A second child is buried nearer the house; while the most honorable interment given an older person, is within the house. The "bush" and the road-side, receive the majority of the dead.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Watch-Pot and Greedy
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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