'A Story, A Story'

Story Time

May 05, 1999|By Gail E. Haley

Editor's note: Many African stories, whether or not they are about Kwaku Ananse the "Spider man," are called "Spider Stories." This book is about how that came to be.

Once, oh small children round my knee, there were no stories on earth to hear. All the stories belonged to Nyame, the Sky God. He kept them in a golden box next to his royal stool.

Ananse, the Spider man, wanted to buy the Sky God's stories. So he spun a web up to the sky.

When the Sky God heard what Ananse wanted, he laughed: "Twe, twe, twe. The price of my stories is that you bring me Osebo the leopard-of-the-terrible-teeth, Mmboro the hornet-who-stings-like-fire, and Mmoatia the fairy-whom-men-never-see."

Ananse bowed and answered: "I shall gladly pay the price."

Ananse ran along the jungle path -- yiridi, yiridi, yiridi -- till he came to Osebo the leopard-of-the-terrible-teeth.

"Oho, Ananse," said the leopard, "you are just in time to be my lunch."

Ananse replied: "As for that, what will happen will happen. But first let us play the binding binding game."

The leopard, who was fond of games, asked: "How is it played?"

"With vine creepers," explained Ananse. "I will bind you by your foot and foot. Then I will untie you, and you can tie me up."

"Very well," growled the leopard, who planned to eat Ananse as soon as it was his turn to bind him.

So Ananse tied the leopard

by his foot

by his foot

by his foot

by his foot, with the vine creeper. Then he said: "Now, Osebo, you are ready to meet the Sky God." And he hung the tied leopard in a tree in the jungle.

Next Ananse cut a frond from a banana tree and filled a calabash with water. He crept through the tall grasses, sora, sora, sora, till he came to the nest of Mmboro, the hornets-who-sting-like-fire.

Ananse held the banana leaf over his head as an umbrella. Then he poured some of the water in the calabash over his head.

The rest he emptied over the hornet's nest and cried: "It is raining, raining, raining. Should you not fly into my calabash, so that the rain will not tatter your wings?"

"Thank you. Thank you," hummed the hornets, and they flew into the calabash -- fom! Ananse quickly stopped the mouth of the gourd.

"Now, Mmboro, you are ready to meet the Sky God," said Ananse. And he hung the calabash full of hornets onto the tree next to the leopard.

Ananse now carved a little wooden doll holding a bowl. Then he filled the doll's bowl with pounded yams.

He set the little doll at the foot of a flamboyant tree where fairies like to dance. Ananse tied one end of a vine round the doll's head and, holding the other end in his hand, he hid behind a bush.

In a little while, Mmoatia the fairy-whom-no-man-sees came dancing, dancing, dancing, to the foot of the flamboyant tree. There she saw the doll holding the bowl of yams.

Now Ananse came out of hiding. "You are ready to meet the Sky God, Mmoatia." And he carried her to the tree where the leopard and the hornets were waiting.

Ananse spun a web round Osebo, Mmboro, and Mmoatia. Then he spun a web to the sky. He pulled up his captives behind him, and set them down at the feet of the Sky God.

"O, Nyame," said Ananse, bowing low, "here is the price you ask for your stories: Osebo the leopard-of-the-terrible-teeth, Mmboro the hornets-who-sting-like-fire, and Mmoatia the fairy-whom-men-never-see."

Nyame the Sky God called together all the nobles of his court and addressed them in a loud voice: "Little Ananse, the Spider man, has paid me the price I ask for my stories. Sing his praise. I command you."

"From this day and going on forever," proclaimed the Sky God, "my stories belong to Ananse and shall be called 'Spider Stories.' "

Excerpted from the book A STORY, A STORY by Gail E. Haley. Copyright (C) 1970 by Gail E. Haley. Reprinted by permission of Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc., Children's Publishing Division. All rights reserved.

Pub Date: 05/05/99

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