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Ananse and His Visitor, Turtle

Ananse and His Visitor, Turtle

A Story from the Ashanti People

Ashanti tribe who created a group of tales about Ananse, a cunning spider that tries to outwit his neighbors. He seldom succeeds.

It was almost time for Sun to sink to his resting place when Turtle, tired and dusty from hours of wandering, came to Ananses house in the middle of a clearing in the woods. Turtle was hungry and the appetizing aroma of freshly cooked fish and yams drew him to approach Ananses door and to knock. Ananse jerked the door open. When he saw the tired stranger he was inwardly annoyed, but it was an n unwritten law of his country that one must never, no never, refuse hospitality to a passer-by.

Ananse smiled grimly and said, Come in, come in, and share my dinner, Mr. Turtle.

As Turtle stretched out one paw to help himself from the steaming platter Ananse almost choked on a mouthful of food. In a shocked voice he said, Turtle, I must remind you that in my country it is ill-mannered to come to the table without first washing. Please go to the stream at the foot of the hill and wash your dusty paws.

Turtle waddled down the hill and waded in the water for a while. He even washed his face. By the time he had trudged back up the trail to Ananses house, the platter of fish was half empty. Ananse was eating at a furious rate.

Turtle stretched out one paw to help himself to food, but again Ananse stopped him. Turtle, your paws are still dusty. Please go wash them.

It is the dust from the long trail up the hill, Turtle explained in a meek voice. Clearly, it was not Turtles place to argue if he expected to share the delectable meal, so he crawled down the hill a second time and rewashed his paws. Turtle was careful to walk on the grass beside the dusty trail on the climb back to Ananses house. He hurried, for by now he was ravenous.

But, oh dear! Ananse had scraped the platter bare of fish and yams. My, that was a good dinner, he said, wiping the last drop of gravy form his chin.

Thank you for your wonderful hospitality, Ananse. Some day you must visit me. And Turtle, in a huff, went on home.

Some months later Ananse visited Turtle. After creepy crawling all day from one tall grass stem to the next he found Turtle snoozing beside the river.

Well, well, exclaimed Turtle. So you have come to share my dinner. Make yourself comfortable, my dear Ananse, while I go below and prepare the food. He plunged into the river with a splash. Ananse was hungry. He paced the shore line and watched for Turtles reappearance. At last Turtles head popped above the water. Dinner is ready, he called as he bit into a huge clam. Come on down. Then he disappeared from sight.

Ananse dived head first into the water, sank a few inches, then floated to the surface. His spindly legs and tiny body prevented him from sinking. He flipped and flapped his puny arms, tried swallow dives and belly flops, but he could not reach eh bed of the river.

Then that cunning spider schemed. He filled the pockets of his jacket with small round pebbles, dived into the river, and sank with a bump that landed him right at the dinner table. Before him was spread the most delicious meal he had ever seen. There were oysters and clams, mussels, slices of eel, and crabs. As a centerpiece, sprays of watercress rested against large pink shrimp. Ananses eyes widened with pleasure, his stomach rumbled in anticipation. Turtle, already seated at the table, swallowed a piece of eel, looked at Ananse and said, Oh, Ananse, I must remind you that in my country it is ill-mannered to come to the table wearing a jacket. Please take it off.

Very slowly Ananse removed his jacket. Very slowly Ananse left the table. Without the weight of the pebbles to hold him down he floated straight up through the green water and out of sight.

When you set out to outsmart another person to your own advantage, there is usually someone who can outsmart you.

Kaula, Edna Mason. African Village Folktales. Cleveland, Ohio: The World Publishing Company, 1968

Originated from West Africa.

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