Narrator: Long ago in Ghana, the Ashanti people had no stories to keep them entertained and make them wise. They didn't even know what stories were. Not even Anansi, the legendary spider-man.
Anansi: I'm really bored, there's nothing to keep me entertained. I think I'll try climbing up to the sky and visit the gods. Surely it's more exciting up there than it is down here.
Narrator: So he slung his long web up into the sky, and climbed up to the home of the gods.
Anansi: Wow, it's really cool up here. So many gods running around, playing games and feasting and doing yoga. And.. wow...it looks like a lot more fun than crawling through weeds.
Narrator: And as he explored the land of the gods, he saw Nyame, the chief god, who always kept a strange wooden box next to him. He stopped one of the other gods and asked…
Anansi: Excuse me, but what is in that box that Nyame keeps next to him?
Minor God: You must be a stranger around here. What kind of god are you, anyway?
Anansi: I'm the god of, uh… dancing. That's why I have eight legs. Yeah, that's it.
Minor God: Ah, I see.
Anansi: So what is in the box, huh?
Minor God: You haven't heard the rumor? They say he keeps stories in that box.
Anansi: Oh, I wish I had some stories. I'm really hungry, and a fresh ripe story would go down really well.
Minor God: Yeah, right. I think you must actually be the god of nonsense. Excuse me.
Narrator: He stayed among the gods for several days, and he kept noticing that Nyame was still guarding that box, and nobody knew what was in it. Except maybe that it had stories in it – whatever stories were. He wondered if maybe stories weren't something valuable like jewels. Or maybe they were dangerous critters like crocodiles. But the more he thought about it, the more he knew he just had to know. So finally, he worked up the nerve to go up to Nyame and ask him.
Anansi: Excuse me, sir. But could I buy that box from you?
Anansi: Okay, okay, okay.
Narrator: And Anansi scurried away frightened. But he couldn't stop thinking about that box. So a few days later, he worked up the nerve to go back to Nyame, and he said…
Anansi: Excuse me sir, but I was wondering… could I buy that box now?
Anansi: I was afraid of that.
Narrator: And so it went several more times. Until finally Nyame thought…
Nyame: I'd better do something to get rid of this little eight-footed pest. Hmmm…
Narrator: So the next time Anansi came back and said…
Anansi: Pardon me for distrubing you again sir, but could I please buy that box?
Nyame: Why, of course you can.
Anansi: Okay, sorry to bother you. I know you must be really busy, and – did you say yes?
Nyame: That's right.
Anansi: Oh goody goody. How much do you want for it? I can pay you 37 flies and half a dozen beetles.
Nyame: Not so fast. I have my own price. For this box of stories, you must pay me… A python, a lion, a hornet's nest full of hornets, and a jungle fairy.
Anansi: That's four things. Haven't you ever heard of the rule of three?
Nyame: I'm the head god; I make my own rules.
Anansi: Yes, of course. But those things will not be easy to catch. Especially those devious little jungle fairies.
Nyame: That's my price. Take it or leave it.
Anansi: Very well. It's a deal.
Nyame: Good. (Aside) Heh heh heh. That will get rid of this little bug gobbler once and for all.
Narrator: But Anansi was a clever trickster. So he went back to the jungle and he picked up a good long walking stick and carried it around until he came across a python.
Anansi: Good morning, Mister… um…
Python: Monty's the name.
Anansi: Ah, yes. And may I ask you … what kind of creature you are?
Python: I'm a python of course.
Anansi: You are the python? I never would have believed it, because I expected a python to be much longer.
Anansi: Yes, you see, a friend of mine told me that you were as long as this stick, but I knew he was mistaken. No snake could possibly be this long.
Python: Oh yes I can.
Anansi: Oh, don't be silly, It isn't possible.
Python: But I am, I tell you. That stick is nowhere near being a snake long. Just lay it down, and I'll stretch out next to it. I'll show you!
Anansi: Well, if it’s not too much trouble.
Narrator: So the snake stretched out beside the stick, and. Anansi very quickly spun his web, wrapping it around the snake and the stick.
Python: Hey, what's the big idea? I don't need a splint – I only cause injuries I don't get them.
Narrator: And Anansi carried the snake up to Nyame and said…
Anansi: Here's the first one. I'll be back.
Narrator: And he went back down to the jungle. He decided to try for the lion next. He got a big bag, and carried it out to where the lion was lounging in the sun.
Anansi: Good day, Mr. Lion
Lion: What do you want, you little tree crab?
Anansi: Well, I just had a bet with a friend of mine who said you couldn't possibly fit in this bag. I told him you could do it, but he just wouldn't believe me. Tell you what: If you'll show me that you can do it, I'll split the bet with you.
Lion: You need to get some smarter friends if they don't believe I can do an easy little thing like that. Let me see that bag. Here, this is how easy it is for me to get into something like that.
Narrator: And the lion squeezed into the bag. After which Anansi tied it up, and carried it up to Nyame.
Anansi: Here you are sir. The cat's into the bag now. That's the second one. I'll be back.
Narrator: So he decided to go for the hornets next. He took along with him a gourd full of water. And he carried it up into the tree, above the hornet's nest, and dumped all of the water onto the hornets.
(Sound of hornets buzzing angrily)
Well let me tell you, those wet hornets were as mad as wet hornets. They buzzed out of their nests in confusion trying to figure out where all of the water had come from, and where they could find a beach towel. Anansi zipped down on a strand of his net, like he'd seen a man in the jungle swing on a vine. And he said to the hornets…
Anansi: Hey friends! That storm came up very suddenly, didn't it? And I hear there's even more on the way. Looks like your nest got flooded. I hope you have good nest owners' insurance. Hey, tell you what: I've got a gourd here that's waterproof. You're welcome to use it as emergency homeless shelter until the storm passes. No charge.
(Hornets buzz more happily and appreciatively.)
Narrator: And then, quickly spun his web and wrapped up the quard with the hornets inside. And he carried it up to Nyame.
Anansi: That's the third one. I'll be back.
Narrator: And Anansi went back down to the earth to face the most difficult task of all. Capturing one of the mischievious jungle fairies. Who got very angry whenever anybody was rude to them.
Anansi: And I guess trying to capture one might be considered a bit rude huh?
Narrator: You got it. Oh did I mention that they were invisible?
Anansi: Thanks I needed the confidence booster.
Narrator: The fairies were very clever. They roamed through the country doing mischief. Like souring milk,and rusting knives and misplacing shoes and hiding shadows on cloudy days. They were impossible to catch. But Anansi was a clever trickster himself. Or else we wouldn't have a story. Whatever that is. And he had an idea. He made a little doll out ofstraw and he covered it from head to foot with a sticky gum from a gum tree. And he set it our where a fairy might see it. And he hid in the bushes. Before long he heard an invisible voice.
Fairy: You there. Who are you? And how dare you stand in my path? Didn't you hear me? I asked you who you are. Oh, you want to be rude huh? Well I get angry when people are rude. All I have to do is lay my invisible hand on you and... Hey! let go of my hand. Let go I said. All right you asked for it. Ow! Let go of my foot.
Anansi: Well I can't see her. But I don't think my sticky Barbie is dancing by itself. I've got the fairy in my trap.
Narrator: So he jumped out of the bushes and wrapped up the Fairy and the straw doll in his web
Fairy: Hey, stop that! You are being very rude you know.
Narrator: And so when Anansi took the last item. A thrashing, struggling, invisible item up to Nyame.
Anansi: Here you are sir. I brought you the last thing you requested.
Narrator: Yes, so you did.
Anansi: So if I may ask. What do you intend to do with them?
Narrator: Oh, I'm going to let them go ofcouse. I believe in catch and release.
Anansi: As you wish sir. But since I brought them as you asked, may I please have the story box now?
Narrator: Well the thing is you've put me in a bind. I never expect you to be able to bring me any of these things much less all of them. I never really intented to give up my story box. How about I give you something else instead? Maybe a shiny new thunderbolt, or rainbow with a pot of gold on it, or your very own constellation.
Anansi: Nope. Sorry. Only thing I want is the box of stories.
Nyame: Oh, why did I ever agree to give it to you? Well, a deal is a deal. Take it and don't ever come back up here again.
Anansi: Maybe I won't need to. Now that I have box of stories, whatever they are.
Narrator: So Anansi took the box of stories back down to the jungle. And he very carefully opened it up. And all of the stories went flying out everywhere. Happy stories, sad stories, funny stories, scary stories, long stories, short stories, likely stories. They went everywhere, all through the jungle, all through Ghana, all through Africa, all throughout the world. And maybe even further. Anansi caught some of them and put them back into the box. So he could share them with the rest of the Ashanti people. And every now them he or somebody would find some new one to share. And we are still finding them to this very day.
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About this Story
Anansi and the Story Box is a tale from Ghana in Africa, about the legendary spider-man hero of the Ashanti tribe, and how he brought stories to the world. It bears certain similarities to the Greek myths of Pandora and Prometheus, and includes a plot point similar to The Tar Baby, which made its way from Africa to America.
@ Your Library
For more great American Folk Tales and legendary heroes go to your local library. You will find Folk Tales in the 398 section (Dewey Decimal System)
Look for more stories about:
- Tricksters like Br'er Rabbit
Want more Anansi stories? Be sure to check out Anansi & Yamhills podcast.
Guess what?? Good news! Anansi and the Story Box will be performed at schools and libraries all across the USA in 2017-18. Bring the show to your community.