Ananse the trickster.
Ananse the survivor.
Ananse the spider man.
A live performance on Zoom, of Ananse and the Book of Knowledge, for Caribbean Storytime, Rampoon Radio. 27/09/20.
(originally told by Henk Tjon of Suriname)
From the novel Journey as the Wire Bend Up River Where the Story end
One Story of…
HOW ANANSE BEAT MONGOOSE AND SNAKE
or Read for yourself.
Well, for those who have ears to hear, Mongoose is greedy. And that is the way to beat him. But to beat him, first you have to know him. And it’s I, Ananse, the spider-man, who know who Mongoose is, because is I, the smart-boy Ananse, who beat him at his own game.
It was just after the turning of the age, and Ananse used to live in a Tamarind tree behind Farmer’s land. And behind the Tamarind tree, up the hill lived that sly Mongoose.
Now, Mongoose loved eggs. There wasn’t any other creature in the forest that loved eggs more than Mongoose. And every morning, right after Cock crowed, Mongoose would sneak into Farmer’s yard and make off with all of Farmer’s eggs.
Well, one morning, Ananse, the spider-man, was out walking. And as he passed near to Farmer’s fence he heard Dog barking, growling and barking. So, Ananse hurried around a Bird-pepper tree to see what all the commotion was about. And there was Mongoose, balancing on top of Farmer’s fence. And dog was jumping against the wire fence trying to shake him down.
Mongoose’s hands were full-up with eggs and every time dog jumped up and barked the fence shook and Mongoose came close to falling and breaking all the nice big eggs.
‘Mongoose! Mongoose! I see Dog got you good this time,’ Ananse called out and laughed.
But Mongoose was too busy to answer, so the smart-boy saw his opportunity and shouted. ‘My friend, just drop the eggs and I will catch them safe for you.’
‘Oh yes, and, and steal them away too,’ was Mongoose’s ungrateful reply.
‘How is a small creature like me going to carry away so many big eggs?’ asked Ananse. ‘But if you want to give me just one of your eggs for my trouble. We could have a deal.’
Ananse could see Mongoose considering the plan, so he started at once to weave a big net. At the same time that he finished the net, Mongoose called out.
‘Alright then spider-man. A bargain. One of my eggs for your help. Catch!’
And he tossed the eggs down one by one. And while Dog continued to bark and growl and shake the fence, Ananse caught the eggs with his net – One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six – and gently set them on the ground.
As soon as the sixth egg was on the ground, Mongoose jumped off the fence, and laughed at Dog.
‘Heh, heh, heh, I got away again you, old dog. Heh, heh, heh.’
And with that, Mongoose snatched up all the eggs, ready to run off.
‘Hey!’ said Ananse. ‘A bargain is a bargain, Mongoose.’
But that sly Mongoose laughed again. ‘Heh, heh, heh, Spider-man, I’m not giving you any at all. Heh, heh, heh, Spider-man and to take them from me, you’re too small. Heh, heh, heh.’
Well Ananse got angry at those words.
‘Oh yes Mongoose?’ he snapped. ‘The spider-man is too small? I bet you, come tomorrow, when you reach for Farmer’s eggs, I smart-boy Ananse, will have taken them all, already.’
Mr Mongoose started to laugh, at that. He laughed so much he almost dropped the eggs with his laughter.
‘Heh, heh, heh, spider-man is a challenge you offering me? Heh, heh, heh, spider-man you want to try to test me? Heh, heh, heh, hee, hee, hee.’ And the Mongoose dashed away, up the hill with all of the six eggs.
Well, the spider man decided then and there to teach Mongoose a lesson. Immediately he walked to the riverside where he knew Snake was spending the dry season. And when he got to the riverside he saw Snake sunning himself on a rock.
Ananse called to Snake. ‘Snake! Snake! You’re here still? I thought you were gone?’
Snake didn’t even turn his head. ‘Go way little Ananse. I don’t have time for you and your games.’
‘Oh no, of course, indeed, Mister Snake,’ Ananse called back. ‘It’s just, I heard Mongoose talking…’
‘Mongoose?’ said Snake raising his head for nosiness sake. ‘What Mongoose could have to say?’
‘Well he was saying how he is the most cunning creature in the forest,’ Ananse told Snake.
‘Ssss. Ssss, Ssss,’ Snake sniggered. ‘He was only trying to frighten you, little man.’
‘Yes, I’m sure you’re right,’ Ananse replied. ‘But it wasn’t just me. He’s been telling everybody in the forest. He’s been saying how he is the best, because he’s the only one who could sneak past Dog and get Farmer’s eggs.’
‘Isss so?’ answered Snake. ‘And who taught him all he knows, what little he knows?’
‘You, of course,’ Ananse called out. ‘But I heard him say how he is the slickest, the slyest, the sneakiest creature to ever cross the earth, in all of history.’
Well, Snake was starting to get vexed, now. He uncurled his long tail and then curled it round himself again. ‘The sssimpering, ssss,’ Snake hissed. ‘He’s only just started. He’s only just arrived. Who’s ever heard about Mongoose? Who’s ever written stories about him? Everybody knows about me. Snake. I’ve been here since time began. I am the first, the slimiest, the slyest, the lowest, the sneakiest, the slickest, the deceitfulest. And wasn’t it me there when the first garden got mash down? And wasn’t it me there turning people to stone up on that lady’s head? So who could be afraid of Mongoose, but Mongoose?’
Smart-boy Ananse could see his plan was working, so he threw a bit more wood for the fire to catch.
‘And he’s telling everybody how you’re getting old.’ Ananse added. ‘How when you’re asleep he sneaks up to you and tickles your nose, and how you’re too slow and fat to catch him.’
Well, Snake was really vexed now. ‘SSSS, sssaucy ssscamp. SSSneak up on me? Nobody sssneaks up on Snake. It’s Snake who sssneaks up on people!’
‘That’s what I told him,’ Ananse agreed. ‘I said, if you wanted eggs you could go into Farmer’s yard, at any time and take them. No?’
‘Of coursssse,’ Snake replied. ‘SSSStupid Dog is no match for me. I would be in and out before he even ssssniffed my ssscales.’
‘Well yes,’ said Ananse. ‘Unless you go after Cock crows. Because that bold-faced Mongoose takes Farmer’s eggs first thing every morning. If you really wanted to get the nice big eggs you’d have to go early, early, before Cock crows. Then, by the time mongoose arrived, the eggs would be long gone. And he would know it’s Mighty Snake who did it. Who else?’
‘Yessss, yessss,’ Snake hissed. He liked the idea.
‘And imagine, my friend Snake,’ Ananse added. ‘Imagine if, while stupid Mongoose is busy wasting his time sneaking past Farmer’s dog, you were up the hill in his house, clearing out all the other eggs he’s hiding. I mean, he would know who is the slyest then. Who is the sneakiest. Who was the one under the Master’s heel.’
‘Yesssss, yessss, yessss,’ Snake hissed. He loved the idea.
So early, early next morning, before Cock could crow, the smart-boy Ananse pulled up his deck chair and sat under the Tamarind tree.
Sure enough, just as the sun started to push the night out of the sky, Snake came sliding by. ‘Morning, morning,’ Ananse greeted him. But Snake did not answer. He slid around the Bird-pepper tree, under the wire fence, past sleeping Dog and into the hen house.
One chicken clucked, and Snake was back out of the hen house, past Dog, under the wire fence, round the pepper tree and back to the Tamarind tree with a coil full of big, brown eggs.
‘Ssspider-man, you are the witnessss,’ Snake hissed. ‘Who is more sssly? Who is more sssneaky than I?’
‘Not Mongoose,’ Ananse agreed.
Snake opened his coil and let the eggs roll into the grass
‘What is the sssum,’ asked Snake. ‘How many eggs you see? One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six? All the eggs in the hen house.’
‘And after you get the eggs from Mongoose’s den, the whole forest will know, who is the most cunning creature of all,’ Ananse announced.
Snake lifted his head up and declared. ‘That will be easy for me little man. The apple off the tree.’ And he left the six big eggs under the Tamarind tree with Ananse and slithered up the hill to Mongoose’s house.
In no time at all, Cock crowed, and Mongoose came hurrying down the hill, past the Bird-pepper tree, and under the fence. He ran into the hen house and immediately the chickens started to cluck and sqwark.
‘Puk. Puk-puk. Puk-puk, Puk.’
And Dog jumped up and ran to the hen house barking.
Well, Mongoose had to dash out of the hen house without a single egg and Dog chased him all the way to the fence, barking like he was going crazy.
Mongoose got away by the tip of his tail and ran straight to Ananse by the Tamarind Tree.
‘You bad-boy Ananse,’ Mongoose shouted. ‘You eight-legged boy Ananse. You thin-foot, big belly boy Ananse!’
Ananse smiled. ‘What’s the matter Mongoose,’ he said. ‘You want to borrow an egg this morning?’
Mongoose could only stare at the nice big eggs in Ananse’s sack.
Ananse laughed. ‘Heh, heh, heh, sly Mongoose you can’t believe your eyes? Heh, heh, heh, sly Mongoose. I’ll give you if you care to buy.’
‘Hush!’ Mongoose shouted. ‘You lazy-boy Ananse, you never got all those eggs by yourself. You’re too small spider, you’re too weak, man.’
‘That may be,’ laughed Ananse. ‘But who has Farmer’s eggs today?”
Mongoose was too vexed to leave it there. He started sniffing, sniff, sniff, sniff, until he caught Snake’s trail. And like he realised at once where Snake’s trail was leading to. So without another word he left Ananse and hurried back up the hill to his den.
As soon as Mongoose was gone, Ananse hid the eggs behind the Tamarind tree. Then he pulled out a big crocus bag and slung it over his shoulder and cautiously followed Mongoose up the hill. As he went he hummed a ditty to himself.
Eggs for breakfast today
Eggs for dinner tonight
I eating eggs tomorrow,
Poach, boil, fry and scrambled
Now, Mongoose’s house was built right at the edge of a waterfall. And the noise of the waterfall was so loud that you couldn’t hear anything but the noise from the waterfall. So when Ananse reached Mongoose’s house he couldn’t’ hear anything, but he could see Snake sliding around the side of the house. And Mongoose saw him too.
Snake stopped and Mongoose stopped. So Ananse stopped too. He watched Mongoose move in slow toward Snake and Snake slide side-ways.
Then – Bap-Si-Bi – Mongoose jumped and grabbed Snake’s tail. And as Mongoose bit Snake’s tail Snake whipped around and sank two sharp fangs into Mongoose’s nose. And the two started to wrestle. Backward and forward, round and round, rolling over and over.
Well, Ananse is not stupid. He saw his chance and the took it. He ran across the muddy yard and into the Mongoose’s den. He went straight for the Mongoose’s kitchen. And he started to fill up his sack. He took two fat fowls, a bowl of ripe mangoes, a pot full of fish and in a basket under some dry fig leaves, six big brown eggs – One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six. Then Ananse closed the sack and dragged it to the door.
Meanwhile, in the yard, Mongoose and Snake were still fighting. Round and round, backward and forward. Ananse pulled the sack all the way out of the yard and Mongoose and Snake were still fighting. Mongoose holding Snake’s tail, Snake biting Mongoose’s nose.
Ananse managed to drag the heavy sack all the way back to the Tamarind tree and Mongoose and Snake never even knew.
That night, as he added the six eggs from Mongoose’s den to the six eggs from Farmer’s yard, he sang…
Eggs for breakfast today
Eggs for dinner tonight
I eating eggs tomorrow,
Poach, boil, fry and scrambled
Ananse ate fish with chicken and rice for supper that night, and every morning for the next twelve days he ate egg for breakfast, poached, boiled, fried and scrambled.
And when Ananse saw Mongoose again, he could see the big red bite in his nose, from where Snake nearly took it off. And Snake? Well, I heard Snake is still by the riverside nursing his scars from Mongoose’s attack.
So you see? Is only the ones who are clever and smart like me, brothers, only the ones who are wiley and sly like me, sisters, yes only the ones like me can build a spider’s trap.