Man and Pirogue, Sunset, Niger River, Mali, West Africa

West African Folk-Tales  by  William H. Barker and Cecilia Sinclair

Garden Spider in Web, Argiope Aurantia

West African Folk-Tales
by William H. Barker and Cecilia Sinclair

How We Got the Name "Spider Tales"

How Wisdom Became the Property of the Human Race

Anansi and Nothing

Thunder and Anansi

Why the Lizard Moves His Head Up and Down

Tit For Tat

Why White Ants Always Harm Man's Property

The Squirrel and the Spider

Why We See Ants Carrying Bundles As Big As Themselves

Why Spiders Are Always Found in Corners of Ceilings

Anansi and the Blind Fisherman

Adzanumee and Her Mother

The Grinding-Stone That Ground Flour By Itself

Morning Sunrise

Why the Sea-turtle When Caught Beats Its Breast With Its Forelegs

How Beasts and Serpents Came into the World

Honourable Minu

Why the Moon and the Stars Receive Their Light From the Sun

Ohia and the Thieving Deer

How the Tortoise Got Its Shell

The Hunter and the Tortoise

Kwofi and the Gods

The Lion and the Wolf

Maku Mawu and Maku Fia

The Robber and the Old Man

The Leopard and the Ram

Why the Leopard Can Only Catch Prey On Its Left Side

Quarcoo Bah-Boni

King Chameleon and the Animals

To Lose an Elephant For the Sake of a Wren Is a Very Foolish Thing To Do

The Ungrateful Man

Why Tigers Never Attack Men Unless They Are Provoked

The Omanhene Who Liked Riddles

How Mushrooms First Grew

Farmer Mybrow and the Fairies

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Why Spiders Are Always Found in Corners of Ceilings

EGYA ANANSI was a very skilful farmer. He, with his wife and son, set to work one year to prepare a farm, much larger than any they had previously worked. They planted in it yams, maize, and beans—and were rewarded by a very rich crop. Their harvest was quite ten times greater than any they had ever had before. Egya Anansi was very well pleased when he saw his wealth of corn and beans.

He was, however, an exceedingly selfish and greedy man, who never liked to share anything—even with his own wife and son. When he saw that the crops were quite ripe, he thought of a plan whereby he alone would profit by them. He called his wife and son to him and spoke thus: "We have all three worked exceedingly hard to prepare these fields. They have well repaid us. We will now gather in the harvest and pack it away in our barns. When that is done, we shall be in need of a rest. I propose that you and our son should go back to our home in the village and remain there at your ease for two or three weeks. I have to go to the coast on very urgent business. When I return we will all come to the farm and enjoy our well-earned feast."

Anansi's wife and son thought this a very good, sensible plan, and at once agreed to it. They went straight back to their village, leaving the cunning husband to start on his journey. Needless to say he had not the slightest intention of so doing.

Instead, he built himself a very comfortable hut near the farm—supplied it with all manner of cooking utensils, gathered in a large store of the corn and vegetables from the barn, and prepared for a solitary feast. This went on for a fortnight. By that time Anansi's son began to think it was time for him to go and weed the farm, lest the weeds should grow too high. He accordingly went there and worked several hours on it. While passing the barn, he happened to look in. Great was his surprise to see that more than half of their magnificent harvest had gone. He was greatly disturbed, thinking robbers had been at work, and wondered how he could prevent further mischief.

Returning to the village, he told the people there what had happened, and they helped to make a rubber-man. When evening came they carried the sticky figure to the farm, and placed it in the midst of the fields, to frighten away the thieves. Some of the young men remained with Anansi's son to watch in one of the barns.

When all was dark, Egya Anansi (quite unaware of what had happened) came, as usual, out of his hiding-place to fetch more food. On his way to the barn. he saw in front of him the figure of a man, and at first felt very frightened. Finding that the man did not move, however, he gained confidence and went up to him. "What do you want here?" said he. There was no answer. He repeated his question with the same result. Anansi then became very angry and dealt the figure a blow on the cheek with his right hand. Of course, his hand stuck fast to the rubber. "How dare you hold my hand!" he exclaimed. "Let me go at once or I shall hit you again." He then hit the figure with his left hand, which also stuck. He tried to disengage himself-by pushing against it with his knees and body, until, finally, knees, body, hands, and head were all firmly attached to the rubber-man. There Egya Anansi had to stay till daybreak, when his son came out with the other villagers to catch the robber. They were astonished to find that the evil-doer was Anansi himself. He, on the other hand, was so ashamed to be caught in the act of greediness that he changed into a spider and took refuge in a dark corner of the ceiling lest any one should see him. Since then spiders have always been found in dark, dusty corners, where people are not likely to notice them.

The text came from:

Barker, William H. and Cecilia Sinclair. West African Folk-tales. Lagos, Africa: Bookshop, 1917. Buy the book in paperback.

Available from

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The Adventures of Spider: West African Folktales by Joyce Cooper Arkhurst

Favorite African Folktales by Nelson Mandela

The Girl Who Married a Lion and Other Tales From Africa by Alex McCall Smith

African Genesis: Folk Tales and Myths of Africa


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