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Anansi and the Turtle

West African mud turtle

One day, Anansi the spider picked some yams from his garden. They were extra beautiful delicious yams, so he baked them carefully in the fire. Then he sat down to eat them up.

Just as Anansi was about to put the first bite in his mouth, he heard a knock on his door. "Oh, no!" thought Anansi. "Who can that be?" But he opened the door. There was Turtle, who looked very tired. Turtle said, "Anansi, please let me in. I've walked so far today, and I'm so tired and hungry." So what could Anansi do but let him in?

But Anansi was too selfish to share his beautiful delicious yams with anybody else, even a guest. So he came up with a nasty plan. Just as Turtle sat down at the table and began to reach for some yams, Anansi yelled at him, "Turtle, your hands are all dirty! You can't eat with your hands all dirty! Go wash them." Turtle's hands really were dirty, from walking on them all day. So Turtle slowly crawled to the river and washed his hands, and then slowly crawled back to the table.

But meanwhile Anansi started gobbling up the yams. By the time Turtle got back, the yams were half gone. And just as Turtle sat down and reached for the yams again, Anansi started yelling again, "Turtle, your hands are still dirty! Go wash them again!" And they were dirty, because Turtle used them to crawl back from the river. Sadly, Turtle got up and went to wash his hands again.

By the time Turtle had crawled all the way back, he saw that greedy Anansi had eaten up the other half of the yams, and the yams were all gone. Turtle looked at Anansi and said, "Thank you for inviting me to dinner. If you're ever near my house, please come by and let me return the favor." And Turtle began crawling slowly away to his house.

More of this story

You might want to compare this Anansi story to the Br'er Rabbit stories, or to the Roman story of Baucis and Philemon.

Bibliography and further reading:

African languages and literature
Ancient Africa home

Professor Carr

Karen Eva Carr, PhD.
Assoc. Professor Emerita, History
Portland State University

Professor Carr holds a B.A. with high honors from Cornell University in classics and archaeology, and her M.A. and PhD. from the University of Michigan in Classical Art and Archaeology. She has excavated in Scotland, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, and Tunisia, and she has been teaching history to university students for a very long time.

Professor Carr's PSU page

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