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An African wood carving of a head and shoulders

Anansi and the wooden baby

Aso tells Anansi how to catch a fairy

So Anansi climbed back down to earth again to get the fourth creature for Nyame, which was the invisible fairy Mmoatia. For the fourth time, he asked his wife Aso what he should do. Aso had a plan for this one too. She said, “Take a wooden doll, and…” she whispered the rest of her idea in Anansi’s ear.

The wooden doll

Anansi took that doll and he covered it with sticky sap from a tree. He took the doll to an odum tree, which is the kind of tree that fairies like to play under. Then Anansi made eto, which is yams mashed with eggs and palm oil, which is a kind of food that fairies specially like to eat. He put some eto in the doll’s hand, and he put more eto in a bowl at her feet, and he tied a vine around her neck. Then Anansi hid behind the tree, with the other end of the vine in one of his eight hands.

The fairies come along

Pretty soon the fairy came along, with her little sister. The fairies saw the doll, and they asked if they could have some of the yummy eto. Anansi pulled the vine so the doll nodded, “Yes,” so the fairies ate the eto. When they were done, the fairies said “Thank you.” But the doll didn’t answer. The fairies said “Thank you” louder, but the doll still didn’t answer.

The fairies get angry

Now the fairies got angry. The little one said, “Hit that doll on her mouth, and make her cry, if she won’t talk to us.” So the big fairy hit the doll- whap! But her hand stuck to the sticky sap, and she couldn’t get her hand off. She hit the doll with her other hand, pow! – but that hand got stuck too. So the fairy kicked the doll with her feet, and they got stuck too.

Anansi gets the stories for people

Anansi came out from behind the tree and tied up the fairy with his web, and he carried her up to heaven too and gave her to Nyame the sky god. That was the fourth and last creature. So Nyame had to admit that Anansi had paid his price, and he gave Anansi all the stories. Anansi carried them all back down to earth, and he shared them with his wife Aso, and with all the other animals and people, because stories are for telling, and not for keeping in wooden boxes.

How is this Anansi story like the Greek story of how Prometheus got fire for people? How is it like the Br’er Rabbit story about the Tar Baby? How is it different?

Beginning of this story
More stories about Anansi

Bibliography and further reading about African literature:

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