The Northern Way

Popular Tales From the Norse

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ANANZI and Mosquito were talking together one day, and boasting of their fathers' crops. Ananzi said his father had never had such a crop in his life before; and Mosquito said, he was sure his father's was bigger, for one yam they dug was as big as his leg. This tickled Jack-Spaniard so much, that he laughed till he broke his waist in two. That's why the Jack-Spaniard's waist is so small.


ONCE on a time Ananzi planned a scheme. He went to town and bought ever so many firkins of fat, and ever so many sacks, and ever so many balls of string, and a very big frying pan, then he went to the bay and blew a shell, and called the Head-fish in the sea, "Green Eel," to him. Then he said to the fish, "The King sends me to tell you that you must bring all the fish on shore, for he wants to give them new life."

So "Green Eel" said he would, and went to call them. Meanwhile Ananzi lighted a fire, and took out some of the fat, and got his frying pan ready, and as fast as the fish came out of the water he caught them and put them into the frying pail, and so he did with all of them until he got to the Head-fish, who

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was so slippery that he couldn't hold him, and he got back again into the water.

When Ananzi had fried all the fish, he put them into the sacks, and took the sacks on his back, and set off to the mountains. He had not gone very far when he met Lion, and Lion said to him,--

"Well, brother Ananzi, where have you been? I have not seen you a long time."

Ananzi said, "I have been travelling about."

"But what have you got there?" said the Lion.

"Oh! I have got my mother's bones,--she has been dead these forty-eleven years, and they say I must not keep her here, so I am taking her up into the middle of the mountains to bury her."

Then they parted. After he had gone a little way, the Lion said, "I know that Ananzi is a great rogue; I daresay he has got something there that he doesn't want me to see, and I will just follow him;" but he took care not to let Ananzi see him.

Now, when Ananzi got into the wood, he set his sacks down, and took one fish out and began to eat; then a fly came, and Ananzi said, "I cannot eat any more, for there is some one near;" so he tied the sack up, and went on farther into the mountains, where he set his sacks down, and took out two fish which he ate; and no fly came. He said, "There's no one near;" so he took out more fish. But when he had eaten about half-a-dozen, the Lion came up, and said,--

"Well, brother Ananzi, a pretty tale you have told me."

"Oh! brother Lion, I am so glad you have come; never mind what tale I have told you, but come and sit down,--it was only my fun."

So Lion sat down and began to eat; but before Ananzi had eaten two fish, Lion had emptied one of the sacks. Then said Ananzi to himself,--

"Greedy fellow, eating up all my fish."

"What do you say, say?"

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"I only said you do not eat half fast enough," for he was afraid the Lion would eat him up.

Then they went on eating, but Ananzi wanted to revenge himself, and he said to the Lion, "Which of us do you think is the strongest?"

The Lion said, "Why, I am, of course."

Then Ananzi said, "We will tie one another to the tree, and we shall see which is the stronger."

Now they agreed that the Lion should tie Ananzi first, and he tied him with some very fine string, and did not tie him tight, Ananzi twisted himself about two or three times, and the string broke.

Then it was Ananzi's turn to tie the Lion, and he took some very strong cord. The Lion said, "You must not tie me tight, for I did not tie you tight." And Ananzi said, "Oh! no, to be sure, I will not." But he tied him as tight as ever he could, and then told him to try and get loose.

The Lion tried and tried in vain--he could not get loose. Then Ananzi thought, now is my chance; so be got a big stick and beat him, and then went away and left him, for he was afraid to loose him lest he should kill him.

Now there was a woman called Miss Nancy, who was going out one morning to get some "callalou" (spinach) in the wood, and as she was going, she heard some one say, "Good morning, Miss Nancy!" She could not tell who spoke to her, but she looked where the voice came from, and saw the Lion tied to the tree?

"Good morning, Mr. Lion, what are you doing there?"

He said, "It is all that fellow Ananzi who has tied me to the tree, but will you loose me?"

But she said, "No, for I am afraid, if I do, you will kill me." But he gave her his word he would not; still she could not trust him; but he begged her again and again, and said,--

"Well, if I do try to eat you, I hope all the trees will cry out shame upon me."

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So at last she consented; but she had no sooner loosed him, than he came up to her to eat her, for he had been so many days without food, that he was quite ravenous, but the trees immediately cried out, "Shame," and so he could not eat her. Then she went away as fast as she could, and the Lion found his way home.

When Lion got home he told his wife and children all that happened to him, and how Miss Nancy had saved his life, so they said they would have a great dinner, and ask Miss Nancy. Now when Ananzi heard of it, he wanted to go to the dinner, so he went to Miss Nancy, and said she must take him with her as her child, but she said, "No." Then he said, I can turn myself into quite a little child, and then you can take me, and at last she said, "Yes;" and he told her, when she was asked what pap her baby ate, she must be sure to tell them it did not eat pap, but the same food as every one else; and so they went, and had a very good dinner, and set off home again--but somehow one of the Lion's sons fancied that all was not right, and he told his father he was sure it was Ananzi, and the Lion set out after him.

Now as they were going along, before the Lion got up to them, Ananzi begged Miss Nancy to put him down, that he might run, which he did, and he got away and ran along the wood, and the Lion ran after him. When he found the Lion was over taking him, he turned himself into an old man with a bundle of wood on his head--and when the Lion got up to him, he said "Good morning, Mr. Lion," and the Lion said, "Good morning, old gentleman."

Then the old man said, "What are you after now?" and the Lion asked if he had seen Ananzi pass that way, but the old man said, "No, that fellow Ananzi is always meddling with some one; what mischief has he been up to now?"

Then the Lion told him, but the old man said it was no use to follow him any more, for he would never catch him, and so the Lion wished him good day, and turned and went home again.

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QUANQUA was a very clever fellow, and he had a large house full of all sorts of meat. But you must know he had a way of saying Quan? Qua? (how? what?) when any one asked him anything, and so they called him "Quanqua." One day when he was out, he met Atoukama, Ananzi's wife, who was going along driving an ox, but the ox would not walk, so Atoukama asked Quanqua to help her; and they got on pretty well till they came to a river, when the ox would not cross through the water. Then Atoukama called to Quanqua to drive the ox across, but all she got out of him was, "QUAN? QUA? Quan? Qua?" At last she said, "Oh! you stupid fellow, you're no good; stop here and mind the ox while I go and get help to drive him across." So off she went to fetch Ananzi. As soon as Atoukama was gone away, Quanqua killed the ox, and hid it all away, where Ananzi should not see it; but first he cut off the tail, then he dug a hole near the river side, and stuck the tail partly in, leaving out the tip. When he saw Ananzi coming, he caught hold of the tail, pretending to tug at it as if he were pulling the ox out of the hole. Ananzi seeing this, ran up as fast as be could, and tugging at the tail with all his might, fell over into the river, but he still had hold of the tail, and contrived to get across the water, when he called out to Quanqua, "You idle fellow, you couldn't take care of the ox, so you shan't have a bit of the tail," and then on he went. When he was gone quite out of sight, Quanqua took the ox home, and made a very good dinner.

Next day he went to Ananzi's house, and said, Ananzi must give him some of the tail, for he had got plenty of yams, but he had no meat. Then they agreed to cook their pot together. Quanqua was to put in white yams, and Ananzi the tail, and red yams. When they came to put the yams in, Quanqua put

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in a great many white yams, but Ananzi only put in one little red cush-cush yam. Quanqua asked him if that little yam would be enough? he said, "Oh! plenty, for I don't eat much."

When the pot boiled, they uncovered it, and sat down to eat their shares, but they couldn't find any white yams at all; the little red one had turned them all red. So Ananzi claimed them all, and Quanqua was glad to take what Ananzi would give him.

Now, when they had done eating, they said they would try which could bear heat best, so they heated two irons, and Ananzi was to try first on Quanqua, but he made so many attempts, that the iron got cold before he got near him; then it was Quanqua's turn, and he pulled the iron out of the fire, and poked it right down Ananzi's throat.

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