The story of Ananse and the famine.

Once upon a time, there was a great famine in a town in which lived Ananse, his wife and children. Famished with hunger, Ananse decided to go to a distant land where he could get some food for the family. He took along a bit of kenkey and some water. After a whole day’s journey, having become very hungry and tired, Ananse sat under a tree to eat some food.

Suddenly an old woman appeared and asked Ananse to share his food with her. Although the food was so little, Ananse gave half of it to the old woman. After they had eaten and drunk some water, the old woman gave Ananse a flat, white plate which was capable of producing abundant food for anybody who asked it the right question. The question was: ‘What is your name, white plate?’ As soon as Ananse asked the plate this question, several other plates appeared from nowhere and were each full of different types of food. He and the old woman ate as much of the food as possible; it was a sumptuous feast and, after they had eaten their fill and needed no more of the food, Ananse was asked to say to the plate, ‘It is enough’, and the rest of the food and plates vanished, leaving the white plate. The old woman then asked Ananse to take the plate home.

On the way back, Ananse, because it was getting dark, spent the night at an inn by the wayside. The innkeeper was surprised that although Ananse appeared to be tired and hungry, he would not eat anything. Later, however, he discovered what Ananse did with the white plate. So in the night he stole Ananse’s white plate and put a different plate in its place. When Ananse reached home, he did not know what had happened to his white plate, so he quickly called his wife and children and told them about the magic plate. They were all excited and looked forward anxiously to seeing plenty of food produced by the white plate. But when Ananse asked the plate the appropriate question, no other plates came and no food appeared. Ananse looked at everybody’s face with the greatest astonishment.

After such a great disappointment, Ananse decided to go back to the old woman. He walked back to the place where he first met her and as he sat down to rest, the old woman came again. It was astonishing to Ananse that the woman did not ask any question about the missing plate but merely asked for Ananse’s food. Again they ate Ananse’s little kenkey and drank some water. Then the old woman gave him a box, in fact a very tiny box, which produced gold dust. He was just to tap the top of the box three times and say, ‘Open’ and the box would open with plenty of gold dust in it to be collected. The process could be repeated a many times as one wanted.

Ananse again began his journey back and again he stopped at the inn to stay the night there. In the night, the innkeeper stole Ananse’s box and replaced it with a similar box, so Ananse could not detect the theft until he reached home. There was another painful disappointment and Ananse in desperation, nearly killed himself; it was his wife who consoled him with some soothing words, saying that God’s time was the best.

Ananse was so astounded that he decided to go to the old woman for the last time and tell her his story. As soon as he arrived, the old woman appeared and immediately gave him a beautiful walking stick and asked him to spend the night at the inn again, although Ananse had not told her his story. Also this time the woman did not eat with him. In fact Ananse did not know what the stick was capable of producing but he took it to the inn.

During the night the innkeeper, as usual, stole the stick. As he held the stick he asked it several questions one of which happened to be the appropriate question for the stick to begin action. The innkeeper asked: ‘What is your name?’ The stick answered, ‘I punish!’ At once it started beating the innkeeper. He was so badly beaten that he swore never to steal again. But the stick pursued him and the prolonged noise of the crying and agonizing shouts brought out of their beds those who were sleeping. Ananse saw what was happening and was so delighted to have found the culprit of the previous thefts. Finally, the innkeeper, unable to bear any more punishment, brought out the white plate and the box which he had previously stolen and the stick stopped beating him.

Ananse became so happy that he took his white plate and the box leaving the stick with the innkeeper. On the way home he tried the plate and the box and found that they were the original ones given by the old woman. So, on arrival, he called another meeting of the family. Nobody was interested in such a meeting because of their previous experience but Ananse persuaded them to come. First he asked the white plate to produce enough food for his wife and children. It was amazing what they saw: plenty of food which they ate and ate after that gold dust from the box. Ananse and his family became rich overnight and the joy and happiness of the family knew no bounds.

Ananse Stories Retold: Some Common Traditional Tales (Paperback)
Author: Luke Gyesi- Appiah
Illustrator: Vesta Wuddah- Marktey
Publisher: Heinemann International Literature & Textbooks

The story of how Ananse’s second daughter got married.

When Ananse’s second daughter reached marriage-able age, he thought of a way of choosing the best young man of the village for the girl. This he did by asking all the men who were asking for the girl’s hand in marriage to engage in a wrestling bout and he picked the conqueror as the husband. There were six handsome young men and a day was appointed for the wrestling match. The villagers came around in large numbers and one of the suitors called Owuo came out victorious, having beaten all the others in a very keenly contested match.

But there was another condition which Owuo had to fulfill in order to fulfill in order to win the hand of Ananse’s daughter. He was to join other brave young men of the village in a hunting expedition in which a lion was to be killed. Furthermore, if the lion was killed by the bullets from the man’s gun, then such a man, apart from winning the maiden, was held in high honour by the society. Owuo, therefore, joined in the expedition and showed great courage by stepping out boldly to shoot and kill a lion. For his prize, he won the hand of Ananse’s daughter and was given special honour as a veteran hunter.

Soon a boy was born to Owuo and his wife. When the boy was twelve, he heard of the father’s brave exploits and was determined to win a name and public acclaim for himself just as his father had done. Later on, he joined the Chief’s army and became a very strong and skillful soldier. The boy’s quest for greatness and high esteem continued until he was made to command his people’s army and he overran all their neighbours and subjected them to the payment of tribute to Ananse’s village.

It was then that he became satisfied that, like his father, he would also be held in great esteem by the citizens of the land. He did his father and his grandfather Ananse proud for belonging to the most illustrious family of their village.

Ananse Stories Retold: Some Common Traditional Tales (Paperback)
Author: Luke Gyesi- Appiah
Illustrator: Vesta Wuddah- Marktey
Publisher: Heinemann International Literature & Textbooks

The story of Ananse and the Grasshopper.

Ananse and the Grasshopper were, long ago, staying in the same village as very intimate friends. When the father of the Grasshopper was dying at the advanced age of eighty-five, he prophesied that there would be famine in the land for two years. So the Grasshopper and Ananse decided to make a big farm which would save them from the impending starvation.

Accordingly, both Ananse and the Grasshopper, having consulted on the issue of a common farm, were determined to leave no stone unturned in achieving their purpose. Every morning they made their way across country full of boulders thorn bushes to the place where they were making their farms. They worked very hard and made a very large farm full of all kinds of food crops.

Soon the harvest came and with it great famine throughout the whole land. Except for Ananse and the Grasshopper, people from all the villages in the district had no food to eat. They travelled long distances looking for where they could get food to buy. At long last, it became known that it was Ananse and the Grasshopper alone who had food, so people came to them from far and near to buy maize and other food, so people came to them from far and near to buy maize and other foodstuffs. Ananse and his friend kept their money together and in no time they had become very rich. Suddenly an idea occurred to Ananse one day as he and The Grasshopper were counting the total money obtained from the day’s sales of foodstuffs. It would be a very good idea if all the money they had was for him alone. So he decided to get rid of his dear friend the Grasshopper.

At the far end of their farm, there was a very steep precipice which went into a deep valley full of huge and tall trees and of wild animals. It was a place which nobody in the surrounding villages had ever dared to go into except veteran hunters of wild animals. An evil thought came to Ananse that he should find a way of pushing the Grasshopper down the precipitous slope into the valley. There would be no way by which he could return and, besides, he stood in danger of being devoured by wild animals. Even if he did not die from the fall, he would certainly perish at the foot of the precipice.

A few days later, Ananse cunningly suggested that instead of waiting to come home in the evening from the farm before they drank their wine, they should take the wine to the farm so that after working for sometime they might relax with it. The Grasshopper unsuspectingly consented to this idea which he thought was brilliant and so they took to the farm enough wine that could make both of them intoxicated. When the time came for them to relax, they began to drink. But Ananse, knowing that he was up to something mischievous, pretended he was drinking deeply while, in fact, he was sipping the wine taking great care not to drink in excess. But his friend the Grasshopper was completely soaked after quaffing heavily. Soon he lost control of himself, having been completely overwhelmed by the effects of the wine. The time had come for Ananse to execute his evil plan. He just pretended to help the Grasshopper to a place where he could rest comfortably and eventually managed to push him over, down into the deep and steep valley; it was a dastardly deed ruthlessly perpetrated by Ananse in order to become the richest person in the land.

But the gods know how best to punish those who commit atrocities and seek to run away unscathed. By the time Ananse arrived home, all the money that he and the Grasshopper had saved in Ananse’s room had been stolen after some thieves had broken into the house. In anguish, Ananse did not know where he put the money which he had brought from the farm that day; that too was lost and Ananse decided that the only thing left for him to do was to commit suicide. He therefore killed himself with a sharp knife which he pierced through his heart and died instantly, leaving the foodstuffs on the farm as booty for the people in the village.

Ananse Stories Retold: Some Common Traditional Tales (Paperback)
Author: Luke Gyesi- Appiah
Illustrator: Vesta Wuddah- Marktey
Publisher: Heinemann International Literature & Textbooks

The marriage of Ananse’s daughter to the snake.

Ananse had four daughters. When it was time for the oldest of them to get married, she declined to marry any of the young men of her village, passing derogatory remarks about them. These insults displeased the young men of the village, most of whom were wealthy enough to make the girl happy and comfortable in their homes. But the girl was proud and had no respect for them.

In the next village, there was a magician who heard Ananse’s daughter, so he decided to punish her by making use of his magic art. Since the magician came from another village, this time the maiden did not hesitate to accept his proposal. Ananse was delighted that at long last his daughter was going to be married. He summoned all his friends and relations who put on their best clothes and formed a bridal procession from Ananse’s house to the other village. Other people who were gorgeously dressed joined the procession and all the people danced excitedly and merrily to the tune of a brass band.

No sooner had all the pomp and pageantry of the marriage celebration died down than the husband and the wife dismissed the drummers and the musicians and entered their hut for the night. The husband entered the chamber to undress and soon the unsuspecting lady was to see a terrible spectacle that sent her tumbling over in great panic. A coarse, rippling figure began to appear while the girl was crouched timorously against the mud wall. As the mighty snake coiled itself up at the door she uttered a disgusted and fearful scream and, in a fraction of a second, she found herself rolling over and shouting for help.

The husband had turned out to be a snake. She managed to pull herself together and hastily made for the road that led to her father’s village, trudging along the sandy paths in a great horror, shock and disappointment. Soon she reached home, perspiring profusely, and sat down dejectedly. She began to relate a horrible and shocking story which cast a spell of gloom over the whole family, while the young men of the town laughed uproariously at her for jilting them. Some openly jeered at her and told her that whatever had happened served her right. On that day the maiden swore never to give in again to any suitor that came from outside her father’s village for, after all, the devil you know is better than the angel you do not know.

Ananse Stories Retold: Some Common Traditional Tales (Paperback)
Author: Luke Gyesi- Appiah
Illustrator: Vesta Wuddah- Marktey
Publisher: Heinemann International Literature & Textbooks