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

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