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Anansi and the Sky God's Stories

Anansi and the Sky God's Stories

(illustration by Kailey Whitman)

ANANSI AND THE SKY GOD'S STORIES        retold by Zachary Hamby

Anansi looked like a man, but he looked like a spider, too. In fact, he had extra arms and legs and could spin webs. He lived on the earth among human beings, and he was always watching for ways his clever tricks could make their lives better.

Anansi saw that the humans seemed sad. They had nothing to make their lives happy and bright. Then he remembered that in the palace of Nyame the Sky God there were magical things called stories. These things could make anyone happy. The Sky God owned all the stories in the world. In fact, there were piles and piles of them all over the sky palace—and plenty enough to share.

“That’s it! Humans must have stories!” So Anansi spun his web up into the sky and climbed up, up, up into the heavens. He climbed so high that the human villages were tiny dots below him. Then, at last, he arrived at the Sky God’s palace.

Nyame greeted Anansi from his throne. “Anansi, have you come to hear another one of my stories?”

“The lives of the humans are so dreary. They need something to give them hope. I was hoping you might share your stories with them,” Anansi said.

“You expect me to share?” the Sky God said, laughing.

“Do you need so many?” Anansi asked. “Could you not spare a few?”

The Sky God did not want to share his precious stories, but he also did not want to appear selfish. So he settled back into his throne and folded his hands. “Fine, Anansi. I will share my stories with the human beings . . . only after you complete four tasks for me.” Then the Sky God named the four most impossible tasks anyone could ever imagine: “You must capture Mmoboro the deadly hornet swarm, Onini the killer python, Osebo the stealthy leopard, and Mmoatia the mischievous fairy.”

Nyame expected Anansi to give up right then and there, but instead Anansi said, “Very well. Human beings will have your stories soon, and they will tell most of them about me!”

Anansi lowered himself back down to earth. The tasks that the Sky God had given Anansi were challenging, but he had a secret weapon: his wise wife. Anansi went to Aso, his wife, and told her of the tasks placed before him. “Hmmm. Those are difficult tasks,” she said. “Luckily you have me to help you!” They talked it over and devised a solution to each of the challenges.

First, Anansi set out to find Mmoboro the deadly hornet swarm. Along the way, he made a hole in a gourd and filled it with water. Then he plucked himself a banana leaf. He found the hornets buzzing angrily around their nest. Anansi approached them, shielding his head with the leaf, and pouring the water over himself.

“Hurry, friends! The rains are coming! Hide in this gourd until the rain passes!” Hornets hate the rain more than anything, so they swarmed into the gourd, and Anansi quickly plugged the hole. He jiggled the gourd a bit and chuckled to himself. “One down!”

Next, Anansi had to trap Onini the killer python. Anansi knew he was very vain. When Anansi found the great snake curled up on a rock, Anansi called out, “Greetings, friend! I came to settle an argument. My wife says you aren’t the longest creature in the world.”

“Ha!” hissed the python. “No creature is longer than me.”

“I believe you, but my wife does not.” Anansi said, “Let me measure you, and this will prove it!” So he had the python stretch himself out on a long stick. “This is no good! You keep curling up at the ends! I guess I must tie you.” He tied the python’s head and tail down to the stick to keep him from curling. “Look at that! I guess you are the longest creature,” said Anansi. “But now you are trapped! Two down!”

Then Anansi went in search of Osebo the stealthy leopard that has teeth as sharp as spears and can walk without even rustling the grass. “He will sneak up on me and kill me,” said Anansi, “unless I trap him first.” So Anansi dug a pit in the ground and covered it with leaves, and then he sat down nearby and waited. Sure enough, Osebo the leopard came creeping silently along and was ready to spring on Anansi. But Osebo’s next step was a step too far, and he fell down into Anansi’s pit. “Anansi,” cried the leopard. “You ambushed me!”

Anansi smiled and said, “I only did what you were planning to do to me!” Then he covered the leopard with his spider webbing and hoisted him out of the pit. “Three down,” Anansi chuckled to himself.

Finally, Anansi had to trap Mmoatia the mischievous fairy, whose magic was even greater than his. But he knew how to outwit her. Anansi crafted a beautiful little doll, just the same size as the fairy, and covered it all over with sticky sap. In the doll’s lap he placed a dish made from delicious mashed yams. It did not take long for the fairy to appear, lured by the smell of the dish.

“Oooh, little girl. May I have some of those yams?” the greedy fairy asked. The doll did not reply, so the fairy grew angry and slapped it on the cheek. The fairy’s hand immediately stuck to the sap on the doll’s cheek.

“Let go!” the fairy shrieked. Then the fairy slapped the doll with her other hand, which also stuck. She kicked and clawed and bit at the doll until she was completely trapped by the sap. Anansi walked up, laughing, “Four down!”

Anansi returned to the Sky God with his captives—the trapped hornets, the tied-up python, the webbed leopard, and the sticky fairy. The Sky God was not pleased, for he knew he must give up his beloved stories. But a bargain is a bargain. “Very well. Take these stories to the earth. Give them to humans. They will be eternally grateful to you. In fact, they will call all great tales ‘spider stories’ from this day forward because of you.”

Anansi bowed low to the ground and said, “Thank you, my lord. I can think of no greater gift than that.”

It all came true—just as the Sky God had said. To this day it is hard to experience the joy of a story without thinking of Anansi and the great gift he gave all humankind.

This story is an excerpt from Introduction to Mythology for Kids: Legendary Tales from Around the World by Zachary Hamby. Click here to find out more about this book on Note:  This site contains affiliate links.