[Notes by LKG]
This story is part of the West African Folktales unit. Story source: West African Folktales by William H. Barker and Cecilia Sinclair, with drawings by Cecilia Sinclair (1917).
The Grinding-Stone That Ground Flour By Itself
THERE had been another great famine throughout the land. The villagers looked thin and pale for lack of food. Only one family appeared healthy and well. This was the household of Anansi's cousin.
Anansi was unable to understand this, and felt sure his cousin was getting food in some way. The greedy fellow determined to find out the secret.
What had happened was this: Spider's cousin, while hunting one morning, had discovered a wonderful stone. The stone lay on the grass in the forest and ground flour of its own accord. Near by ran a stream of honey. Kofi was delighted. He sat down and had a good meal. Not being a greedy man, he took away with him only enough for his family's needs.
Each morning he returned to the stone and got sufficient food for that day. In this manner he and his family kept well and plump, while the surrounding villagers were starved and miserable-looking.
Anansi gave him no peace till he promised to show him the stone. This he was most unwilling to do—knowing his cousin's wicked ways. He felt sure that when Anansi saw the stone he would not be content to take only what he needed. However, Anansi troubled him so much with questions that at last he promised. He told Anansi that they would start next morning, as soon as the women set about their work.
Anansi was too impatient to wait. In the middle of the night he bade his children get up and make a noise with the pots as if they were the women at work. Spider at once ran and wakened his cousin, saying, "Quick! It is time to start."
His cousin, however, saw he had been tricked, and went back to bed again, saying he would not start till the women were sweeping. No sooner was he asleep again than Spider made his children take brooms and begin to sweep very noisily.
He roused Kofi once more, saying, "It is time we had started." Once more his cousin refused to set off—saying it was only another trick of Spider's. He again returned to bed and to sleep.
This time Spider slipped into his cousin's room and cut a hole in the bottom of his bag, which he then filled with ashes. After that he went off and left Kofi in peace.
When morning came the cousin awoke. Seeing no sign of Spider he very gladly set off alone to the forest, thinking he had got rid of the tiresome fellow. He was no sooner seated by the stone, however, than Anansi appeared, having followed him by the trail of ashes.
"Aha!" cried he. "Here is plenty of food for all. No more need to starve."
"Hush," said his cousin. "You must not shout here. The place is too wonderful. Sit down quietly and eat."
They had a good meal, and Kofi prepared to return home with enough for his family. "No, no!" cried Anansi. "I am going to take the stone." In vain did his friend try to overcome his greed. Anansi insisted on putting the stone on his head, and setting out for the village.
"Spider, Spider, put me down," said the stone.
"The pig came and drank and went away,
"The antelope came and fed and went away:
"Spider, Spider, put me down."
Spider, however, refused to listen. He carried the stone from village to village selling flour, until his bag was full of money. He then set out for home.
Having reached his hut and feeling very tired he prepared to put the stone down. But the stone refused to be moved from his head. It stuck fast there, and no efforts could displace it. The weight of it very soon grew too much for Anansi, and ground him down into small pieces, which were completely covered over by the stone.
That is why we often find tiny spiders gathered together under large stones.
Next: The Moon and Stars