Anansi and Turtle's Feast
A West African Folktale
day during the holidays the spider everyone knows as Anansi, the famous trickster,
was just about to sit down to enjoy a meal when Turtle crawled past his house.
Turtle had been traveling all day long, and he was terribly hungry. When he
smelled Anansi's cooking, his mouth began to water, and he imagined himself
eating those sweet, buttery yams. Oh, how he would enjoy the taste!
Now in that part of the world it was customary, especially during
the holidays, for hosts to offer meals to anyone who happened to stop by at
suppertime. And so Turtle knocked on Anansi's door.
When Anansi heard the knock, he began to grumble. "Oh no, oh no…" and he peeked
out the window to see who was bothering him.
You see, Anansi did not wish to share his meal with anyone, but
he knew he must answer the door. So he opened it slowly. Then he looked straight
"Hmmm," he said, and he looked up, "Uh huh…" and in this way
Anansi pretended he did not see Turtle who, naturally, was on the ground.
He looked up.
"Hmmmm," Anansi said to himself. "There's no one here," but just as he was
closing the door, Turtle called out, "Anansi, I'm down here. It's me.
Anansi had to look down, and when Turtle caught his eye, he said, "How
nice to see you, my friend Anansi. And what a wonderful smell. Could that be
Turtle sniffed the air, inhaling that delicious scent.
Anansi grumbled, but he had no choice. "Yams they are," he said to Turtle.
"Come in. I suppose I must share them with you."
Now Anansi's heart was not in this offer. He did not like to share anything.
Not with anyone. Not ever.
Turtle trundled inside, but just then Anansi's eyes lit up, for he had an idea.
"Turtle," Anansi said, "I hate to be rude but
it's not very polite to come to the table without washing. Just look at your
hands. They're filthy."
Turtle blushed with shame. His hands were dirty, that was true,
for all day long he had been crawling down the road. "Of course, Anansi,"
Turtle said, and he scampered outside and moved as fast as he could down the
hill to the creek. He washed his hands. All four. And then he bustled back
His mouth was watering as he sat down and reached for a yam,
but as he did, Anansi sighed. "Turtle," he said, "look at your
Well, sure enough Turtle's hands were dirty again because he
had crawled up the trail that led to Anansi's house. So again he blushed. "Sorry,
Anansi," and again he waddled down to the creek. This time when he finished
washing, he crawled on the grass to reach Anansi's house, avoiding the dusty,
But this was the long way, and by the time Turtle reached the table, the yams
were gone. Anansi had eaten every single one.
Turtle's stomach rumbled with hunger, but he could not complain, so he bowed his head and said, "Thanks for the hospitality, Anansi. Someday you must stop by my place and share a meal with me."
"Sounds good," Anansi said.
And a very few days later Anansi woke up feeling hungry. "I think I'll go to
Turtle's house," he said aloud. "I'll show up at suppertime."
Turtle lived at the bottom of the creek, but when Anansi arrived, just before
suppertime, he found Turtle sitting idly upon the bank.
"Anansi!" Turtle said, "how good to see you. Have
you come to join me in a meal?"
"I have indeed," Anansi said, "how kind of you
"Follow me, then," Turtle said, "the table is
And with those words he dived into the water.
Anansi jumped in right behind, but instead of sinking, he popped back to the
surface and floated there. He tried again, and again, and again, but no matter
how many times he tried, he always popped back up to the surface. He jumped
from rocks. He used all of his legs. He kicked, he pushed, he pulled, but he
could not reach Turtle's table down there at the bottom of the creek.
Then Anansi had a brilliant idea. He walked along the shore, gathering pebbles, and these he put into the pockets of his handsome dinner jacket, the one he had worn especially for this meal. He had heard Turtle was a fine cook.
And soon his pockets bulged with pebbles. This time when he dived, he sank
right to the bottom of the creek, and he gleefully swam to Turtle's table.
Oh, it looked fine! The table was covered in a fine white cloth,
and on that cloth lay bowls filled with shrimp and clams, lobster and crab.
Anansi eagerly reached to fill his plate, but just before he grabbed a shrimp
with one leg and a clam with another, Turtle said, "Anansi, please, in
my home we always remove our jackets before sitting down at the table."
Anansi looked up, startled, but then he saw, sure enough, Turtle was wearing
Ah, manners, he thought, and he thought longingly of all that food. Slowly he slipped off his jacket, and as he did, the jacket sank to the floor of the creek, and Anansi popped back up to the top.
There he floated, frustrated
and hungry as he watched Turtle, down below, chewing happily upon a juicy crab.
"I've been tricked!" Anansi sighed, "Me! Anansi, the greatest trickster in all the world!"
And then he rolled over on his back and closed his eyes and thought about all the tricks he would play in return.