Once upon a time Ananzi planned a scheme. He went to town and bought ever so many containers of fat, and ever so many bags, and ever so many balls of string, and a very big frying pan, then he went to the bay and blew a shell, and called to the Head-fish in the sea, “Green Eel,” to him. Then he said to the fish, “The King sends me to tell you that you must bring all the fish on shore, for he wants to give them new life.”
So “Green Eel” said he would, and went to call them. Meanwhile Ananzi lit a fire, and took out some of the fat, and got his frying pan ready, and as fast as the fish came out of the water he caught them and put them into the frying pan, and so he did with all of them until he got to the Head-fish, who was so slippery that he couldn’t hold him, and the Head-Fish got back again into the water.
When Ananzi had fried all the fish, he put them into the sacks, and took the sacks on his back, and set off to the mountains. He had not gone very far when he met Lion, and Lion said to him:
“Well, brother Ananzi, where have you been? I have not seen you for a long time.”
Ananzi said, “I have been travelling about.”
“Oh! But what have you got there?” said the Lion.
“Oh! I have got some of my old treasures—I am taking them to the mountain to find a safe place to bury them for my children’s children to find someday. I think they will enjoy seeing the things that were important to me.”
Then they parted. After he had gone a little way, the Lion said: “I know that Ananzi is a great trickster; I dare say he has got something there that he doesn’t want me to see, and I will just follow him;” but he took care not to let Ananzi see him.
Now, when Ananzi got into the woods, he set his sacks down, and took one fish out and began to eat; then a fly came, and Ananzi said, “I cannot eat any more, for there is someone near;” so he tied the sack up, and went on farther into the mountains, where he set his sacks down, and took out two fish which he ate; and no fly came. He said, “There is no one near;” so he took out more fish. But when he had eaten about half a dozen the Lion came up and said:
“Well, brother Ananzi, a pretty tale you have told me.”
“Oh! Brother Lion, I am so glad you have come; never mind what tale I have told you, but come and sit down—it was only for my fun.”
So Lion sat down and began to eat; but before Ananzi had eaten two fish, Lion had emptied one of the sacks. Then said Ananzi to himself:
“You are a greedy fellow, eating up all my fish.”
“What do you say, sir?”
“I only said you do not eat half fast enough,” for he was afraid the Lion would eat him up.
Then they went on eating, but Ananzi wanted to get back at the Lion for eating so much fish, and he said to the Lion, “Which of us do you think is the stronger?”
The Lion said, “Why, I am, of course.”
Then Ananzi said, “We will tie one another to the tree, and we shall see which is stronger.”
Now they agreed that the Lion should tie Ananzi first, and he tied him with some very fine string, and did not tie him tight. Ananzi twisted himself about two or three times, and the string broke.
Then it was Ananzi’s turn to tie the Lion, and he took some very strong cord. The Lion said, “You must not tie me tight, for I did not tie you tight.” And Ananzi said, “Oh! no, to be sure, I will not.” But he tied him as tight as ever he could, and then told him to try and get loose.
The Lion tried and tried but he could not get loose. Then Ananzi thought, now he is stuck; so he went away and left him, for he was afraid to untie him because he thought he would catch him.
Now there was a woman called Miss Nancy, who was going out one morning to get some spinach in the wood, and as she was going she heard someone say, “Good morning, Miss Nancy!” She could not tell who spoke to her, but she looked where the voice came from, and saw the Lion tied to the tree.
“Good morning, Mr. Lion, what are you doing there?”
He said, “It is all that fellow Ananzi who has tied me to the tree, but will you untie me?”
But she said, “No, for I am afraid of what you might do if I untie you.” But he gave her his word he would not harm her; still she could not trust him; but he begged her again and again, and said:
“Well, if I do try to catch you, I hope all the trees will cry out shame upon me.”
So at last she agreed; but she had no sooner loosened him, than he came up to her to try and catch her, for he had been so many days without food that he was quite hungry, but the trees immediately cried out, “Shame,” and so he could not catch her. Then she went away as fast as she could, and the Lion found his way home.
When Lion got home he told his wife and children all that happened to him, and how Miss Nancy had saved his life, so they said they would have a great dinner, and ask Miss Nancy. Now when Ananzi heard of it, he wanted to go to the dinner also, so he went to Miss Nancy, and said she must take him with her as her child, but she said, “No.” Then he said, “I can turn myself into quite a little child and then you can take me,” and at last she said, “Yes;” and he told her, when she was asked what food her baby ate, she must be sure to tell them it did not eat baby food, but the same food as everyone else; and so off they went, and had a very good dinner, and then set off home again—but somehow one of the Lion’s sons figured out that everything was not quite right, and he told his father he was sure the baby was Ananzi, and the Lion set out after him.
Now as they were going along, before the Lion got up to them, Ananzi begged Miss Nancy to put him down, that he might run, which he did, and he got away and ran along the woods, and the Lion ran after him. When he found the Lion was overtaking him, he turned himself into an old man with a bundle of wood on his head—and when the Lion got up to him, he said, “Good morning, Mr. Lion,” and the Lion said, “Good morning, old gentleman.”
Then the old man said, “Who are you after now?” and the Lion asked if he had seen Ananzi pass that way, but the old man said, “No, that fellow Ananzi is always meddling with some one; what mischief has he been up to now?”
Then the Lion told him, but the old man said it was no use to follow him any more, for he would never catch him, and so the Lion wished the old man good-day, and turned and went home again and Ananzi got home safe and sound.