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Why Spiders Hide in Corners

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Published April 23, 2004
Countries: West Africa
Age Levels: 7-8 and up

There are stories of Anansi the Spider that tell how skillful and clever he was.  These stories are true.  There are also stories about how lazy and deceitful Anansi the Spider could be at times.  Unfortunately, these stories are also true.

Egya Anansi was a very skillful farmer.  He worked alongside his wife and son for an entire year to clear land to farm.  They had worked together before to farm small patches of land.  But this was the biggest patch of land they had ever cleared.

They planted the field with yams, maize and beans.  The crop was huge, the biggest they had ever grown.  Anansi was pleased when he saw all the corn and beans and knew the yams would be just as nice when they were dug up.  Suddenly, Anansi's pleasure turned to greed.  He did not want to share such wealth with anyone, including his own wife and son.

He called his wife and son when the crops were ripe and ready to harvest and said, "We have all woked hard to prepare these fields and to grow these crops.  Let us now harvest the crops and put them into our barn.  When that is done, we all will need some rest.  You and our son should go home to our village to relax for a few weeks.  I must travel far away from home on business.  When I return home, we will all come to the farm and enjoy a great feast."

Anansi's wife and son thought this was a good idea and went straight back to the village.  This left Anansi to his mischief.  He built himself a comfortable hut near the farm and began to feast on the harvest by himself.  He slept during the heat of the day and came out at night to gather food and prepare it for himself.  There would be no one to share with. 

Before very long, Anansi's son began to feel guilty for resting while his father was on a business trip.  So he traveled back to the farm to weed between the rows and prepare the fields for the next season.  As he worked he passed by the barn and noticed that large amounts of the food they harvested had disappeared.  He thought robbers had stolen the harvest.

Anansi's son returned to the village and told the people what had happened.  They made a stick figure and covered it with straw to make it look like a man.  Then they covered the straw with sticky tar and helped carry the figure out to the field to wait for evening.  Some of the men remained with Anansi's son to watch and help him catch the thieves.

Egya Anansi was not aware of what had happened and came out of his hiding place to get more food from the barn.  On his way to the barn he saw the figure of a man standing in his field.  Anansi raced right over to the figure and said, "This field belongs to my family.  Get out of here.  When the figure did not move and did not speak, Anansi hit the figure with his right hand.

Anansi's hand was stuck tight to the figure.  "How dare you grab my hand?  I'll hit you again.  Anansi hit the figure with his left hand, which also became stuck in the tar.  Anansi tried to push his foot against the middle of the figure to free his hands.  The foot became stuck.  Then he kicked out with the other foot.  Soon Anasi was not even on the ground.  He was hanging in the air, stuck to the tar figure in the field.  And there he stayed until daybreak.

Anansi's son and the villagers came out of hiding and ran to where they had left the figure in the field.  They came with sticks and clubs to punish the robber.   They were all quite surprised that the thief was really Anansi.  The villagers all laughed except for Anansi's son who was quite ashamed of his greedy father.

Anansi was so embarrassed that he had been so selfish and greedy that he turned into a spider and ran away to hide.  He went from one spot to another.  Whenever anyone saw Anansi, they laughed at him.  This happened time after time until Anansi finally went to hide in the dark, dusty corners of the ceiling where he was not likely to be seen.  That's where he can usually be found to this day.

Note:  THis story was adapted from Why Spiders Are Always Found in the Corners of Ceilings in West African Folktales by William H. Barker, 1917.

Dr. Mike Lockett is an educator, storyteller and children's author from Normal, IL. Dr. Lockett has given more than 4000 programs across the USA and as far away as eastern Asia. Contact Mike by writing to in order to book him for a storytelling program or young authors program or to inquire about purchasing his books and CDs.

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