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Why Spiders Have Eight Skinny Legs

Published January 15, 2015
Countries: Ivory Coast, West Africa
Age Levels: 7-8 and up

Many years ago there was a spider named Anansi.  Anansi was very clever.  He was also very greedy.  There were times when Anansi's greed caused his cleverness to work against him.  This is one of those stories.

Anansi the Spider was married, and his wife was a very good cook.  But, Anansi was greedy. He loved toing to the houses of his friends to see what they were eating for dinner.  He liked to taste the many kinds of food that others in the village made for themselves and their families.

One day, Anansi stopped by rabbit's house.  Rabbit was a very good cook. "There are greens cooking in your pot," said Anansi. Anansi liked well cooked greens.

"The greens are not done," said Rabbit.  "They need to cook longer.  Would you like to stay and eat with me?  They will be done soon!"

"I would love to," said Anansi. "But I have things to do."  He knew if he stayed around that rabbit would give him work to do.  Anansi was lazy and did not like to work. "I know what I will do," said Anansi.  "I will spin a web and tie it to my leg,  When the greens are done, pull on the web, and I will come back as fast as I can run."

Rabbit thought the idea made good sense.  So Anansi spun the web, tied the web around his leg and ran down the road.  As Anansi walked away, he smelled beans... delicious beans.   "Come join us to eat beans," called the monkeys.  "They are nearly done."

"What a great idea," answered Anansi.  "Your beans are the best in the village.  But, I have things to do, so I will spin a web and tie one end of it to my leg.  Just pull the web when the beans are done.   I will come back right away to eat with you."

"Now I smell sweet potatoes," said Anansi.  "Mmm!"  He sniffed the air and followed the smell to hog's home.  Hog was cooking sweet potatoes and honey. "Hello, hog," called Anansi.  "You make the best sweet potatoes in the village."

"Come and join me.  Share my food.  It will be done soon" called hog.  Anansi licked his lips and again suggested he spin a web and tie it to his leg.  He tied one end to his leg and handed hog the otther end.

Everywhere he went, one of Anansi's friends was cooking.  Before he reached his own home he had eight webs tied to his eight legs.  "Whose food will be done first?" he asked himself.  Just then he felt a pull on one leg. "That is the web from Rabbit's house.  The greens are done.  I need to hurry to his house to eat before the other foods are done."

Anansi started to hurry towards rabbit's house.  Then he felt a pull coming from Monkey's house.  He stopped for a moment.  "Greens or beans?  Which should I eat first?"  The he felt a third pull and a fourth.  Then came a fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth. 

Just then, Anansi felt a tug at his leg. "Ah," said Anansi. "That is the web string tied to Rabbit's greens." He felt another. And another. Anansi was pulled three ways at once.

The webs were all strong, and all of Anansi's friends pulled at the same time.  Anansi could not move.  Everyone pulled hard on their friend's legs.  Anansi's legs began to stretch.  They grew longer and thinner.  Anansi tried pulling back, but his legs got thinner still.  Finally he jumped into the river, and the webs came off his legs. 

Anansi had sore legs for a long time after that day.  "Being greedy is not a good idea after all," thought Anansi.  Today, all spiders still have eight long, skinny legs to remind them to control their greed.