Ananse and the Yam Hills by Michael Auld
Once in a before time, there lived an old woman who
had magical powers. Her name was 5. She was also so
evil that some people called her a witch. 5 hated her
name. No one knows why her parents named her the
number 5. When she was a child, other children would
make fun of her name. Sometimes when she was within
earshot, they would look out the corner of their eyes and
giggle as they said.
“Give me 5!”
When she grew up, 5 decided to put an end to the name-calling. So, she created a weird spell.
“Anyone who says ‘5’ will drop dead,” she said. Then she changed her mind. “From this day on, anyone who says ‘5’ will disappear,”
This spell immediately caused a problem in the country. No one could say that number again without disappearing. Children could no
longer recite their five times tables. People had to drop the word ‘five’ from their vocabulary. In 5’s village, the unlucky number was no
Once, a customer asked a merchant, “How much is that blue T-shirt?”
“That shirt is 5 doh… ” Suddenly there was a loud “SWOOSH!” before the merchant could finish his sentence. He disappeared right in
front of the dumbfounded customer’s eyes!
A crafty spider named Ananse
lived in 5’s village. He had heard about the witch’s spell. Times were very hard. Ananse was not a farmer
and he had no food at all to eat. His wife and children were starving. Since Ananse was small, and not a very good worker, he could only
rely on his brain to get whatever he needed to survive.
He said to himself. “Things are tough, boy! I must make this witch’s spell work for me”.
Ananse went to the road that led to the village’s marketplace. He chose a spot on the side of the road where everyone on the way to
market would have to pass. There, near a large Guangu tree, he decided to pile up five mounds of the rich brown soil. These mounds he
called “yam hills”. In the top of each yam hill, he planted an African yellow yam. Then he drove a stake next to the yam on which its vine
could grow. Ananse carefully watered the yams until each one began to sprout.
Ananse made a web-like a hammock in the Guangu tree and patiently waited for someone to come by. Early one morning, after each yam
shoot had poked its head out of a mound, Ananse sat down next to his yam hills. Soon, Brother Dog came by on his way to the market.
Dog balanced a basket of sweet-smelling fruits on his head as he walked down the road.
“Good morning Brother Dog,” said Ananse in a sugary voice. “I know that you are busy, and I feel so stupid. I am not an educated man like
you. Would you help me to count how many yam hills that I have planted here?” Ananse asked.
“You should have gone to school to learn how to count!”
Brother Dog said grumpily as he walked away from Ananse
towards the market.
Ananse climbed up into the Guangu tree and waited.
The next person to come by was Brother Bull. He
carried large basket of fruits on his head.
“Good day Bro’ Bull.” Ananse said in a sad voice.
“Could you just spare me one minute?” Ananse begged.
“What can I do for you, Ananse?” Bro’ Bull asked.
“I was a *yikki and sickly child. So, my parents did not
send me to school. I never learned my ABC’s.
I planted all these yam hills… Can you help me
to count them?” Ananse said.
“But, of course Ananse” Bro’ Bull replied.
“You have 1, 2, 3, 4, 5….”
As he said that number,Brother Bull disappeared into thin air.
The basket of sweet ripe fruits that he had been carrying
on his head, fell to the ground.
Ananse snatched up the basket of fruits and rushed home
to eat them all.
For a long time, Ananse did very well tricking some passersby into counting his yam hills. He grew fat from all the baskets of food he had
gathered. He had tricked Brothers Turtle, Owl, Mongoose, Hare, Peenie-Wallie the firefly, and even the tough Bro’ Scorpion.
Mrs. Guinea fowl was a nice young mother of newly hatched children. She could not say ‘no’ to anyone. She and her husband shared the
chore of selling their produce in the village. That day it was her turn to go to the marketplace. She loaded up her hand basket and
headed for the market. As she got closer to the yam hills Ananse was nowhere in sight. Just as she was about to pass yam hill number 4,
Ananse the spider lowered himself down from his perch in the Guangu tree. He called out in his sugary voice.
“Good morning Mrs. Guinea Fowl. Could you help me with a problem?”
“Of course Ananse”. The polite Mrs. Guinea Fowl said.
“I have these yam hills here, and I don’t know how to count …
would you help me… ? Pleeezz.” Ananse begged. Mrs. Guinea Fowl,
who had seen Ananse trick Bro’ Scorpion, walked over to the last
yam hill and climbed up on top of it.
She said. “You have 1 … 2 … 3 … 4 … and the one I am standing on”.
“What! What are you doing? That is not the way you count!”
Anansi shouted angrily.
“What do you mean, Anansi?” Mrs. Guinea Fowl said.
“I don’t know of any number called ‘the one I’m standing on’.
Start again!” Anansi ordered.
Mrs. Guinea Fowl began again. “You have 1, 2, 3, 4 …
and the one I am standing on”.
“That is not what you are supposed to say!” Anansi shouted
even more angrily.
“Well … If you are so smart… What am I supposed to say?”
Mrs. Guinea Fowl asked.
Anansi shouted, “You are supposed to say 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 … Oops…”
Suddenly, Anansi disappeared, leaving Mrs. Guinea Fowl
with all the loot that he had gotten from tricking his victims.
* yikki = small
The moral of this story is: “Greedy choke puppy” (or, “A greedy puppy will soon choke”). Have you ever seen a puppy eat
so fast and so much that it may sometimes choke? Similarly, it was Anansi’s greed that got him into trouble.