A Tale of Two Feasts

All the animals of the forest decided to have a grand feast. Spider was appointed Master of Ceremonies, for everyone knew he was the greediest animal in the forest and they felt confident he would make sure there was more than enough to eat.

After much dancing and drinking of palm wine everyone sat down to eat; but Spider announced that everyone must first wash their hands clean.

All the animals went to the river and washed their hands — but Monkey could not get his hands clean no matter how much he wished. He rubbed them with leaves, and sand, and oil, but they remained dirty; Spider knew quite well that Monkey’s hands can never be washed clean.

So Monkey was obliged to leave the feast; he was forbidden to eat anything, and returned to his home still hungry. He was disappointed, and sat down to think how he could have revenge. Next day he announced to all the animals that he himself would give a feast, and that it would be held under the waters of a pond.

On the appointed day the animals arrived, and one after another they splashed in to the water and let themselves sink to the bottom. Here the fund a fine array of luscious fruits, fish, herbs and nuts and roots spread before them.

Spider came to the pond, but try as he would he could not sink down to the bottom. He borrowed a kaftan, which is a long Mandingo robe striped blue and white, and by filling the pockets with stones he managed to sink to the bottom. As all the animals were about to begin eating, Monkey stood up and made an announcement:

“This is an under-water feast.” he said. “No one may wear a coat with stripes. Off with all striped coats!”

“Off with all striped coats!” echoed the animals, and looked around to see who was wearing one. There was only Spider, in his borrowed kaftan, and of course he was on the surface of the pond, while the other animals looked above their heads at him and laughed. Monkey was delighted, but since Spider was his guest he did not laugh.

“Why do you leave so early?” he gravely asked. “The feast has not yet begun. Have you already so much wind you cannot stay?”

Spider danced helplessly on the surface of the pond from time to time poking his head beneath the surface to gaze in hungry disappointment at the lavish feast below.

An evil deed always comes home to roost. Even today one may see Spider on the surface of a quiet pond, skating about on the water and anxiously peering into the depths below.