How Spider Robbed a Goblin and Cheated Death

During Hungry Season Hare discovered a Goblin’s home in a secret place beyond the forest, and in Goblin’s house were many boxes full of rice. When Goblin was away cunning Hare crept into the house, opened a box, and filled a bag with rice. As he was about to leave a bat flew down from under the roof and said:

“Hare, you are stealing Goblin’s rice!”

“So I am, said Hare. “Would you like some to?”

Bat was the guardian of Goblin’s rice. He never stole any rice himself because he could not open the boxes, and now, because he was hungry, he replied:

“Yes, I would like some. Fill this bowl for me.”

Hare filled the bowl and went away, and Bat did not tell Goblin. Hare was a generous animal, and gave some of his rice to Spider. Spider ate greedily, and then inquired:

“Clever Hare, where did you get this rice?”

“In a Goblin’s house,” said Hare.

“Let us go and get some more!”

“Tomorrow. We will leave when the first cock crows.”

Spider did not sleep that night, and spent all his time counting the kinjahs of rice he would steal. Every time he counted up to nine he would have to begin all over again, for Spiders can only count to nine. His greed made him so anxious that at midnight he climbed to the top of Hare’s house and sang the rooster’s song. Then he went down and knocked on Hare’s door.

“Oh Hare, let us go now. The first cock has crowed.”

“Go away, Spider, and sleep,” said Hare. “I know it was you who crowed. We will leave when the women get up to carry water.”

Spider went away and began counting up to nine again. After a while he got two buckets and loudly banged them together, and said in a woman’s voice:

“Oh well, I suppose we had better go and fetch water now.”

Then he knocked on Hare’s door again and said:

“Oh Hare, let us go now. The women are going to fetch water.”

Hare was angry and said something rude. But he could not sleep any more, so he got up and went off with spider through the forest to Goblin’s house. They had to wait for an hour before Goblin went off to his fields; then they crept inside his house and opened a box of rice. Spider had brought an enormous kinjah, and now he rammed and crammed as much rice into it as he could and stuffed his stomach as tightly as he could. Hare could not take so much.

Bat flew down and said to Spider:

“Let me have a little rice.”

“I’ll let you have nothing,” said greedy Spider. “Go away.”

“I only want small-small,” pleaded the little animal.

“Even bats must eat.”

“Spiders must eat too. Go away!”

Hare filled Bat’s bowl with rice. But as Spider and Hare were leaving Bat flew to Spider’s big kinjah and quietly climbed inside; and he began to eat Spider’s rice. Spider’s kinjah was so heavy that he took all day to reach his home, and all the time Bat was eating, eating, eating. He began at the bottom and ate his way upwards, leaving behind him a pile of bung, and when Spider reached his house very little rice was left.

He staggered wearily into his house and set the kinjah down.

“Wife,” he cried. “Children! Come and see what you clever father brings.”

Spider was feeling very proud, but he was also tired and ravenous with hunger. His wife and children came. He opened the kinjah and gave them a little rice, deciding he would eat the rest himself. but when he put his hand inside the kinjah to get rice for himself he found only a great quantity of bung; and Bat flew out laughing and squeaking.

Spider stared in amazement. He emptied the kinjah on the floor, but only bung was left inside. He seized the biggest knife he had and hunted Bat all around the room. Bat settled on the stomach of Spider’s wife. Spider was crazy with anger. He savagely struck at Bat, but Bat flew off and Spider cut his wife in two.

Spider was arrested by the Chief for wife-killing, which was not allowed, and a council was held to decide whether Spider would be drowned in the river or burned alive.

“Please burn me!” Spider begged. “Drowning in deep water is a terrible affair. In fire I’ll turn to smoke and float up in the air.”

Of course, when they heard these words the Council immediately decided that Spider should be drowned; they took him to the river bank and there they threw him in. Spider landed lightly on the water and ran to the other side.

“Silly fools!” he cried. “Fire would surely cause my end, but water is a Spider’s friend!”

Ever since that day men have hunted Spider with sticks pulled from the fire.

Proverb: ‘Ashes fall on those who throw them.’


The Man Who Sought Riches and Respect

A certain poor hunter searched in the forest for many years trying to find his fortune; but all he found was birds and animals and fruit. He went to a diviner and asked what he must do in order to become rich and well-loved by his people. The diviner said:

“Bring a leopard into the village market place, and then report to me.”

The hunter went away wondering how this thing might be managed. He could not use his spear, or even traps, for a leopard in a trap fought to escape and always hurt itself. And even if he caught an unharmed leopard, it seemed unlikely that the animal would willingly come to the village. The hunter thought and thought for several days; then he went out in search of leopards, and finally he found the one he sought. It was a female leopard, and she had three kittens which he guarded in a cave.

The hunter killed a deer, and left deer meat by the cave. On the following day he did the same; each day for twenty days he left meat in front of the leopard’s cave until the leopard learned to wait for him, and to greet him as a friend.

On the twenty-first day the hunter brought more meat and sat down by the cave as if to rest. He had left his spear in the forest. The leopard entered the cave and brought out her three babies, and together they ate the deer meat as the hunter watched and smiled.

In time he hunter was accepted by the leopard family as both playmate and companion. They grew to love his kindness no less than they loved his meat; and indeed, the hunter learned to love them too. Sometimes he took the babies for a walk, or romped with them among the trees, and their mother trusted him to bring them back.

And thus it was that the hunter took one baby away among the threes, then further, and further yet, and carried the little animal towards his village. The baby leopard trusted him, and was happy and was excited to be traveling so far. It was not afraid of the village people, for the only man it knew had been a gentle friend.

The hunter showed the baby leopard to the diviner, and explained what he had done.

“Hunter,” said the wise old man, “you have done well, and even better. Let my judgment be you guide: be as kind, considerate and gentle to your fellow men as you have been to your wild leopards, and not only will riches come to you, but men will learn to love you and respect you as their friend.

The hunter followed his advice, and became a rich and happy man.


How Hare Asked God for Wisdom

Hare went to god to ask for Wisdom.

“I am a small animal,” he said, “and in the forest are many animals larger and stronger and fiercer than I. Therefore I must have wisdom if I am to survive, and I beg you for this gift.”

“I will see to it,” said God; “but you must do three things. The first thing you must do is to bring me two of leopard’s teeth dripping with blood.”

“I will try to do this,” said Hare, and he hurried off wondering how this thing might be done. He invited Leopard to dinner that night, and late in the evening when Leopard yawned Hare said:

“You have very beautiful teeth, Leopard. No other animal has teeth so long and strong and white as yours.”

Being vain, Leopard opened his mouth even wider, and as he did so Hare picked up a club and hit Leopard in the mouth. Two teeth fell out. Hare snatched them up and ran away before poor Leopard could recover; he went back to God and gave Him the two teeth, dripping with Leopard’s blood.

“Only a wise man can take two teeth from a living leopard,” God declared. “The second thing you must do is to bring me the most poisonous snake in the forest.

Hare hurried off wondering how he could capture the most poisonous snake in the forest. He cut a long straight stick and put marks on it, then went around the forest measuring animals. Some of the animals thought he must be a little mad, but he did not mind. The most poisonous snake in the forest saw him doing this and asked:

“What are you doing, Hare?”

“I am measuring all the animals. God has asked me to find out who is the longest animal in the forest.”

“I think I am the longest. Measure me.”

Hare placed his stick beside Snake. He tied Snake to the stick at each end and in the middle, and said:

“You are the longest animal, Snake. I will take you to see God,” He carried him to God.

“Well done, Hare,” said God. “Only a wise man could have brought me the most poisonous snake in the forest. Now you must bring all the little birds. That is your last task.”

Hare built a strong cage and went to the little birds.

“Snake says he is going to eat you all tonight,” he said.

“I have made you a strong house. Sleep in there, and you will be safe.”

The little birds believed him, and fearing Snake they all slept in the cage that night. Hare closed the door and took the little birds to God. God smiled.

“Hare, any one who has as much wisdom as you have needs no more. Therefore go back to your place, and never ask for wisdom again.”
Hare had been too clever, as people sometimes are.


How Kpahna Defeated a Goblin

Men built a bridge across the Lofa River, so that when the rain God visited the land and made the river quick with flood people could still pass across.

But in one of the rocks beneath the bridge there dwelt a Goblin who was most annoyed when ordinary folk walked above his head; and he formed the habit of devouring them. When a man approached, the goblin would leap upon the bridge and thus challenge him:

“O man, if you would cross this bridge you must give me a hundred lashes with your stick, and I will give you one. I will lie on my stomach and cover my face; see that you beat me well.”

This seemed a reasonable request, and the man would readily agree.

The Goblin would lie down and cover his face, and when he had received a hundred lashes he would rise and kill the man with a single blow from a palm-rib, and then devour him.

Word spread about the land that a goblin possessed the bridge; men ceased to pass that way, villages close to it were abandoned, and people fled away as the Goblin began to roam afield in search or human flesh. The Chief announced that he would give his daughter and half his riches to the man who would defeat the Goblin; but few men were brave enough to try, and those who did were killed.

A youth whose name was Kpahna heard of this reward. He was a village blacksmith, and his arms were strong. He hollowed out a termites’ hill, put in iron ore and charcoal and added glowing coals, pumped in air with leather bellows to make a rearing fire, and smelted iron into a heavy ball. He fixed the iron ball to the end of a long, strong stick, and went to meet the Goblin. He boldly approached the bridge holding the stick so that the iron ball could not be seen, and the Goblin jumped on the bridge to challenge him.

“O youth, only fools came to this bridge, and I eat fools for supper! Lash me a hundred times with your stick and I will lash you once.”

“You’ve forgotten something,” said Kpahna.

“Forgotten what?”

“The part about lying down and covering your face.”

“Ah. Well. Yes, I will lie on my stomach and cover my face, and see that you beat me well, for one of us must die.”

He lay on his stomach and covered his face. Kpahna swung his stick aloft and brought the heavy iron ball crashing down on the Goblin’s head.

“Aieee!” the creature hollowed. He sat on his tail and held his hands to this head, and moaned and rocked himself to and fro.

“Aieee! Who are you, o youth? That was indeed a blow of blows. From what land do you come?”

“I am Kpahna, and I come from a distant land where man eat goblins for their supper.”

The Goblin looked at him uncertainly.

“Well…. but you are only a simple youth. Try again.”

Again the bludgeon smashed down on his skull; and, as before, Kpahna hid the ball of iron behind his back.

“Warrgh!” The Goblin rose to his feet and staggered into the forest, groaning with pain. Kpahna called him back.

“I cannot let you beat me any more,” the goblin cried.

“You must. It was your idea, not mine. Are you such a cowardly Goblin that you cannot stand a few more blows?”

“Well, only a few more then.”

“Ninety-eight more, O most worthless of all Goblins.”

“Then I will not lie down this time.”

Kpahna laughed.

What a miserable Goblin! You will lie down and cover your face, for thus it was agreed. Unless you want me to hit you in another and worse place ….”

The demon hurriedly lay down. Kpahna whirled his stick around and round above is head until it sang a thin little song; then he slammed the iron ball down on the goblin’s head with a terrible, crunching crack.

The Goblin shrieked in agony. He struggled to his knees, fell over the edge of the bridge to his rock below and disappeared inside it.

Kpahna leaned over the railing and sang a mocking song:

“Beat a Goblin, thrash a Goblin, make a Goblin suffer; beat his head until he’s dead, then eat him for your supper!”

The Goblin trembled, and crouched fearfully inside his rock.

Kpahna reported to the grateful Chief; he was given honor and riches, and the daughter of the Chief bore him many sons.

Thereafter when people crossed the bridge the Goblin would cry out:

“Who is that who walks above my head?”

And whoever it was, Siaffa or Boima or Zena or someone else, would sing in mocking tones:

“I beat a Goblin, thrashed a Goblin, Made a Goblin suffer; I’ll beat his head until he’s dead, and eat him for my supper!”

“Pass on, O Kpahna!” the Goblin would cry. “Move on, be gone, three blows from you is enough, and much too much.”

The Goblin stays within his rock, and men pass safely by.


How Hare Outwitted Woman With a Pot of Boiled Crabs

In a certain village there lived a woman who had a daughter as ripe as a yellow mango and as fair as the forest flowers. This daughter was a good and gentle girl, and so desirable was she that men of every rank and trade from many chiefdoms came with gifts and promises and tried to marry her. But her mother loved her jealously, and to herself she vowed no man would ever take away her only daughter.

Whenever a new suitor came, she said:

“To win my daughter you must pass a test: do you agree to this?”

Of course the suitor would agree; for the ways of women are devious, but a man must do his best. She would take him to a tall, thick tree, whose wood had the strength of iron, and she would say:

“O man, cut down this tree. From the wood of the tree you must build a house upon that stone you see.”

The man would attempt this impossible task, but no blade could even mark the tree. Many were the men who came in hope, and tried, and went away in black despair.

Brother Hare, whose long ears spring from a fertile brain, decided he would try. He made certain preparations, and went to the woman’s house.

“I wish to marry your daughter,” he boldly announced.

“Can you stand the test?” the woman asked.

“I can stand the test.”

She led him to the tall, thick tree.

“Cut down this tree,” she commanded him, “and from the wood of the tree build a house upon that stone.”

“I shall do that little thing,” Hare declared, and handed her a pot.

“But since I do not eat anything but crabs, will you cook these crabs soft for me before I start?”

The woman agreed to do this, and when she went away Brother

Hare sat down and began to sing a song.

“What man can cut an iron tree, or build a house upon a stone?

What woman can live honestly, or soften crabs with skins of bone?”

When the woman returned with his food he took one of the crabs and bit on it.

“O woman!” he cried. “You said you would cook these crabs soft for me. They are still as hard as bone!

The woman was puzzled.

“But Brother Hare,” she protested, “who can cook a crab so that all of it is soft?”

“Who indeed?” Hare echoed. “And who can cut an iron tree, or build a house upon a stone?”

The woman was outwitted; she could not keep her promise to cook the crabs soft, and was obliged to give her daughter to Brother Hare.


Big Bird in the Kola Tree

Big Bird lives in the forest and sits in a kola tree. He bites, and he has big pepper. Spider found the tree and began climbing in it to get nuts.

Big Bird put pepper in Spider’s eyes and Spider fell to the ground. He lay there for a time with bad eyes; then he rose and returned to his town. He said to Black Deer:

“Let us go and pick kola nuts.”

They went together to the tree. Spider told Black Deer to climb. Deer Climbed up into the branches and found Big Bird sitting there.

Big Bird threw pepper in his eyes and he fell to the ground and began to cry. Spider took a big stick and began to beat him. Deer could not see, the pepper burned his eyes. He begged Spider not to beat him, but Spider kept on beating him and at last he killed Deer. He cut the meat and carried it home to his family.

Next day Spider said to Red Deer: “Let us go to pick kola nuts.”

Red Deer went with him. Red Deer fell from the tree with pepper in his eyes, and Spider killed him and cut the meat. In this way many animals died.

One day Spider invited Pigmy Antelope to pick kola nuts in the forest. Antelope is a wise animal who knows too many secrets. He went with Spider to the kola tree. He saw the tracks of many animals leading to the tree, but none led away from it.

Antelope thought there must be a Thing in the tree which ate animals. When Spider asked him to climb he said:

“Spider, this kola tree belongs to you. You know where the best nuts are. You climb first.”

Spider began climbing. He tried to hide from Big Bird, but Big Bird saw him there and dropped much pepper in his eyes. Spider also had pepper, and threw his pepper in Big Bird’s eyes. Spider fell down. Big Bird fell down. Antelope killed Big Bird, and when Spider could see again he said:

“Antelope, you’ve killed Big Bird. That makes big palava.”

They dug a hole and buried Big Bird, and Spider said again:

“Give me all your kola nuts and I will tell no one what I have seen.”

Antelope gave all his nuts to Spider and they returned to town. But after a little while Spider went back to the kola tree and took Big Bird. He carried Big Bird home that night and gave the body to his wife to cook. He tied a rope about his leg and said:

“Wife, when Big Bird is cooked, pull on this rope and I will come.”

He went outside to play. Antelope saw the rope tied to his leg and thought about it. He cut the rope and tied it to his own leg to see what might happen. Presently he felt someone pulling on the rope, and went into Spider’s house. All was darkness; he could see nothing, and no one could see him. Spider’s wife heard him there, and said:

“Spider, here is your rice and meat.”

Antelope ate. When he had finished all Big Bird and the rice as well he went outside. Spider became hungry and went in to his wife.

“Where is my rice and meat?”

“Are you mad? How many birds did you give me?”

She told him he had eaten all his food. Spider refused to believe her, and began to beat her. She cried out, and people came.

“What is the matter?” asked Antelope.

“Oh, she cooked crabs and now she can’t find them,” Spider said.

“All this fuss just for a few crabs?”

“It wasn’t crabs! cried Spider’s wife. “It was Big Bird Spider brought me Big Bird to cook, and I cooked. Now Big Bird seems to have eaten the rice I cooked with him, and walked away.”

The cooking of Big Bird caused palaver in the town. Spider was ashamed, and people beat him. He had to go away from the town and live in another place.


How Spider’s Son Was Eaten By a Goblin

A goblin lived in the forest and he had a son called Pei. Pei was a great hunter and killed many animals; but one day when he went to hunt he found there were no animals left. He only saw Spider’s son and carried him home. Father Goblin said:

“Clean him and hang him up to dry. Tomorrow we will eat him.”
Pei hung the dead thing up to dry.

When Spider went home he could not find his son, and he wondered where he was. He said to himself: “I will go and look in Goblin’s house. His son, Pei, kills much game.”

When Spider reached Goblin’s house he saw his son hanging up inside. He said to Pei:

“What kind of game is this?”

“Nothing special,” Pei answered.

“It looks just like my son.”

“Oh! I didn’t know it was our son.”

They began to fight. Eggs were hanging by the door in a basket, and they were Goblin’s private eggs. Spider knocked them down, and in a moment he had swallowed them. Pei was silent for a little time, feeling sad about the eggs.

Then he said: “Spider, this palaver between you and I is finished. You have killed my things, and I have killed yours. Go home.”

The eggs made Spider’s stomach happy, and he went home.


How Antelope Revenged His Wife

Nemo, the Pigmy antelope, left his house and went on a long journey; his wife stayed in town. One night Chimpanzee came to the house and knocked on the door.

“Who knocks? asked Lady-Antelope. She would not open the door. Chimpanzee went to a diviner and asked for medicine to make his voice small like Nemo’s. The diviner told him to swallow a piece of red-hot iron; but Chimpanzee was afraid to do this and asked the diviner to help him.

The diviner heated a piece of iron in the fire until it was red, and then stuffed it down Chimpanzee’s throat.

Chimpanzee sat down and said nothing for a long time. He was quite certain that pieces of red-hot iron were not fit food for chimpanzees, but the diviner gave him sweet juices to drink and he felt better.

That night he went again to the door of Nemo’s house and said:

“Open the door, dear wife.” His voice was now small-small like Nemo’s, and lady-Antelope opened the door. Chimpanzee sprang on her and killed her. He ripped her stomach out and threw it in a drinking pot, and carried the rest of the body away to eat.

Antelope returned from his journey. He went to his house, found the door open and his wife gone, and saw something in the drinking pot. He said to himself: “Someone has killed my wife. I will go to the diviner and find out who it was.”

The diviner said to him:

“A herd will pass by. the last in the …”

“What kind of a herd?”

“Don’t interrupt divining. As I was saying, a heard will pass by. The last in the herd will be singing in a small-small voice, and he will be the one who will kill your wife.”

Nemo thanked him, and went to hide behind a bush with a spear. a herd of chimpanzees strolled by, and the last one was singing in a small-small voice:

“I took the life of someone’s wife, and craved her with a hunting knife…”

Nemo threw the spear and killed him. The other chimpanzees hurried back and drove Nemo away, then went and lay beneath a tree to sleep. Nemo cut kola nuts, and put half a nut in each side of the chimpanzees’ bottoms so that everyone would see this, and know that they were villains.