Popular Science Monthly/Volume 48/November 1895/Evolution in Folklore

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By the late Colonel A. B. ELLIS.

IN the process of collecting the folklore of West Africa, but chiefly that of the Gold Coast, I have found several tales which are evidently the West African variants of some of the stories collected in the Southern States by Mr. Joel Chandler Harris, and published under the title of "Uncle Remus," and a comparison of the two sets may be of some interest to American readers, besides affording an example of the extent to which folklore is affected by change of environment.

The rôle of Brer Rabbit is filled on the Gold Coast by the Spider (Anansi), and on the Slave Coast by the Tortoise (Awon), who is doubtless the prototype of the Terrapin in "Uncle Remus." In both districts the Hare figures in the tales, and possibly Brer Rabbit is the Hare amid new surroundings, but in West Africa "Long Ears" rather takes the place of Brer Fox, as he is usually outwitted by the Spider and the Tortoise.

So large a number of the folklore tales of the Gold Coast have the Spider for their hero that the title Anansi' sem, "Spider stories," is now the generic native name for all folklore tales whatever, no matter what the subject may be; and this designation survives in the British West Indies in the name "Nancy stories," which is there applied by the negro to his local folklore. The supply of slaves for the British West Indies was drawn almost exclusively from the Gold Coast, so that all, or almost all, of the existing folklore of those islands is derived direct from the Spider stories, and can be readily traced; but in the Southern States the connection is not always so apparent, for although up to the beginning of the present century Gold Coast negroes formed the bulk of the imported slaves, yet, after about 1810, when the African kingdom of Yoruba broke up, large numbers of Slave Coast negroes were introduced, with the result that the local tales present features peculiar to both districts of West Africa.

The second tale in Mr. Harris's "Uncle Remus" series is entitled The Wonderful Tar-baby, and, briefly, is as follows: Brer Fox makes an effigy of tar, mixed with turpentine, and sets it up by the roadside. Brer Rabbit, coming along the road, sees the tar-baby and bids it "Good morning." The tar-baby makes no reply, upon which Brer Rabbit grows angry and strikes it, with the result that his hand sticks to the effigy. Then he strikes with his other hand, with the same result; then he kicks with his feet, and, finally, butts with his head, until he is completely fixed to the tar-baby. As will be readily seen, this is evidently a variant of the following Gold Coast tale:


There was a famine in Spider's country, and Spider had nothing to eat. Now Spider had a son, named Kwaku Tyom, and Spider's son used to go to a farm not far away and steal cassava. And every day when he brought home the cassava, his father would ask him, "Where dost thou get this cassava?" But Spider's son always made answer that he could not tell him, for if he, Spider, were to go there, some harm might befall him. Spider said, "Oh! my son, did I not beget thee, and yet thou thinkest thyself to be more clever than I? Show me the place, and I will be careful that no one sees me." But Spider's son still refused to show Spider.

Now, whenever Spider's son went to the farm to dig cassava, he used to carry a bag, which he filled with cassava, and so brought home; and Spider played his son Kwaku Tyom a trick, for, when night fell, and Spider's son had laid himself down and was sleeping, Spider put wood ashes into the bag and made a hole in the bottom thereof.

Next morning Spider's son arose, and slung the bag around his neck, and set forth to go to the farm; and as he walked, the ashes fell through the hole in the bag and marked the path. Then Spider came after his son and saw the road, but he did not go to the farm that day; he returned home and said nothing. In the evening Spider's son returned home and brought cassava.

Next morning Spider arose early and followed the track of the ashes to go to the farm; and when he reached the place he saw a something there made of crossed sticks, standing in the midst of the farm, and there were snail ^shells hanging thereon, which the breeze rattled.[1]

When Spider saw this he was afraid. He saluted the something, and said, "Good morning, sir"; but the something made him no answer. Then Spider became vexed, and he said, "Oh! oh! dost thou want to shake me by the hand before thou answerest me?" He put out his hand to the something, and his hand became fixed to the sticks so that he could not draw it back. Then Spider became more vexed, and said, "What sort of manners are these? I was so polite as to come and shake thy hand, and now thou dost hold my hand and will not leave it." He put forth his left hand to the something, and the left hand became fastened also. "Well, well," said Spider, "what is it that thou wishest me to do? Thou hast caught my two hands. Dost want me to embrace thee?" He put his face to the shoulder of the something, and it remained fixed there so that he could not draw it back. He kicked with his two feet at the sticks, and they also were caught and held.

In this wise Spider remained all that day and until the morning of the next day, when the plantation owner came there and saw Spider fastened to the something. And the farmer said: "Hallo, Father Spider, and is it thou who hast been coming to take my cassava all this time? At last I have found thee out!"

Spider's wife and Spider's son Kwaku Tyom knew that Spider had gone to the farm, because they had not seen him in the house all the night.

The farmer said to Spider, "I have lost about two hundred and fifty cassavas from my farm since this began, and unless thou payest me thou wilt not go from here." Then Spider begged for pardon, and prayed the man to release him, saying that he would pay for all, and the farmer released him.

Then Spider said to the man that he must return home with him, and they went together; and when they arrived at Spider's house, they met there Spider's wife and son. The farmer said to Spider's wife: "I saw Spider in my farm this morning, quite fastened up, and, as I have lost about two hundred and fifty cassavas from my farm, I asked Spider concerning them, and he confessed it was he who had taken them, and said he would pay me, so I have come hither with him to receive payment."

Then Spider's son spake to Spider and said: "Father, I told thee not to go to the farm. My mother has told me that, when I was sleeping one night, thou didst put some ashes into my bag, and picked a hole in the bag; but I knew not when I was going next morning that the ashes were falling along the road. Now, father, how art thou going to pay for so much?" Spider answered softly, "Never mind, my son, I will pay him up in the roof."

Then Spider made an excuse to the farmer that he wanted to go into his sleeping room, but the farmer said: "No, I will not let thee do so, for thou art too tricky." But Spider begged the farmer, saying that he only wanted to go into the room to get the money wherewith to pay him, and that he would return at once; and at last, after much talking, the farmer left Spider.

Then, when Spider had moved about three steps from where the farmer was sitting, lie cried: "Oh! oh! daddy farmer, I have no money for thee. I will pay thee on the roof top." And he jumped at once into the rafters, where he said, "I shall not come down again."

Since then Spider has not come down from the roof, for he owes the farmer too much, and the farmer is still looking for him.

The eighteenth of Mr. Harris's tales, entitled Mr. Rabbit finds his Match at Last, describes how Brer Rabbit runs a race with the Terrapin, which the Terrapin wins by distributing his wife and children at the different mileposts along the track, and by concealing himself near the winning post, up to which he crawls when Brer Rabbit draws near. In the introduction Mr. Harris mentions a similar tale from the South Atlantic States, where the Terrapin, by the same stratagem, wins a race that he runs against the Deer. In this instance, however, the race is for a bride, who is to marry the winner, and so the tale probably has reference to the once widely distributed marriage custom known as "bride racing." The Gold Coast tale, equally with that of Uncle Remus, has no reference to marriage. It is as follows:


One day the Frog challenged the Leopard to run a race with him from Axim to Accra, and the Leopard answered: "This is foolishness. A little slow-moving creature such as thou art could not race with me"; but the Frog said, "Yes, I will, and we will then see who is a man"; so the Leopard agreed, and they fixed a day for the race.

Then the Frog went to Axim, and he placed frogs all along the road from Axim to Accra. He hid them in the bush, putting here five and there ten; and when the time came, the Leopard came and called the Frog to go and race.

When they started, they started together, and the Leopard at once made one leap and came to Shamah, and when he alighted on the ground he called "Frog," and a frog answered "Yaow." The Leopard said: "What! such a little creature as that can beat me in a race? No, it is not possible. I will go on again"; and he skipped from Shamah to Kommenda, and when he alighted he called again, "Frog," and a frog answered "Yaow." Then the Leopard was ready to scream with vexation, he did not know what to do, and it was bitter to think that such a slow creature as a frog could leap as far as he.

The Leopard made another leap, and he leaped from Kommenda to Amkwana, and as he alighted he called "Frog," and a frog answered "Yaow." The Leopard said, "What! art thou here again?" and he was angry, and he made a bound from Amkwana to Simpa, without touching anywhere, and when he came down at Simpa he called "Frog," and a frog said "Yaow." The leopard said: "I am the King of the Bush. Every creature is under me. I am the King, I can cut off heads, and yet a little creature like thee is able to race with me, and now thou seekest to beat me."

Then he leaped at once from Simpa to the Sakum River, and when he came there he thought, "Frog is not here," and he did not call the Frog, but said he would first drink some palm wine, because he was tired. And after he had drunk the palm wine he called "Frog," and a frog answered "Yaow." The Leopard asked, "What! art thou here. Frog?" And the frog again said "Yaow." Then the Leopard made a leap from that place and came to Accra, and called "Frog," and a frog answered "Yaow." At every place to which he came he met the Frog, because a frog was there before he leaped.

At that time the Frog lived in the bush—he lived there with all the other animals; but now the Leopard said to him, "I am the King of the Bush, and after this I will not keep thee there any more. I will put thee down close to the water side."

That is why ye can hear frogs crying by the water side whereever ye go. The Leopard has driven them out of the bush, because the Frog was the only animal that could race with him.

Another Gold Coast tale is:


There was a certain king who had two fine cows, and these two cows were in the same town with the king. In this town people often could not get meat to eat, but the king always had meat to eat from the two cows, for they used to void meat every morning.

Now, Spider and Kwaku Tse came to that town as strangers,[2] and when they came the people had no meat to eat; they had nothing but plantains and dokonno;[3] so Spider and Kwaku Tse asked the master of the house in which they lodged, since he had no meat to give them, to show them the house of the king.

Then Spider and Kwaku Tse went to the king, and said to him: "We are strangers who have come to thy town, and to-morrow we will pass on our way, and we can find no meat to eat, but as we were coming hither to thee we saw two fine cows." The king answered, "The cows are mine, and they are not to kill." Spider asked, "Why should not the cows be to kill?" and the king answered, "They supply me with meat." Then Spider and Kwaku Tse asked the king if he could not give them even a small piece of meat, and the king refused.

They departed from the king and returned to the house in which they were lodging, and they told the owner of the house of all that they had said to the king, and how the king had refused to give them even a small piece of meat. They said to the man: "The king said that his two cows supplied him with beef, and that therefore he could not kill them." Spider said, "My name is Spider, and this man is my namesake Kwaku. Never before have I seen a cow that could supply meat and yet live. I came hither only to pass through and go upon my way, but now I will tarry here and see how it is that these cows can supply the king with meat." The owner of the house answered, "That thou wilt not be able to see, for they do it in the king's private yard." Spider said, "I am he who is called Kwaku Anansi, and anything in this world that I want to see or want to do and that I am not able to see or do, I have not yet found it." He said: "These two cows of the king, I will kill them and I will take their heads. I and my friend will do it; we will each kill one, and as for the heads of the cows, the king will cut them off and give them to us."

When Spider spake thus the owner of the house marveled greatly to hear such words, and he ran and called his neighbor and said to him, "Come and listen, for there is a great trouble which these strangers who have come to lodge with me are about to bring upon me." When the neighbor came the owner of the house told him, in the presence of Spider, what Spider had said, and Spider gave them a proverb, saying, "If the load on thy head is heavy, and it is something to eat, whilst thou art eating it thou art lightening it." Then Kwaku Tse said: "We have spoken this in thy house; it is no concern of any one else."

Then Spider and Kwaku Tse told the owner of the house that they were going out to see if they could not get the heads of the two cows and bring them there. And they departed and went to the king's yard, and it was night time, and they found the place wherein the cows used to sleep. Now they had with them a leaf that, when a person smelled it, it made him sneeze, and they rubbed the leaf upon the noses of the two cows. Then the cows at once looked as if they wanted to sneeze; they opened their mouths wide open, and Spider and Kwaku Tse turned themselves very small and each of them jumped into the mouth of a cow, and the cows swallowed them up. Then they cut meat from the insides of the cows, but the cows did not die.

Next morning the king came to his cows to get meat, and the cows voided meat for the king, but this time the meat was not fresh as it always used to be, because Spider and Kwaku Tse had cut it and left it inside all night. The king said, "I wonder why the meat is not fresh as it always is?" and he sent for a medicine man to see if he could cure the cows, for he thought that they were sick. When the medicine man came, he said that the cows had eaten a bad leaf, and he poured medicine down their throats. Then the medicine purged them and they voided more meat, but it was all stinking.

When the king and the medicine man had gone away, and there was nobody left with the cows, Kwaku Tse came out and went into the cow in which was Spider, and when he came there he found that Spider had done the same as he, Kwaku Tse, had done in the other cow. He said to Spider: "I do not know why we can not make these two cows die. We have cut all the meat inside. I am going back to my cow, and after I have gone inside I will cut its belly right through with a knife." Spider answered: "No, do not do that. When thou goest in, thou must cut neither the belly nor the heart." Kwaku Tse asked, "Why not?" and Spider said, "Because if we kill the cows while we are yet inside, we shall not be able to get out again, and what shall we do then?" Kwaku Tse asked, "Why should we not be able to come out?" Then Spider said, "Is not thy mother dead?" and Kwaku Tse answered, "Yes." Spider said again, "And what caused her death?" and Kwaku Tse answered, "She died by poison." Spider said: "When she was dead, did not a medicine man come and try to make her sneeze or open her mouth, and did he not fail to do it? Thus thou must know that if the cows die while we are yet inside them, we can not get out. But we can hide ourselves, and that is what we will do. The king will rip open their bellies to discover the cause of their death, so thou must chop the meat on one side very small, so that they will think that the cows have received a blow, and have died therefrom. When the king rips open the cow thou must hide in the stomach, and if thou seest that they are about to search there, thou must run into the bowels and hide. When thou goest into thy cow now, after thou hast chopped the side as I told thee, thou must search for the heart and cut it down. When thou hast cut the heart down the cow will die, and then thou must be careful where thou hidest, so as to escape the knife with which they will open the belly. But before thou doest this, first run to the man in whose house we lodge and tell him that we are going to the water side to wash." Then Kwaku Tse went to the house-master and told him, and returned into the belly of the cow, and chopped the side and cut the heart down, and the cow died. And Spider did the same in his cow, and both cows were dead.

When the king came and saw that his cows were dead, he ordered his people to go and bring the medicine man who had physicked the cows, and when the medicine man came he said that if the king would allow it he would rip open the cows' bellies. The king consented, and they ripped open the cows, and the medicine man said that something had struck the cows a blow in the side and that that was the cause of their death. The king asked the medicine man if the cows were still good to eat, and the medicine man said that they were. Then the king said: "When thou camest first to the cows thou didst say that they had eaten a bad leaf. How, then, can their flesh now be good to eat?" The medicine man answered that at first he thought the cows had eaten a bad leaf and were sick therefrom, but now he found that a blow had been struck them, and therefore the flesh would be good to eat. He said that the people must cut up the cows and carry the paunches to the water side and wash them.

Then the king had the cows cut up, and he ordered two of his slaves to carry the paunches to the water side; and when they went there they threw them down in the water. When the paunches fell into the water Spider and Kwaku Tse broke forth from their hiding places and changed themselves at once, and looked up at the two slaves and cried unto them: "See how ye have acted to us! see how ye have acted to us! We were bathing here in this water and ye came and cast cows paunches upon us."

The two slaves were frightened, and they left the paunches and ran away and returned to the king and told him: "When we carried the cow paunches to the stream and cast them into the water, two men arose and said we had cast the cow paunches upon them. The king asked, "And did ye throw the paunches upon them?" The slaves answered: "We saw them not; but when they jumped up before us they were covered with the filth from the cow paunches." The king asked, "How deep was the place?" and the slaves answered that it was about the depth of a man's knees. Then the king said, "If it were only of that depth ye must have seen the men when ye cast in the cow paunches."

The king called two elders and sent them to the water side to see the two men, and when the elders came they found Spider and his friend covered with filth and the cow paunches in the water. Spider said to them: "That which these two slaves have done to us, if we were not strangers here in the town, we would deal with them for it. We asked if we might come here and wash before we came here." The elders said, "This is the place where we always are used to wash. The slaves have done wrong, but they are the king's slaves, theref ore we beg thee to let the matter rest." Spider answered: "Ye are begging us while the filth is still upon us. Ye can not beg us so with empty hands. If the cows have been killed 'twill not be so grave a matter, but if they have died our medicine will be spoiled, therefore we will go with ye and see the cows. When first we came to this town we could get no meat. We went to the king and told him we were strangers and had no meat to eat, and he told us he had no meat to give us."

While they were still talking by the water side, the son of the man in whose house Spider and Kwaku Tse were lodging came there and saw them with the elders, and he ran home and told his father. Then the father came to see what was the matter, but when he came he did not find the two strangers, for they had already departed with the elders to go to the king's house. Then he went to the king's house, and when he reached there the strangers and the two elders had not yet arrived. When the man came, the king asked him what he came for, and he answered: "Two strangers came to me three days past and lodged in my house. They went out this morning, and after a time one of them returned to me and told me they were going to the water side to wash. Afterward my son came and told me he had seen them at the water side talking with two elders. So I have come hither to learn what the matter is." The king asked: "What strangers are they? Whence do they come?" and the man answered: "King, thou knowest them. They are the two young men who came to thee and asked for meat, because they were strangers." Then the king said, "Ah! I know them now." He said: "When thou doest good for a man it is good for thyself.[4] These young men came and asked me for meat, and I said I had none to give them. Now my cows are dead, and the slaves whom I sent to wash the paunches at the water side have cast them upon the young men. I have sent two elders to go and soothe them, but they have not yet returned."

While the king was speaking. Spider and Kwaku Tse and the two elders came, and with them the slaves bearing the paunches of the cows, and Spider and Kwaku Tse were still covered with the dirt from the paunches. The king asked the elders: "The place where these slaves cast down the paunches, if any persons were there, could they see them?" The elders answered that the slaves could not fail to see them. Then the king said, "Then the slaves must have done this thing purposely," and the elders answered, "Thou hast said it." Spider said: "If thou art a stranger and thou goest to another country, they treat thee like a stranger, in truth. The slaves, when they saw my small body, they thought I was a young boy, or else they would not have done such a thing." The king said: "Thou must not say so. I am here for all people, for the townfolk and for strangers also, to protect them and be a father to them." Kwaku Tse answered: "How canst thou say thou art a father to the stranger? Did not we come and ask thee for meat, and didst not thou tell us that thou hadst only meat for thine own household?" Spider said: "In this world in which we live it is not everybody that likes everybody, so it behooves every man to keep a little medicine[5] to guide him. If the cows died of sickness then our medicine is spoiled, but if the cows were killed no great harm was done." The king said that the cows had died, and then Spider sang:

"My namesake, Kwaku, we are wearied, we are wearied.
We are wearied without cause."

The king asked what this song might mean, and Spider said that the little medicine which they possessed was a medicine which forbade them even to pass by dead animals, and now the flesh of animals that had died had been thrown upon them. He said: "Had these two slaves killed one of us, instead of throwing the paunches upon us, it would have been better, because the one who lived would have mourned for the other, and that is something. As we are standing before thee now, O king, if war came upon thee we are thy men. And if war did come upon thee now, we should be the first to die in battle on account of what thy slaves have done." He said, "No son can be older than his father." Then the king asked what this proverb might mean, and Spider and Kwaku Tse showed each a medicine that was upon their loins, and said: "This medicine, when we were born it was not upon us. After we were born we made it, and if thou wilt help us we will make fresh medicine again, and let this matter rest, for thy sake." The king said, "Whatever it is ye want, say it," and they answered, "That which we want, perchance thou thyself will want it also." The king said, "As ye are strangers, ask for what ye wish, and, even though I want it, ye shall have it." Then they said that they wanted the two heads and the two hearts of the very cows whose paunches had spoiled their medicine, and hair from two of the king's own wives. The king answered that he would give them the cows' heads and the two hearts, but as for his wives' hair, that was too much to ask. Spider said, "If the cows were not thine own it would be different, but as the cows were thine own we must ask for the hair." Then the king said he would give them the hair according to their wish, but only a little; and Spider and Kwaku Tse said that a little would suffice. Then the king called two of his wives, and when they came he was ashamed to tell them what he wanted, so he said to them that their hair had grown too much, and that they must cut it down. Then the two women went into their own room and cut the hair, and the king came behind them and gathered some of it and gave it to Spider and Kwaku Tse, together with the two heads and the two hearts of the cows.

Spider and Kwaku Tse departed from the king and carried all the things to the house wherein they lodged, and they told the house-master that they wished to marry and to give a wedding feast. The house-master said that there was no meat in the town, and though people passed by driving cows to other towns yet they would not sell them. Then Spider and Kwaku Tse took the two cows' heads, and went into the road where the people used to pass driving their cows, and there was much mire at a certain part of the road, and they took the two heads and planted them in the mire so that the severed necks were hidden.

By and by some people came driving cows, and Spider and Kwaku Tse called to them, and said: "We were passing here with our cows, and lo! this mire has swallowed them up, and we can not draw them out. Can ye take them out for us?" The people said "Yes"; and they left their own cows, and went and laid hold of the horns of the cows' heads that were in the mire, and pulled hard to pull the cows out, and when they pulled the two heads came up out of the mire. Then Spider and Kwaku Tse cried aloud and said: "See what ye have done! See what ye have done! Ye have pulled the heads off our cows and left the bodies still in the mire. Ye must pay us for our two cows." Then the people were obliged to give them two of their own cows, and they took the two heads and cast them among the bushes.

Spider and Kwaku Tse take the heads from the bushes and play the same trick upon some other passers-by, after which they make a medicine with the hair of the king's wives, and by means of it compel the two wives to come to them at night, and in the end deprive the king of his wives altogether.

This tale furnishes the material for two of the stories of Uncle Remus. The notion of entering a cow and cutting meat from its inside is to be found in No. XXXIV—The Sad Fate of Mr. Fox. Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox enter a cow and cut meat, and Brer Rabbit, through disregarding Brer Fox's injunction and cutting into the "haslet," kills the cow, so that they can not make their way out again. Then one hides in the maul and the other in the gall when the cow is cut open. The trick of planting the cows' heads in the mire and pretending that the animals had foundered appears in No. XX—How Mr. Rabbit saved his Meat—where Brer Rabbit plants a cow's tail in the earth and tells Brer Fox that the cow has sunk into the ground. They both pull at the tail, and when it comes out Brer Rabbit winks his eye and says, "Dar! de tail done pull out en de cow gone."

No. XXXIII, Why the Negro is Black, is practically the same as the Gold Coast tale. Why Some People are Black and Some White. In the Uncle Remus variant there is a pool of water in which those who wash become white; but the water is soon used up, and the last comers only find enough to whiten the palms of their hands and the soles of their feet. In the Gold Coast tale the change of color is brought about by means of the blood of a handsome boy, who has committed suicide by casting himself down from a tree.

No. VI, Mr. Rabbit Grossly deceives Mr. Fox, which describes how Brer Rabbit, by a trick, rides Brer Fox to Miss Meadows's house, is like the Slave Coast tale. How the Tortoise rode the Elephant to Town, and the stratagem by which the Tortoise escapes being killed by the Elephant is similar to that employed by Brer Rabbit when Brer Fox is about to kill him (No. IV, How Mr. Rabbit was too Sharp for Mr. Fox), and also by the Terrapin when in the same dilemma (No. XII, Mr. Fox tackles Old Man Tarrypin ). In the first case Brer Rabbit says, "I don't keer w'at you do wid me. Brer Fox, so you don't fling me in dat brier patch," and in the second the Terrapin begs Brer Fox not to drown him, but to burn him. In the Slave Coast tale, the Tortoise begs the Elephant to dash him down upon the stones, but not to throw him into the swamp, as the water and mire would drown him.

In No. XVII—Mr. Rabbit Nibbles up the Butter—where Brer Rabbit rubs the butter upon the mouth of the sleeping Opossum, and causes him to be thought guilty of the offense, we find a more delicate version of an incident in the Gold Coast tale—How the Cat got the Better of Spider—but as this paper has already reached sufficient length, this and the other stories above mentioned can not be given in detail.

Prof. Angelo Heilprin points out as a field where thorough geographical explorations may be made with profit and additions to knowledge, the regions of the North Pacific uniting North America by stepping stones with Asia: the Aleutian Islands and peninsula, Bering Sea and Strait, and the peninsula of Kamchatka. "Where two continents approach one another so closely and give evidence of having been united at seemingly no very ancient date; where a connecting land-bridge could not but most effectually influence the distribution of life human, animal, and vegetable upon two hemispheres; there, manifestly, the harvest of exploration must be great, for bound in with the research are problems of deep significance, touching alike the sciences of physical geography, ethnology, geology, and botany."
  1. What we should call a scarecrow, but on the Gold Coast such things scare people rather than birds, for they are meant to protect crops from thieves, and are believed to possess a latent power, derived from some god, to entrap or bring misfortune upon any one who interferes with what is under their guardianship. The snail sheila here mentioned are those of the large edible snail of West Africa.
  2. It should perhaps have been stated before that Spider and his family are able to assume the human form at will. When Spider is in human shape he is small, lean, and hairy, and these peculiarities are shared by his children. In the tale of Spider and the Farmer it is to be understood that Spider goes to the farm in human shape and, when in his own house, escapes from the farmer by becoming a spider again and climbing up among the rafters.
  3. Dokonno a kind of boiled maize bread.
  4. A proverb.
  5. I. e., an amulet or charm.