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Anansi and the Chameleon

Traditionally Anansi is a West African trickster god. The name 'Anansi' means 'spider' in Akan, the Ghanaian language spoken in the southern parts of the country, and so Anansi often takes on the form of a spider. He is thought to be very clever and has all knowledge of stories. He is also well-known for trying to outsmart others, including larger animals, but he is not always successful. He remains a very important character in West African and Caribbean culture and features in many stories and situations. Sometimes his tricks backfire, which make for some funny adventures.

***One year there was a bad harvest and there was not enough food for everyone in the village. Anansi decided to take over the Chameleonís piece of land so he could claim the harvest. The Chameleon was understandably very upset and asked the other villagers for help, but no one came to help him. So, he decided he would deal with the situation himself.

The Chameleon had a plan! He dug a very deep hole and covered it leaving only a little opening for a door. He then went out to catch flies. He caught hundreds and tied them to dried vines. He then wove the vines together very neatly and made a very interesting cloak. He put it on and paraded it around the village. It was a very impressive cloak as it shimmered in the sunlight and glowed in the moonlight. The cloak caught Anansiís eye and he became very jealous. He desperately wanted the fabulous cloak.

After some negotiation, the Chameleon said he would let Anansi have the cloak in exchange for a store full of grain. The deal was agreed and Anansi got his sons to pour grain through the hole into the Chameleonís storeroom, which he thought was very small. But the sons poured and poured and poured. This went on for days, which became weeks and eventually Anansi had no food left at all.

The event had drawn a crowd from the village, and when they all realized what had happened, they all laughed at Anansi the spider. The trickster had been tricked!

Anansi was embarrassed. He went to hide in the corner and to this day you will see a spider hiding the corner of your house.***

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