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 [30. Dry-Head and Anansi.]


30. Dry-Head and Anansi.

The "Dry-head" episode is very popular in Jamaica. From Jekyll's version, 48-49, I have corrected my version 30 c as Johnson gave it and made Dry-head, not Anansi, the victim of the bag trick. Johnson was not a reliable informant. Other Jamaica versions occur in Pamela Smith, 75-76, as the conclusion to the "cowitch" story, and in Wona, 44-50.

The story falls into three parts. (1) Anansi pretends that he is about to die unless he has the whole of a fat barrow to himself. (2) He carries it away into the woods to eat and inadvertently picks up Dry-head, who devours the whole. (3) He invents an expedient to get rid of Dry-head.

Compare Surinam, JAFL 30:244 -246; Madagascar, Renel 2:1-2; 57-59; Kaffir, Theal, 158-162; Upper Congo, Weeks FL 12:82-83; West African, Tremearne, FL 22:61-63; Barker, 66; Cronise and Ward, 287-290; Rattray, 2:106 -122.

(1) Rattray's Hausa version is identical with the Jamaican. The Surinam story lacks the Dry-head ending. In the Madagascar and Congo stories, the trick turns upon pretending that a spirit warns the wife against poison if she partakes of her husband's food. In Theal, Kenkebe visits his father-in-law in time of famine, is feasted on an ox and given bags of corn, which he conceals. Compare numbers 21 c, 23, 24, 25, and 29.

(2) A Masai story (Hollis, 15) tells of two brothers who are given a bullock to slaughter. They carry it to "a place where there was no man or animal, or bird, or insect, or anything living," and a devil puts them to much inconvenience.. The pursuit of Anansi by the shadow of Death, in the Wona version of 27, has already been referred to in the Dry-head episode. In Barker, 81-84, the stolen flour-producing stone which Anansi is carrying off, sticks to his head and grinds him to pieces, as referred to in the note to number 22.

In Theal, Kenkebe's wife and son hide themselves behind the rock which conceals his secret store, and push over a stone which pursues him as far as his own house.

{p. 253}

In Barker, 66, the king gives to the greedy man a box so enchanted that it can never be put down.

In Sac and Fox Indian tales, JAFL 15:177, the monster-killing twins bring home a rock which sticks upon their backs until they carry it to its place again.

In the Ojibway Nanabushu cycle, Jones, Pub. Eth. Soc. 1:117-127, Nanabushu is cooking a deer. The branches of the tree creak and he gets up to grease them and is caught and hung there. Meanwhile, the wolves come and eat up the deer. He finally escapes, discovers that the brains of the deer are still left in the deer-skull, transforms himself into a snake and crawls into the head. Turning too quickly back into human shape, he gets caught with the skull fast to his head and has to carry it about with him until he manages to break it against a rock.

(3) The regular Jamaica conclusion of the Dry-head episode seems to be the Aesopic one in which a bird carries him in air and drops him, not against a rock but, in Jekyll, "in the deepest part of the woods;" in version (c), "in a sea-ball." In another version not printed here, Anansi takes in an old man because he has some food with him; but when the food gives out, the man "become a Dry-head on him," and Anansi puts him off on Tacoomah, who leaves him by the sea so that a wave comes up and drowns him. In version (a) Anansi burns him up. Version (b) is a witticism in the same class as "Dry-head and the Barber" in this collection.

In Pamela Smith's version, Anansi shoots the bird who is doing him the favor of carrying off Dry-head. See note to number 70 and compare P. Smith, 59-64, in which Tiger, pursued by the "Nyams," begs one animal after another to hide him, but always lets his presence be known. Finally, when Goat kills the "Nyams," he eats Goat with the "Nyams."

In Dorsey, The Pawnee, 126, and Traditions of the Arikara, 146-148, Coyote, pursued by a Rolling Stone, takes refuge with the Bull-bats and is defended by them. In the Pawnee version, he later insults his rescuers.

Next: Note 31. The Yam-hills.