Sacred Texts  Africa  Index  Previous  Next 
 [23. Cunnie-More-Than-Father.]


23. Cunnie-more-than-Father.

Parkes gave me the only version of this admirable story that I found in Jamaica and I did not find it in this form in other American collections. The essential idea is that of repeated attempts by a parent to turn over to an enemy an adroit child, who each time outwits his would-be captor. The plot is common in Africa. In Rattray, Chinyanje, 133-136; Torrend, 183-185; Junod, 158-163, a woman steals from a monster, who demands her unborn child in compensation. After his birth, the monster comes for his prey. The parent attempts to beguile the child into his hands by sending him to fetch something from the place where the monster lies concealed. Each time the child escapes, Finally the child climbs a tree and throws down fruit (Torrend and Junod) or wood (Rattray) into the open mouth of his enemy, thus choking and killing him.

For a similar sequence of attempts to entrap a weaker enemy, compare the Coyote and Rabbit cycle from Mexico, Boas, JAFL 25: 205, 236, 246, and 260 referring to Preuss; and two versions of the same story by Mechling, JAFL 25:201-202.

Pairkes's version includes five episodes, three of which belong to the regular cycle; the first and the last are indeterminate.

{p. 247}

(1) The child proves too clever for the parent. Barker, 24, says, "Anansi is the Spider, and with him is generally associated his son, Kweku Tsin." Stories about the two bring out the superior wit of the son and the jealousy of the father, Compare numbers 19, 21 c, 24 in this collection.

In the African stories cited above, the motive for seeking to entrap the child is one of compensation for stolen food. In the Mexican cycle, the dull-witted strong animal has been made to suffer punishment for a stolen food-supply, in place of the real thief. In Jamaica, the child's exposure of a hidden food-supply is used as the motive.

The story of the yam's hidden name is universally known and enjoyed in Jamaica. It belongs to the group of hidden-name stories discussed under number 69. See Milne-Home, 56-57, De Affassia, and compare Musgrave, 53-54.

(2), (3). The child first sticks a fire-stick into the pepper-bush behind which his enemy lies in wait, then throws bags of ants into his face as he waits under a cocoanut tree.

In the African and Mexican parallels, the trickster throws down fruit,--prickly-pears in Mexico. In every case, two fruits are thrown harmlessly, then the fatal fruit. Compare Parsons, Andros Island, 40. In Georgia, Backus, JAFL 13:22-23, pepper is the missile. In Nassau, 25-30, bags of ants and pepper are thrown to detect the pretended dead. This may be related to the bee trick in the Mexican cycle. In the Jamaica episode of the "refugees in the roof," numbers 5 c and 27, after the wife and children have dropped and been devoured, Anansi puffs dust into the pursuer's eyes and escapes. Dust is thrown in Parsons, Sea Islands, 54, and in other instances in the same collection.

(4) For the episode of detecting a bidden enemy by calling upon the place where he is hidden to speak, compare Steere, 377; Rattray, 134; Renel 2:92,93; Fortier, 110; Harris, Friends, 143-146; and Boas' Mexican cycle, JAFL 25:208 and reference, note page 248.

(5) For the trick of changing places in the coffin and the pretended pastures under sea, compare 107, 108.

Next: Note 24. The Duckano Tree.