[From Cunnie Rabbit, Mr. Spider, and the Other Beef: West African Folk Tales by Florence Cronise and Henry W. Ward, 1903. See item #63 in the Bibliography. The illustration is by Gerald Sichel, correctly showing “cunnie rabbit” as a tiny antelope. You might prepare for this story by reading a version in literary English by Virginia Hamilton: “Cunnie Rabbit and Spider Make a Match” (see #100 in the Bibliography). After reading the story in literary English, it will be easier to read the pidgin version here.]


Long tem, Cunnie Rabbit en all dem beef bin gadder. Den meet up to one place fo’ talk palaver, because de country dry too much. Dey no get one grain wattah sotay all man wan’ fo’ die. Dey all get word fo’ talk, f’om de big beef to de small, but nobody no able fo’ fine sense fo’ pull dem f’om dis yeah big trouble.

Cunnie Rabbit he no bin say notting, he jus’ listen wey dem beef talk; he t’ink say, “Wey ting I go do fo’ get wattah?”

Bimeby he grap, he go home, he begin fo’ dig well. He dig, he dig, he dig. De wattah come plenty. He drink sotay he done satisfy.

Now dem beef hearee dat Cunnie Rabbit get well. Spider he grap fo’ go walker to Cunnie Rabbit. He say, “Fren’, we no get one grain wattah fo’ drink, we go die. Make yo’ gie we.”

Cunnie Rabbit tell um, he say, “De pusson wey wan’ make me gie um wattah, make he come fet me.”

Spider say, “All ret.”

Now Spider en Cunnie Rabbit dey fet. Cunnie Rabbit hase Spider up to dah sky. He come down, he lay down flat. He grap, he hase Cunnie Rabbit up. Cunnie Rabbit go to de sky; he blow one horn wey he hole nah he han’. W’en he blow um, dark come, w’en he blow um agin, do’ clean. He fa’ down, he grip de wuld, VIP! He han’ long, dey go inside de groun’. Cunnie Rabbit get up back, he hase Spider up. One rainy season, one dry season he stay ‘pon top de sky. W’en he come down, w’en he too fa’ down ‘pon de groun’, he say, “Ee! Ee! Ee! Fren’, I no able agin.” Den he shake Cunnie Rabbit he han’; he say, “Oonah ‘trong man.”

Dem beef all come, dey try, dey no able. Elephan’ come, he say, “Wey de man wey say he de mos’ ‘trong? Make he come one tem, make we fet, so I go take wattah. I too t’irst.”

Cunnie Rabbit come, he boas’, he say, “Nar me dis.”

Elephan’ take he long mout’, he wrap Cunnie Rabbit, he wrap um ‘trong. He fling um, turn, turn um, he hebe um up, so he jam to de sky. De sweat wey he bin sweat, dat nar de hair ‘pon heen skin. Cunnie Rabbit come, he ‘tan’ up, he hase de Elephan’ up.

Elephan’ heen long mout’ come nah groun’, he wrap den ‘tick fo’ hole hese’f, he broke um w’en he go up. He say, “Cunnie Rabbit wey leelee so, nar he do me so?”

He hole Cunnie Rabbit wid heen long mout’ agin, he drag um, he make big noise ‘pon de groun’ w’en he drag um. He pin Cunnie Rabbit down; den fet, den fet, den fet. De place wey den fet he big pass dis town, he double um four tem fo’ big. Dey fet tay fiah ketch dah place. Dah one wey box he cumpin, fiah ketch; dah odder one wey box he cumpin, fiah ketch. De place he bu’n clean, so-so san’-san’ lef’ no mo’.

Well, dem beef dey all duh try, dey no know how fo’ do. Dey all go make bargain. All dem beef dey pull plenty clo’es, so plenty dey done full dis town heah, dey full Freetown. En dis yeah clo’es dey gie um all to Cunnie Rabbit. Dey say, “Do; ef yo’ no gie we wattah we go die.”

Cunnie Rabbit say, “All ret. Make all man take one one cup wattah drink.’

But de bargain dis. Ef de pusson no done all, he fo’ take one piece clot’ en gie um to Cunnie Rabbit, en say, “Dis nar fo’ de wattah weh I wais.” De cup he cover dis whole town, he cover ‘Merica, he cover Englan’, he cover Freetown fo’ big oh!”

Now Elephan’ say, “Make me fus’ drink.”

He take de cup, he full um nah well. He put heen long mout inside so, he draw de wattah; he draw um, he draw um, he draw um sotay he done um. Lepped say, “Make me come try.” Dey full de cup, Lepped he drink, he drink, he drink sotay he done de wattah. De beef all drink, dey all done um. Den leelee beef dey done de wattah inside de big cup. Dey all no able fo’ go agin. Fo’ walker go home dem no able, but den able fo’ grap cook. Dey cook big, big, big ress. De pot fo’ cook de ress — Lie man say de pot big lek dis whole town heah, Grimah all, Moshengo all. Well, me wey no duh lie, I no lie anyt’ing, I jus’ put leelee salt fo’ make he sweet, I say he big lek all Temne country, all white man country, double all two, I put half ‘pon um agin en mo’ town, so de pot big.

Dey yeat dah ress, goat all, cow all, fowl, sheep, all dem elephan’, dey yeat dah ress.

One big, big wattah spread ‘pon dem all, dey all no know which side he come out. De ashes f’om de fiah he spread ‘pon dem beef all. Well, dey all swim, dey all go to dem yown home. One tem beef all bin white, but since w’en de ashes bin deh ‘pon dem long tem, some kin red, some kin brown, some black, some spot-spot.


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A Reader's Guide to African Folktales at the Internet Archive Copyright © 2022 by Laura Gibbs is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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