[From Hausa Superstitions and Customs: An Introduction to the Folk-Lore and the Folk by Arthur J. N. Tremearne, 1913. See item #191 in the Bibliography.]

This is about a Hyena and a Spider.

The Spider said, “O Hyena, buy honey, and let us go and do homage to the King,” and the Hyena replied, “Agreed.”

So they bought honey, and they were traveling on and on when the Hyena said to the Spider, “I am going into the bush for a minute.” Then the Spider said, “Very well, but put down your pot of honey and leave it here until you come back.” But the Hyena replied, “Oh no, surely it is my own!” So she went into the bush and drank the honey, and when she had done so, she placed some dirt in the pot instead, and then she returned to the Spider.

When they had arrived at the city, they went and saluted the King, and they were made welcome and were given a lodging in the palace. Then they took their pots — the Spider took his pot, and the Hyena hers — and they said, “Here is the offering which we make to the King.” So the Hyena’s pot was taken and placed in the house, and the Spider’s was placed in the entrance-hall, and when the Hyena’s pot was opened, dirt was found in it, but when the Spider’s pot was examined the people found honey. So they went and told the King, and said, “Lo! In the Hyena’s pot is only dirt,” and the King answered, “Oh, very well, they have come to get something good from me; I know what kind of a good thing the Hyena will get.”

In the evening, sleeping-mats were brought, and the people said, “These are for the Hyena to sleep upon.” Then skins also were brought, and they said “These are for the Spider.”

Now the Hyena would not agree to this, but the Spider said, “Look here, Hyena, they said that I was to sleep on the skins, and you on the mats. You say you will not agree; you want to eat the skins, that’s why.” But the Hyena replied, “No, no, a real friend would not act thus,” and so the Spider said, “Very well, but look here, if you eat the skins, you will make me ashamed of you.” So he gave her the skins, and she gave him the mats, and he went and lay down.

During the first sleep she arose and started eating the skins, and the Spider called out, “Oh, so you have begun eating them?” But she replied, “No, no, it is a mouse.” Before dawn had come, she had eaten the skins all up; there was nothing left of them. And then the Spider said, “Alright, O Hyena, how are you going to excuse yourself? How are you going to get out of the scrape?” But the Hyena replied, “Oh! Cannot we say that a thief has been here and has stolen the skins?” “Well, Hyena, even if you do say it, the King will not believe you; he will know it is you,” said the Spider. “I found a way in; I will find a way out somehow,” was Hyena’s reply. So the people told the King, and said that a thief had stolen the skins. But he replied, “Oh no, I know quite well that the Hyena has eaten them.”

Then the King said, “I will say good-bye to them today.” And he brought a bull and said to the Spider, “On account of the present which you brought to me, I give you this bull.” But an old goat was brought and given to the Hyena. Then the Spider said that he thanked the King, and the Hyena said that she also thanked him.

So off they started, and they were traveling on and on; the Hyena was dragging the old goat along, when she said, “Let me eat a leg! You can become lame; you are lame now.” So she pulled off a leg and ate it, and kept saying to the goat, “Travel with three-three, travel with three-three.” Then she pulled off another leg and ate it, and kept saying to the goat, “Travel with two-two, travel with two-two.” Then she pulled off a third leg and ate it, and kept saying, “Travel with one-one, travel with one-one.” Then she pulled off the remaining leg and ate it, and kept saying, “Travel with none-none, travel with none-none.” Then she took the rest of the body and ate it, but she left a small piece of the liver which she gave to the Spider, and he ate it.

Now they were traveling on and on when the Hyena said, “Give me my piece of liver.” Then the Spider pointed out to her the sun, which had nearly set and was very red, and said to her, “See, there is fire over there; go and get some and return, and we will eat the bull.” So the Hyena went off at a run, and ran on and on, but the sun was always afar off. And when she had gone, the Spider killed the bull, and took off the hide, and climbed up a tree with the lot, not even the skin or a bone did he leave, and he covered up the blood on the ground.

When she had become tired, the Hyena returned, and kept calling, “Where is the Spider? Where is the Spider?” At last she sat down on her haunches by a tree, and lo: it was the very tree in which was the Spider.

After a little he threw a bone onto her head, and she said, “Well, I never, will God give me food at the foot of a tree?” But when she had eaten the bone, she looked up and saw the Spider, and said, “Oh, so it is you? I thought that it was God,” and she continued, “Spider, for God’s sake give me one of the legs.” But the Spider said that he would not do so, and she replied, “Very well, you are very brave because you are up in the tree, aren’t you? I will get one who is taller than you to come and seize you in the tree.”

Then she went and found the Ostrich, but when the Ostrich came, the Spider made a noose of tie-tie, and he caught her, and as he dragged her, she let fall an egg. Then the Hyena pounced upon the egg, and ate it, and called out, “O Spider, drag her so that the eggs will fall out.” But the Ostrich said, “Oh, Hyena, is that how you would treat me? Release me, O Spider.” And the Spider did so. Then the Hyena said, “Now let us have a race,” and she went off at a run, and the Ostrich followed, but she just escaped.

As for the Spider, he descended from the tree and went home.


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

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.

Share This Book