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Showing posts with label African Mythology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label African Mythology. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

SHORT STORY: Anansi, the Slave-Driver

Anansi, the Slave-Driver/ Based on African mythology
By: Aadel M Al-Mahdy

Thu’banu, the celestial python, who is known for his wisdom and diligence in the discharge of his duties; the most important of which is holding the two halves of the celestial calabash together, has been given the title of God’s Chief Official.

On the other hand, Anansi, the celestial spider who is known for being intelligent, deceptive and a trickster has not been given any title although he was the one who had spun the web over the spatial gap for God to reach the Great Below. So being aware of his self-importance and worthiness, Anansi became very upset, and as he always did in perilous times, he left for the Milky Way’s holy river, where he sat on the divine contemplation rock by the sacred beach and after a long time of thinking, he realized that he had to come up with something that would impress God, and at the same time, dwarfs Thu’banu in God’s eye.

Next time when Anansi was in God’s presence, he started spinning his plan, “Almighty God, if you give me a corncob, I’ll give you in return as many slaves as is the number of corns on the cob you have given me” Anansi said. “How do you think you will be able to do that, AnansiThu’banu asked Anansi while mockingly laughing at the idea. “None of your concern wise one. The matter is between me and my maker” Anansi said. “Ok Anansi, I am sorry. Knock your self out. Just when you are done, don’t forget to report your success to me. Your glory must be mentioned in the Treasury of Wisdom’s records” Thu’banu said. “I bet you I will” Anansi challenged. Thu’banu said mocking him again, “Bet me, you have nothing to bet, Anansi”, but Anansi insisted, “I do have everything, Thu’banu. I have my honor and my word. Tell me, what do you have, long one, other than your title and your twice-talking split tongue?” - “I have more than that” said Thu’banu who failed to conceal his anger, but Anansi cunningly said, “Ok, let us keep it simple. I am betting my honor, my word and my success against your title”, and then calmly, but in a challenging tone of voice added, “What do you say, long one?” Thu’banu, totally unaware of falling into Anansi’s lair, said, “You got yourself a deal, Anansi”. 

Hearing their argument, God laughed and then said after giving Anansi a corncob, “Count the grains before you go, Anansi. I already know how many they are”.

Anansi set off immediately from heavens to earth where he stopped at the first village he encountered and requested a night’s lodging. The village chief immediately recognized him, as Anansi’s image, along with images of other celestial divinities depicted all over the walls of the village’s temple.

“It is a great honor to have God’s spider as a guest” the village chief said and offered Anansithe best room in his house and bid him good night. “Wait! This corncob belongs to God and must not be lost” Anansi commanded the chief, holding the corncob in his hand. The chief proudly said, pointing to a hiding place in the ceiling of the room, “I always had a hiding place for divinities. There it is, Anansi, Sir”. Given the corncob, the chief hid it in the ceiling.

In the middle of the night, while everybody was fast asleep, Anansi awoke and gave the entire cob’s corn to the fowls. The next day, in the morning, Anansi demanded his cob, but of course it was gone. “I am holding you responsible for the loss of the divine cob. Now, you have got to do something to appease God and atone for your sin” said Anansi angrily. The chief apologized, “I am sorry, Anansi, Sir. This never happened before. It must be the baboons. They have been causing us troubles lately” - “Say that to God next time you go to the temple. But right now I can not return to heavens empty-handed” said Anansi firmly. The chief said, “We will definitely not let you do that, Sir”. The chief gave Anansi a whole basket of corn to pacify the situation.

Anansi continued his journey, and after a while, he became tired, so he sat down by the roadside. Along came a man with a chicken in his hand. Anansi asked the man how he was. The man answered that he was fine but then asked if he knew him. “You must know me. I am Anansi” answered Anansi. The man wondered, “Anansi!”, and then after a pause shouted, “Aaah, Anansi, God’s spider. How are you, Sir?” Anansi then asked him, “What do you intend to do with this chicken?” The man answered, “Kill it and eat it with my family, Sir” Anansi thought for a while and then said, “By the looks of it, I believe it is good for one meal only”. The man answered affirmatively. Back and forth the conversation went on until Anansi persuaded the man to give him the chicken in exchange of the corn basket. The man accepted saying, “Thank you, Sir! This corn is enough to feed us until the end of the month. My wife will be happy”, and then wished Anansi a safe journey after advising him to look out for the hyenas ahead of him.

When Anansi reached the next village, he introduced himself as God’s spider and that he was on a sacred mission and asked for a night’s lodging. The chief immediately accommodated him. Anansi, then asked him for a safe place to keep the fowl since it belonged to God and must not be lost or harmed. The chief put the fowl in the fowl-house.

In the middle of the night when everybody was fast asleep, Anansi awoke, killed the fowl and daubed its blood and feather on the chief’s door, and at dawn made a big cry, “The bird is gone. It is gone, and I am going to lose my position as God’s captain”. Everybody started looking and suddenly Anansi said, pointing to the blood and feather on the chief’s door, “Look at that!” and then added with a hint of threatening, “That feather looks familiar”. The chief, who knew that he drank a little too much yesterday, begged Anansi for forgiveness and gave him ten sheep to calm his anger.

While Anansi was resting on the way grazing the sheep, there came along some people carrying a corps. Anansi asked them whose corps that was. The people replied that it belonged to a young man who died far away from his village and that they were taking the body back to the boy’s family. “You’re a very lucky bunch. I am going into that direction, too, and I know the village. I am God’s spider, by the way” Anansi said. The people shouted in one voice, “Are you Anansi?” ─ “Yes, yes” Anansi answered affirmatively and offered to take the dead body, if they would free him from the sheep. The people were glad to take the sheep and spare themselves the peril of walking all the way to the village carrying the dead body on their shoulders. After all, they said to themselves that they have given the body to God’s spider.

In the next village, Anansi said to its chief, “This is the favorite son of God. He is asleep and needs a place to rest in”. The chief prepared the best room in the house for the son of God, and after they ate, drank and sang, they all went to bed. In the morning, Anansi saw some of the chief’s children, so he asked them, “Children, could you do me a favor?” - “Anything for God’s spider” the children said. Anansi said, “Thanks! Can you awake God’s son. And remember he is a heavy sleeper. You can flog him if you have to. Just wake him up”. The children did but the son of God did not awake. So the children told Anansi who immediately went to the room and uncovered the body, but then cried that the children have killed God’s son.  There was a great wailing among the people as they were terrified of God’s wrath and revenge.

At night, Anansi called for a conference and told the chief and the temple chief priest that he would have to report the matter to God and that he had already designed a plan to appease God, but they would have to give him one hundred twenty young man to witness that they, the people of the village, not him, Anansi, were responsible for the death of God’s son. The chief, the priest and the people were pleased and gladly agreed to Anansi’s suggestion.

In God’s presence, Anansi announced proudly in front of Thu’banu, “Here they are, Almighty One. The slaves I promised you in lieu of the number of the corns on the cob you have given me”. Disbelieving his eyes, Thu’banu started counting the young men, but God said while His laughter traveled so fast in every dimension of the cosmos, “Stop counting, Thu’banu! I already know how many they are” ─ “One hundred twenty slaves” announced Anansi triumphantly and then rubbing it in Thu’banu’s nose, he advised Thu’banu not to forget to enter the number in the books of wisdom.

God then announced Anansi to be his Official Officer. But ashamed, wise Thu’banu ceased flecking his tongue and dropped his head; lips sealed. He never dared challenge Anansi again.

The End

Monday, September 7, 2015

SHORT STORY: Anansi, the African Spider

Anansi, the African Spider/ based on African mythology
By: Aadel M Al-Mahdy

Majestically doming above them, the pitch-black, starry sky looked dignified. The sporadic African trees, though so low for having been stunned by the heat of the days’ blazing sun, looked like ghosts on guard to protect the jungle’s night from the worst animal of all; man, who kills for pleasure. A couple of jackals stood at a distance; their eyes’ shining not eclipsed by the glow of the camp fire. But they soon whinnied and departed. The people around the fire; Kumbo and his British friend were all ears listening to the story being narrated by wise Kawanga, the elder of the bushman tribe.

Thu’banu ─ Narrated wise Kawanga ─ was known among the celestial realm for his strength and wisdom which made God choose him to hold together the two halves of the cosmic calabash and also entrusted him with the key to the Treasury of Divine Wisdom where the Tablets of Destinies were kept. But one day, while muscular Thu’banu’s cylindrical body coiled tightly around the cosmic calabash lest its two halves fall apart and thus converged eternity of earth and heaven would be breached, Thu’banu said to Anansi,  whose legs were bending and unbending causing his furry chest to brush the floor, hence stirring celestial floor dust that floated and glittered in the endless space, “So, Anansi, you want me to reveal to you the secret knowledge of the universe” Anansi begged him, “Yes, Please. I’ll be in your debt for ever”. Thu’banu thought for a while and then said in a very stern voice, “But, I can’t, Anansi”. Anansi asked with a hint of impatience, “Why?”.  Thu’banu said, “Lest you lay it bare to the impure eye of the reckless” Anansi quickly promised, “I won’t divulge the secret to anybody. Trust me!” Thu’banu said, “I can’t risk evoking God’s fury”. Anansi said in a way that mad Thu’banu shouts emphasizing every syllable of his say by moving his tale faster in divine circles, “How would He know?” ─ “What! He is God, the One and the Supreme. Of course He will know. Nothing can be hidden from Him”. Known for his intelligence and trickery and for getting what he wanted, Anansi then said, pretending not to be interested in the subject anymore, “Oh, yes, that is right, sorry!”, and then to distract Thu’banu, he added, “What a beautiful body you have! Just keep it wrapped around the calabash and everything will be fine. Woof, I guess I have to go home to get some sleep”

Thu’banu smiled and Anansi turned around to leave, but hesitated for a while. Thu’banu then asked him what the matter. Anansi turned back to face him and innocently and in a very casual tone of voice asked him, “Oh, haven’t I told you anything about the new girl, Hisser?”.
Thu’banu said, “No. You haven’t. Who is she?”. Anansi quickly said, “She is the new dancer in the celestial tavern. Oh, my friend, what a reptilian she is! Her looks, oh...ah…eh…ooh”, and then after a short period of hesitation, he added, “For Heavens sake, why am I telling you this? I should go”

Having spun the first string of his deceptive web, Anansi then pretended to leave. Thu’banu stopped him, desiring for more information. Anansi casually smiled and said, “Well, what to say but, oh, her eyes are gorgeous; her body is so tight and flawlessly round and her skin, oh, words will fall short of describing a glimpse of it.”. Anansi then had a teasing pause, but Thu’banu, who has already stepped beyond the borders of interest and became anchored in the land of curiosity, flecked his tongue nervously. Anansi knew that soon he would be able to drag Thu’banu into his lair, if he waited for the right moment. So enthusiastically he deceptively continued accentuating his words, “And when she dances, she wiggles and gyrates, twists and curls and undulates, heaves and falls and, oh, her feminine essence hits the clients and seeps through to mix with their drinks; to sweetly caress their taste buds, ah, you should see her when she dancingly intertwines with the clients on the floor, swaying them and letting them enjoy a journey of divine pleasure”

Thu’banu shouted, overcome by a ripple of slight muscular convulsion all over his cylindrical body, “Stop, Stop, Stop, my friend! You’re killing me” Anansi asked, pretending not to understand, “Am I? How?” Thu’banu agonized, “Don’t you know I can’t go to the tavern, I can’t leave my post” Anansi flatly, though pretending to be sorry, said after a short pause, “Ah, the universe, the calabash will collapse if you uncoil your body…but, but, I believe there is a way, after all. It has just hit me”.  Thu’banu, though he failed to conceal his eagerness, commanded, “What? Tell me!”

Stepping a couple of paces back, Anansi said, “No! Things may turn out ugly and I’ll be the one to blame and hang” Thu’banu said; his voice shaking, “I will never blame you, my friend” Anansi then said, “The solution is deceitfully simple. I wonder why you never thought of it” ─ “What is it? Stop torturing me!”, said Thu’banu impatiently hissing loudly, baring his teeth and flecking his tongue. Anansithen said in a calm tone of voice, “Well, I know, you can shed your skin on demand for as many times as you want. Can’t you?” - “Yes I can. So what!” said Thu’banu; his head hanging close to Anansi’s face. “You still can’t see it, can you?” said Anansi; his voice showing sympathy. impatiently Thu’banu said, “See what?”. Anansi solemnly said while scratching his spinnerets, “Ah, I understand why you can’t see it. My friend, your sense of responsibility is so strong and your diligence in carrying those responsibilities out is so unprecedented, thus and therefore your wise mental eyes can not see the solution though it is so obvious”. “I am totally lost. Please, what are you trying to say, Anansi?” said Thu’banu. “What am I trying to say?” Anansi whispered, “What I am trying to say is, if you shed as many as you can of this strong skin of yours and wrap it around the calabash, it will hold it together while you are away enjoying the company of HisserAnanis added. “Oh my God, why didn’t I think of this before?” hissed Thu’banu in astonishment, but Anansi quickly assured him, “My friend, the discharge of our duties can, sometimes, take us away from what we love, especially when such a discharge is so overwhelming”  Thu’banu confirmed, “You are absolutely right, my friend

In the celestial tavern Thu’banu and Anansi were sitting to the table closest to the dance floor. Thu’banu has already had a few glasses of wine, the best nectar around, and his tongue became slightly twisted. Amongst echoing cheers, Hisser, coming to the dance floor, caught sight of Thu’banu whose widely opened eyes were gazing at her. Hisser  took a few short steps towards him and then stopped... smiled and seductively retreated, and then her body started to move gently like plasma waves did in the cosmic ocean. She then rushed towards him and they both went back and forth feverishly on the floor while intertwined and then collapsed and rolled on the floor, then rose up to spin themselves on the tips of their tails. Everybody cheered feverishly, Anansi’s face illuminated with a broad smile expressive of the near fruition of his scheme, and thenwhispered to himself, “Either he tells me the secret knowledge, or I’ll steal the key of the Treasury of Wisdom and read the Tablets of Destiny

Before the celestial rooster cried announcing the advent of the celestial dawn, sleepy Thu’banu, dragging his massive coils on his way back, asked anansi if they could rest for a while on a nearby nebula. Anansi agreed. Thu’banu threw his massive coils all over the constellation unaware that he dropped the divine key of the Treasury of Wisdom. Anansi quickly hid the key under one of his spinnerets and crawled away; his destination the Treasury of Wisdom.

Thumbing through the Tablets of Destiny, Anansi heard a little screeching sound. He wondered what it was. A little while later, he heard the same sound again; weak at the beginning, but then it became louder. Anansi became curious and decided to find out for himself what was happening. So he went to put the tablet back on the shelf and just before he closed the record, his eyes caught sight of a few lines at the bottom of the page, “The tearing of Thu’banu’s shedding sounded like thunder. God and the whole celestial realm awoke and although the universe did not collapse, it was breached”

God was angry and decided to punish Thu’banu and Anansi. He threw Thu’banu along with a few suns and a handful of stars and planets into the gash caused by the breach. Thu’banu’s white fat melted and filled up the wound, hence it glued its two edges together. It took aeons for the wound to heal.

“So what you see right now up there in the sky is Thu’banu’s melted body. Thus, Thu’banu is still holding the universal calabash together, but from his death abode” said Kawanga, pointing to the sky, “As for Anansi, whose size was enormous and voice a thunder, God shrank him and kicked him out of heavens. Though shrunken, Anansi can still talk, but nobody can hear him. He is therefore abashed and hides himself from people and can only be seen in huts’ corners, trees’ branches and deserted places feeding on house flies, mosquitoes and other small insects”

Kawanga concluded his narration by looking at the sky for a while and then left as it was already beyond his sleeping time. The uncountable stars dotting the Milky Way that stretched across the canopy made it look like a healed wound in the fabric of the universe. 

A small smile crept on the lips of Kumbo’s friend and then slowly turned into a big one. Kungo then asked him, ““Why are you smiling? Did you like the myth?” Solemnly, his friend said, pointing to the Milky Way, “I am smiling because it really looks like one of those big scars sustained after a major surgery. Isn’t that right?”. Kumbo laughed and then laughed louder because he saw an Anansi shyly crawling by.

The End

SHORT STORY: African Genesis/ based on African mythology

African Genesis/ based on African mythology
By: Aadel M Al-Mahdy

“It’s going to be a good night” Kumbo, who is an African postgraduate of Zembaba University, said while lying in front of the tent pitched by his British friend and he in proximity of his bushman village. Sipping on his drink, his friend answered, “I hope so. It has been unbearably hot during the day”

Fascinated by the stories he heard in his childhood from his grandparents, Kumbo loved every African myth he laid his hands on, and because of the young awareness of African mythology by other contemporary cultures, he decided to collect the oral legacy retained in the hearts and minds of his own people for generations, while it is still untainted and still in its original form; a great task requiring the assistance of a friend.

“Do you remember the mountain caves by the ocean?” Kumbo asked. “The ones we visited two days ago!”, his friend wondered. Kumbo answered affirmatively. His friend then asked him, “What about them...Aren't they fascinating and defying modern schools of art?”

 "Oh, definitely they are" Kumbo answered and then added, “Blackness of tonight’s sky; the stars’ brilliance and the way in which the Milky Way stretched across the canopy reminds me with a night I spent in one of the caves with wise Kawanga”. His friend asked, wondering, “Kawanga! Who is wise Kawanga?” Kumbo answered, “The eldest of my tribe whom we will interview tomorrow”. His friend asked; his voice shrouded with seriousness, “What happened?”. Kumbo said, “One day, my grandfather, wise Kawanga, and I were out hunting for game but the darkness of the night sneaked upon us. So we sought shelter in one of the caves. Inside, the light of the torch held by Kawanga unveiled wall paintings. I asked my grandfather to look at them. My grandfather asked me if I meant the the paintings of people and animals. I answered affirmatively and said that I could not recognize some of the animals and asked what were these paintings. Kawanga said they were very old paintings. Realizing how beautiful they were, I asked him again who painted them. He did not have any idea.

When I lay in bed I saw an opening in the cave ceiling, and through its limited size, I saw many brilliant stars. My mind roamed and my soul flew through the ceiling hole in attempt to ascend to heavens the genesis of which wise Kawanga told me that night. “What did he tell you” Kumbo’s friend asked when Kumbo paused for a while. “But I can’t tell you now” Kumbo said, laughing, “You will have to wait until you hear it first hand tomorrow from wise Kawanga”. Kumbo’s friend said with an edgy tone of voice, “I can’t wait, my friend!" and then after a short pause, he emphatically added,  "You have already rattled the boat of my curiosity” . Kumbo laughed and then said, “Keep your boat steady and sail ahead in the ocean of time until we hit the island of tomorrow!” 

Next day, a while before sunset, Kumbo and his friend sat on the ground in the open in front of wise Kawanga who was in his early eighties, physically feeble, but still sharp-minded.
At the beginning ─ narrated toothless wise Kawanga ─ the universe was a great void; nothingness, darkness and absolute silence, But the self-existent creator who came out of the womb of nothingness looked at  the Great Above and saw that it should be illuminated. So he created pebbles of clay, fashioned them as stars, suns and moons and then flung them into the void where they scattered and floated on the void's substance. And by His will the celestial bodies stayed in suspense giving light and guidance. After that, the creator desired to visit the Great Below. The half-calabash of the Great Above and the half-calabash of the Great Below were divided by a wide spatial gap. So God created Anansi, the celestial spider to spin a web over the spatial gap. By means of such a web, God reached the Great Below.

In the Great Below, everything was marshy and watery. So God decided to create solid ground. He took some of the loose earth stored in his giant snail’s shell and poured it on the marshy area and then created the divine pigeon and the five-toe hen and let them scratch and spread the earth.

On his second visit, God hoarded part of the water by creating embankments and dykes to control it. Thus He created the rivers. The rest of the water became the big seas and lakes. He then looked and everything seemed good in His eyes. So he created many other things like trees, plants and animals. He looked again and everything seemed good in His eyes, but he noticed that the Earth became heavier, due to the increased mass added by His creation, and started to sink. So he created Thu’banu, the mighty python. Wise and mighty  Thu’banu carried the Earth in one of his curls and then wrapped himself around the two halves of the calabash; the earth below and the heavens above, and held them together. As a reward for his wisdom, God entrusted Thu-banu with the key to the treasury of wisdom where the tablets of the divine knowledge were kept. 

 God looked again and everything was good in His eyes. God then created Abi'du to worship him and appreciate his creation. He supplied them with wheat and barley, onion and garlic, Maize, flax and many kinds of fruits, and asked them to intimately know each other; male and female, multiply and spread around, gather and hunt and fill the earth with their offspring.

When wise Kawanga finished his narration, he smiled and then rose up and left; his body’s internal clock, the external solar clock and the good smell of African spicy food being cooked told him that dinner was about to be served.After Kawanga’s departure, Kumbo pointed to a little stripped and beautifully colored lizard running by and said to his friend, “Do you see that lizard running over there?”. his friend nodded, “It is beautiful” .Kumbo said, his mouth wearing a smile, “I heard this type of lizards have a divine task”.  His friend wondered, saying, “Is that right?” Kumbo said, “I remember when I was young my mother always yelled at me whenever I killed one” Kumbo’s friend inquired, “And what divine task is that?” Kumbo answered, “My mother told me that this particular family of lizards carried the key to heavens in their colorful stripes and if I killed any of them, I won’t be able to enter heavens”. Kumbo’s friend then answered with a bit of sarcasm, “But I heard such a key was given only to those who were faithful” Kumbo wondered,  “Really!” Kumbo’s friend emphasized, “That is what my mother told me” Kumbo then asked with a mischevious smile on his lips, “And you believed her. Did not you?”. After a short pause, Kumbo’s friend answered while scratching his chin, “Why not, my friend. If the cosmos is a split gigantic calabash held together by a snake, then definitely a tiny lizard can carry the key to heavens”. Kumbo, then, burst out laughing all heartedly. 

The End