Jamaican Stories

Week 8: African Traditions - Assignments - Reading - Resources - Images

The Fish-basket (George Parkes, Mandeville)

Reading time: 5 minutes. Word Count: 600 words

In this story you will learn more about the relationship between Anansi and Tiger, and you will also see how songs and rhymes can be incorporated into storytelling. When Martha Beckwith was collecting stories in Jamaica, she also collected many songs to go with them.

One great hungry time. Anansi couldn't get anyt'ing to eat, so he take up his hand-basket an' a big pot an' went down to the sea-side to catch fish. When he reach there, he make up a large fire and put the pot on the fire, an' say, "Come, big fish!" He catch some big fish put them aside. He said, "Big fish go, make little fish come!" He then catch the little fish. He say, "Little fish go, make big fish come!" an' say, "Big fish go, make little fish come!" He then catch the pot full an' his hand-basket. He bile the pot full and sit down and eat it off; he then started home back with the pot on his head and the basket. Reaching a little way, he hide the pot away in the bush an take the basket along with him now.

While going along, he meet up Tiger. Now Tiger is a very rough man an' Anansi 'fraid of him. Tiger said to him, "What you have in that basket, sah?"--speak to him very rough. Anansi speak in a very feeble voice, say, "Nothing, sah! nothing, sah!" So both of them pass each other, an' when they went on a little way, Tiger hide in the bush watching Anansi. Anansi then sit down underneath a tree, open his basket, take out the fishes one one, and say, "Pretty little yallah-tail this!" an' put it aside; he take out a snapper an' say, "Pretty little snapper this!" an' put it one side; he take out a jack-fish an' say, "Pretty little jack-fish!" an' put it one side. Tiger then run up an' say, "Think you havn't not'ing in that basket, sah!" Anansi say, "I jus' going down to the sea have a bathe, sah, an' I catch them few 'itte fishes." Tiger say, "Give it to me here, sah!"--talk in a very rough manner. An' Tiger take it an' eat them all an' spit up the bones. Anansi then take up the bones an' eat them, an' while eating he grumble an' say, "But look me bwoy labor do!" Tiger say, "What you say?" Anansi say, "Fly humbug me face, sah!" (brushing his face).

So booth of them start to go home now with the empty basket, but this time Anansi was studying for Tiger. When he reach part of the way, Anansi see a fruit-tree. Anansi say, "What a pretty fruit-tree!" (looking up in the tree). Tiger say, "Climb it, sah!" (in a rough manner). So when Anansi go up an' pull some of the fruit, at that time Tiger was standing underneath the tree. Anansi look down on Tiger head an' said, "Look lice in a Brar Tiger head!" Tiger said, "Come down an' ketch it, sah!" Anansi come down an' said to Tiger he kyan't ketch it without he lean on the tree. Tiger said, "Lean on the tree, sah!" The hair on Tiger head is very long. So while Anansi ketchin' the lice, Tiger fell asleep. Anansi now take the hair an' lash it round the tree tie up Tiger on the tree. After he done that he wake up Tiger an' say that he kyan't ketch any more. Tiger in a rough manner say, "Come an' ketch it, sah!" Anansi say, "I won't!" So Anansi run off, Tiger spring after him, an' fin' out that his hair is tied on the tree. So Tiger say, "Come an' loose me, sah!" Anansi say. "I won't!" an' Anansi sing now,

"See how Anansi tie Tiger,
See how Anansi tie Tiger,
Tie him like a hog, Tiger,
See how Anansi tie Tiger,
Tie him like a hog, Tiger!"

An' Anansi leave him go home, am' a hunter-man come an' see Tiger tie on the tree, make kill him.

Questions. Make sure you can answer these questions about what you just read:

  • what did Tiger do that made Anansi angry?
  • how did Anansi get his revenge on the tiger?
  • what happened to the tiger in the end?

Source: Jamaica Anansi Stories by Martha Warren Beckwith (1924). Weblink.

Modern Languages / Anthropology 3043: Folklore & Mythology. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one.
Page last updated: October 9, 2004 12:52 PM