Jamaican Stories

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

The Riddle (Moses Hendricks, Mandeville)

Reading time: 4 minutes. Word Count: 400 words

Here is an example of a story based on a riddle - and Beckwith actually includes a whole section devoted to riddles in her collection of Jamaican folklore.

Tacoomah and Anansi were great friends. Tacoomah got into trouble. He was tried and sentenced to be hung. Anansi said, "Brer Tacoomah, no fret! I'm a good liar; I play you off." Anansi went to the king to beg for Tacoomah. The king said to him, "If you give me a puzzle that I can't answer, I will let him off."

Anansi went home. Tacoomah had a mare that was heavy with colt. He said, "Brer Tacoomah, if you do as I tell you, I can get you off." Tacoomah said, "Brer Nansi, I will do anything to save me life!" Go for the mare--the one heavy with colt--open the mare's stomach and took out the colt, then took a bit of the mare's skin and cut out a bridle. Then Tacoomah got some fresh dirt and filled his hat and put it on, got some silver and put it into one boot and throw some gold into the other boot. Next, Tacoomah mount the colt. Anansi said, "Come now, Brer Tacoomah, go now and see king." He told Tacoomah all that he was to say to the king when he met him; Anansi put him up to all the talk. They said to the king:

"Under the earth I stood,
Silver and gold was my tread,
I rode a thing that never was born,
An' a bit of the dam I hold in me hand."

The king couldn't guess it; he said, "You must explain to my satisfaction." And he said, "I have me hat full of dirt" (took off his hat and show him), "one boot with silver" (he was standing on silver), "the other boot with gold" (he was standing on gold also). He rode "a colt that was never born" (he cut that out of the mother's belly), and "a bit of the dam" he held in his hand--that was the mare's skin he had as a bridle. The king reprimanded him and said, "Go on, me good man, go about your business!"

Jack man dory! Anansi got him off, Anansi was a smart man!

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

  • why did Tacoomah's need Anansi's help?
  • what did the king tell Anansi he had to do?
  • how was Anansi able to rescue Tacoomah?

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