Once upon a time, the rainy season came to the forest, as it must come every year. But this time there was more rain than ever before. Nobody had ever seen anything like it. At night the water fell with a roar like thunder. In the morning it beat against the branches of the trees and tore their leaves from them. It pounded against the thatched roofs of the villages and rushed about the footpaths. An old tale about now-a-days climate change.
Little girls set pots under the sky to catch the water and ran back slipping and sliding. The small, friendly rivers became deep and wide and covered the sides of their banks. During the darkness, the people locked their doors and did not even look outside, for they could hear nothing but rain, rain, rain.
The animals in the forest, too, were frightened by all the water. Hare could not find meadows of grass for his dinner. Elephant could not walk through the trees to chew the young branches. Tortoise could not crawl slowly along the earth to catch insects; and Spider, who had been too lazy to plant his farm or to set his fish traps, had nothing to eat at all. Worst of all, the great Leopard, who hunts at night, was hungry, and had to stalk the forest during the day.
One afternoon, after many days, the rain stopped. Spider set out at once to look for something to eat. He went down the wide path that led to the river. Leopard was hunting, too with, hungry look in his eye. He walked quietly on his four soft feet along the path that led to the river. That is how it happened Spider and Leopard walked right into each other.
Now usually, Leopard loves a fat and juicy supper. He never thinks of anything as puny as Spider. But today he thought even Spider would taste good, so he stopped to chat and tried to look friendly.
“Good afternoon, Spider – said Leopard -. How do you fare in all this wet weather?” Now, Spider was lazy and very naughty, but he was not stupid. He knew at once that Leopard’s voice was much too sweet.
“I am well, Leopard, but I am in a great hurry,” he answered. And with that, Spider jumped behind a great palm leaf, and Leopard could not find him, no matter how he tried. Leopard was so angry. He roared a roar that echoed against the hills. He sharpened his claws and his eyes turned green.
“Never mind – he thought after a few minutes – I will go to Spider’s house. I will hide behind his door and wait for him to come back. Then I will eat him, and if he brings any food, I will eat that, too.”
Leopard went up the path from the river. He went into Spider’s little house, which was made of banana leaves. There he made himself into a round ball. He put his nose on his great paws and sat down to wait.
But the Spider was not stupid. He guessed exactly what Leopard would do. And so, he took some time to think about how he should handle the matter.
First, he went to the river and caught some fish left in the traps by people. Then he went to a farm and ate cassava. For it is the custom that a hungry man can help himself to as much food as he needs, and no one will mind.
When he had enough to eat, Spider spent the afternoon looking for all his friends. He stayed away from his house as long as he could. Finally, it began to get dark. The sky filled with clouds, and once again, the rain began to fall. At last, Spider had to go home. So, he went up the path that led past the river, and near his little house made of banana leaves.
Spider looked at the earth to see if Leopard had left arty tracks. He listened to see if Leopard made any sound. He saw nothing and he heard nothing. Still, he knew the ways of Leopard, and he decided to try something else.
So, he kept walking down the path, humming to himself, just as though he were thinking of nothing. Suddenly he cried out. “Ho! My banana-leaf house!” Nobody answered. Everything was silent. Spider walked a little nearer. Still, there was silence. Nobody said anything.
“That’s funny – said Spider loudly -, my little house always answers me when I call her. I wonder what is wrong.”
Once again, with all his might, he shouted, “Ho! My banana-leaf house. How are you?” And from deep inside the house came a small high voice. “I am fine, Spider. Come on in.”
Then Spider burst out laughing, “Now I know where you are, Leopard, and you shall never catch me,” he said. And with that, he ran as quick as a flash through the window and up to the highest corner of the ceiling. Leopard could not catch him although he tried and tried. The spider was warm and dry and safe in the ceiling. That is why he decided to live there. And he is living there still.
Photo. © CCA2.0/ A.K.M Monjurul Hoque Topu) – (Folktale from West Africa)