Story: How Spider Helped a Fisherman

One of the story themes in Waldorf second grade is trickster tales. These are a lot of fun for eight-year-olds, and for their parents too! There are trickster tales and characters in almost every culture all over the world, so there's plenty of material to choose from. Today's story is my retelling of an Anansi story from West Africa, pulled from the Lavender's Blue Second Grade curriculum.

(For more on second grade themes and stories in the Waldorf curriculum, see this post on Second Grade Essentials.) 

Enjoy!  xo, Kelly

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How Anansi Helped a Fisherman

In West Africa, where people love to tell stories, there is a famous trickster called Anansi the Spider.  Anansi is clever but he’s usually up to some mischief.  For you see, Anansi loves nothing better than to eat, but he is lazy and does not want to work for his food!

Anansi the Spider lived in a village near a great river that tumbled into the open sea.  The waters were teeming with fish, Anansi knew. Delicious fish.  If only one were willing to spend the day weaving a net, rowing a boat, and catching the fish.  Anansi was hungry for fish but he thought there must be an easier way to get his dinner. 

A fisherman lived in the village too, and he worked hard all day every day catching fish to take to market.  He went out in his boat early in the morning and stayed out all day.  In the evenings he mended his nets and traps.  On market days he hauled his baskets and barrels of fish to the market. 

Anansi watched the fisherman at work and did not envy him his labor.  But when he saw him returning home with gleaming fresh fish to feed his family, Anansi thought, “I must get some of that fish!”  So he thought he would trick the fisherman.  If he offered to help, then surely it would be an easy thing to slink off home with a few fish before the fisherman realized he was gone.

So Anansi the Spider went to the fisherman and said, “What fine work you do!  What a wonderful way to spend your days, out at sea!  What pride you must feel in supplying fresh fish for the village, and doing your work with such skill!  I long to learn a trade myself.  Please could I help you and learn to fish?”

Now, like everyone in the village, the fisherman knew the greedy, lazy, mischievous Anansi.  So the fisherman smiled and said, “Anansi, you are welcome to come and help!  What a joy it would be to teach you my trade!  Please, come and start tomorrow.”  But to himself he thought, “Anansi is not the only one who can play a trick.”

When they met the next morning, the fisherman said, “Here is how we fishermen work.  One of us must make some traps, and the other must feel very tired.”  Now Anansi just hated to feel tired!  So he said, “Oh ho ho, I’m not willing to feel tired.  So I will make the traps and you can get tired yourself.”  All that day the fisherman rolled around on the beach, moaning about how tired he felt, while Anansi whistled as he worked, thinking himself lucky to be the one making the traps.

On the second morning, the fisherman said, “Today it is your turn to feel tired, while I set the traps in the river.”  But Anansi said, “Oh no no, I’m not here to feel tired.  You do your part, and I will set the traps in the river.”  And he thought himself lucky as he set the traps, while the fisherman lay down with exhausted groans. 

When they met on the third morning, the fisherman said, “It is only fair if I collect the fish today and you be the one to feel tired.”  Anansi wouldn’t hear of it!  “Not a chance!” said he, “If you want me to help, then you must feel tired and I will collect the fish.”  The fisherman sat down with a thump and a sigh, and Anansi got to work.  He spent the day pulling in all the heavy traps and releasing the fish into large baskets.  Meanwhile, the fisherman lazed about on the riverbank and sighed.  But all day long he kept his eyes on that tricky spider.  Anansi didn’t have a chance to sneak off with so much as one fish.  “Tomorrow,” Anansi thought to himself, “The fisherman will be so tired he will fall asleep, and I will have my fill of fish!” 

The fourth morning the fisherman said, “Today I really mean it.  It’s your turn to be tired, Anansi, you must admit.  I’ll take the fish to the market.”  “Never!” Anansi exclaimed. “Feeling tired is not how I’ll spend my day!  I will carry the fish to the market and you will do your part.” So the fisherman shuffled slowly along the path back and forth to the market, sighing and moaning and groaning and saying, “I feel so tired,” while Anansi huffed and puffed and carried all the baskets of fish. 

The fish sold quickly at the market.  The fisherman kept a close watch on the fish while Anansi lurked in the shadows, waiting for his chance. But before long, the baskets of fish were empty and the fisherman’s pockets were full of coins.  He turned to Anansi and said, “Many thanks for your help Anansi!  We did very well.  Too bad there isn’t any fish for you to take home, but at least now you know how to catch more yourself!” 

The fisherman laughed and laughed.  Then Anansi realized he had been tricked!  But after all that hard work he was much, much, much too tired to care.  He slunk home and slept for several days. 

The End

Be sure to check out the Lavender's Blue Second Grade Curriculum! It's full of wonderful stories, clear guidance on how and what to teach in second grade, active learning in circle time, an exceptional math program, and more. All the info on Second Grade is here.

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