Tit For Tat: An Akan Folktale

General Location: Southern Ghana (Akan) / Map data ©2019 Google

This Akan folktale tells the tale of how Kweku Tsin outsmarted his father, Anansi, and became rich in the process. 

There had been a great famine in the land for many months. Meat had become so scarce that only the rich chiefs had money enough to buy it. The poor people were starving. Anansi and his family were in a miserable state.

One day, Anansi’s eldest son —Kweku Tsin— to his great joy, discovered a place in the forest where there were still many animals. Knowing his father’s wicked ways, Kweku told him nothing of the matter.

Anansi, however, speedily discovered that Kweku was returning loaded, day after day, to the village. There he was able to sell the meat at a good price to the hungry villagers. Anansi wanted to know the secret — but his son refused to tell him. The old man, therefore, determined to find out by a trick.

Slipping into his son’s room one night, when he was fast asleep, he cut a tiny hole in the corner of the bag which Kweku always carried into the forest. Anansi then put ashes into the bag and replaced it where he had found it.

Next morning, as Kweku set out for the forest, he threw the bag over his shoulder. Unknown to him, at each step, the ashes were sprinkled on the ground.

When Anansi set out an hour later he was easily able to follow the trail of ashes. He arrived at the animals’ home in the forest and found Kweku there. He drove his son away, saying that, by the law of the land, the place belonged to him.

Kweku saw how he had been tricked, and determined to have the meat back. He went home, made a tiny image and hung little bells around its neck. He then tied a long thread to its head and returned toward the hunting-place. Half-way there, Kweku hung the image from a branch, and, holding the other end of the thread in his hand, hid himself in the nearby bushes.

The greedy father, in the meantime, had killed many animals to become rich as speedily as possible. He skinned them and prepared the flesh, and, taking the first load, set off for his village. Half-way there, he came to the place where the image hung in the way. Thinking this was one of the gods, he stopped.

As Anansi approached, the image began to shake its head vigorously. He felt that this meant that the gods were angry. To please them, he said to the image:

“May I give you a little of this meat?”

Again the image shook its head.

“May I give you half of this meat?”

The head shook once more.

“Do you want the whole of this meat?” he shouted fiercely.

This time the head nodded as if the image were well pleased.

“I will not give you all my meat,” Anansi cried.

At this, the image shook in every limb as if in a terrible temper.

Anansi was so frightened that he threw the whole load on the ground and ran away. As he ran, he called back, “Tomorrow I shall go to Ekubon — you will not be able to take my meat from me there, you thief.”

But Kweku had heard where his father intended to go the next day, and he set the image in his path as before. Again Anansi was obliged to leave his whole load — and again he called out the name of the place where he would go the following day.

The same thing occurred day after day until all the animals in the wood were killed. By this time, Kweku Tsin had become very rich, and Anansi was so poor that he was obliged to go to Kweku’s house every day for food.

When the famine was over, Kweku gave a great feast and invited the entire village. While all were gathered together, Kweku told the story of his father’s cunning and how it had been overcome. This caused great merriment among the villagers. Anansi was so ashamed that he readily promised Kweku to refrain from his evil tricks for the future. This promise, however, he did not keep long.

If you enjoyed reading this Akan folktale, then please consider keeping it alive by sharing it with your friends. You can find many more Ghanese folktales by visiting our dedicated collection. 

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