Episode 21 – The Magical Fruit

Episode 21 Show Notes

Source: West African Mythology

  • This week on MYTH, it’s back to West Africa for more exciting adventures from the Amazing Spider Man.  And by Spider Man, I of course mean that delightful trickster god, Anansi.  In this episode, you’ll learn that beans can do worse things than make you fart, that it’s a bad idea to sell your daughter for an easy meal, and that spiders are mooches.  Then, in Gods and Monsters, it’s a snake-elephant crossbreed that protects an incredible treasure.  This is the Myths Your Teacher Hated podcast, where I tell the stories of cultures from around the world in all of their original, bloody, uncensored glory.  Modern tellings of these stories have become dry and dusty, but I’ll be trying to breathe new life into them.  This is Episode 21, “The Magical Fruit”.  As always, this episode is not safe for work
  • We haven’t seen Anansi and his wife Aso since way back in Episode 2, so it’s definitely time to revisit them.  If you missed that episode, or just want a refresher course on the background for them, I’d go back and listen, but this week’s stories stand on their own, so it isn’t necessary.  You do you.  We’ll be covering three short stories from the Anansi tales, which together give a little better flavor of the complex relationship the stories have with this fantastic character.  Also, they all involve the god’s favorite food: beans.  The only thing you really need to know before we start is that Anansi is tricksy and a shapeshifter.  Sometimes he’s a human, sometimes a normal sized spider, and sometimes a nightmare-fuel sized spider.  Okay, let’s dive right in, shall we?
  • Once upon a time, before Anansi really made a name for himself as a wily trickster, he and his wife Aso decided to go and visit the in-laws.  This was before the events in Episode 2, if you’re keeping track.  Aso’s parents were throwing a mighty fine shindig to celebrate the first days of nice springtime weather.
  • Anansi hadn’t spent much time with his wife’s family, and didn’t think his mother-in-law really liked him (and truth be told, he wasn’t entirely sure he liked her either, because some tropes are way older than sitcoms).  Still, his wife had been on his ass to make a good impression at this fucking party, and he loved his wife, so he was going to make a real effort.  He talked with Aso about what he could do to win over her mother, and together, they decided that the first step was some fancy-shmancy clothes.  Dress for success, right?  Aso loved to show off her bright, flowing dresses and her colorful, playful headscarves.  Anansi put on his Sunday best.  He considered his appearance for a few minutes.  Something was still missing, but what?  He glanced at his closet, and snapped his fingers.  Of course!  Nothing says ‘fancy’ quite like a tall hat.  He pulled out the tallest one, and put it on his head.  Perfect.  With a hat that tall, everyone would know how fancy and important he was.  It was the ancient African version of ‘the taller the hair, the closer to god.’
  • Aso walked in after he finished dressing with a little twirl to show off her dress.  “You look stunning, babe.  What about me?  Tell me you like my hat.”  “Of course, dear.  It’s a very nice hat.”  “Nice?  It’s fucking beautiful.  Look how tall it is!  Could I be wearing a taller hat?” he asked, in his best Chandler impression.  “I look, like, super-important in this hat.”  “Whatever you say dear.”
  • Dressed in their spiffy duds, the happy couple set off for the in-laws.  Anansi was gratified to see that, when they made their grand entrance, everyone stopped to stare and whisper about his tall hat.  He could tell that everyone was impressed at how tall it was, and how important it made him look.  No one else had a hat nearly as tall, and they all goddamned knew it.  He spent the entire night strutting around to show off his fancy hat, his hand-carved pipe, and his shiny new pants, and made sure everyone knew just how well his life was going right now.  Basically, he was a hipster before it was cool.  Or that rich douchebag from every 80s teen comedy.  Take your pick.
  • Anansi was, in fact, doing really well for himself, and was actually pretty wealthy.  He was very proud of his success, which wasn’t a problem, but he liked to rub it in people’s faces, which was.  He liked to be admired and have everyone tell him how awesome he was, and it’s probably a good thing Twitter didn’t exist yet.  Like the rich asshole he was, Anansi was also very greedy, so he sure as shit wasn’t going to pass on the free food.  He grabbed a plate, and got in line so that he could fill it up as high as he possibly could to make sure got the most out of this party.
  • His in-laws weren’t exactly poor themselves, so they put out a pretty sweet spread.  All of his favorite foods were there, and the wine was flowing freely, so Anansi ate and drank until he was fit to burst.  The last few bites, he’d had to fight the urge to vomit as his body protested that it couldn’t possibly make room for any more motherfucking food in this motherfucking stomach.  Anansi sat back, figuring he’d be satisfied, but something was off.  “Hey, where are the beans?  You gotta have beans.”
  • I said before that all of his favorite foods were there, but I lied a little.  He loved the lemon soup, the baked yams, the roasted guinea fowl, and all the rest, but he was goddamned obsessed with baked beans.  Seriously, have you ever seen a three year old in a candy store?  That was Anansi, only with beans.  Aso, who knew good and well just how all about beans Anansi was, said “I don’t see any, honey, but it’s so not a big deal.  There’s all sorts of other things that you love almost as much, and you were just complaining about how full you were anyway.  Please don’t make this a thing.”
  • Anansi tried.  He really did.  He had another bowl of fish stew, and chased it with another yam, but even though he gagged a little, it didn’t help.  All he could think about were fucking beans.  He wanted them, needed them in his mouth right the hell now.  And then he started to wonder.  His father-in-law knew how much Anansi loved baked beans.  Hell, everybody did.  It was officially a thing.  Why wouldn’t he make beans for a party this fancy, especially when he knew Anansi and Aso would be coming.  He and her parents had never exactly been on the best terms for reasons he could never figure out (bores never realize that they’re bores, after all).  Would he be enough of an asshole to make beans and deliberately not serve them?  Maybe he was keeping them all to himself and laughing at that beanless son of a bitch in the next room.
  • Anansi sniffed the air.  Then he sniffed again, harder.  Holy shit.  Maybe, but he couldn’t be sure.  “Hey pops, the food has been delicious.  I think I need to step outside for a little fresh air, try and digest a little.  You mind?”  “Why would I mind, Anansi?  Go right ahead.  Enjoy the night air.  The weather’s great today.”
  • Anansi smiled and walked out of the room, but he didn’t go outside.  He was more tricksy than that.  The closest door to him happened to lead through the kitchen, which would give him a chance to look for those tasty, tasty beans.  He dry-washed his hands in anticipation.   No one could stop the great Anansi!
  • He opened the door to the kitchen, and was engulfed in the smell of hot food.  Everything mingled together in a delicious melange, but under it all, he smelled the unmistakable aroma of baked beans.  “Bingo!  I knew that bastard was trying to pull one over on me.  Well, the joke’s on him.  I always get what I want, or my name’s not Anansi!”  On the stove, bubbling away, was a fresh pot of beans.  All thoughts of being too full for another bite vanished.  There was always room for beans.
  • For the record, Anansi has a little bit of a persecution complex.  In reality, no one was hiding anything from him.  His mother-in-law had in fact made the beans especially for Anansi, knowing how obsessed he was with them, but in the confusion, the couple had completely forgotten to bring them out.
  • Anansi grabbed a big wooden spoon off the counter and a bag hanging on the wall, and then he scooped every last fucking bean into the bag.  They tried to be tricky, but he was better, so to the victor go the spoils.  No one else was going to get any beans.  Just him (and maybe Aso).  When the bag was full, he put the whole thing on his head and covered it with his tall, tall hat.  Perfect.  No one would ever know.  It was the perfect crime!
  • Smuggling beans (which sounds like a euphemism, but isn’t), Anansi walked back into the party.  “Okay, Aso.  I think it’s time we were heading home.”  “Nonsense, honey.  This party’s just getting started.  My parents went through so much effort, and all of our friends are here.”  In a tense whisper meant only for Anansi’s ears, she added “And you promised you’d try to make a good impression with my folks.  Don’t fucking blow this.”  Anansi wasn’t sure how to play this, and it only got worse when his father-in-law stood to make a speech.
  • “I want to say how proud I am of my fine son-in-law Anansi.  This whole party, in a shocking twist, is actually in his honor!  I know we haven’t always seen eye to eye, but after a long talk with Aso, I want to make a fresh start.  I’ve seen the way you treat my daughter, and it’s obvious you really love her.  You treat her well, and I wanted everyone to know how fortunate we all feel to have such a marvelous son-in-law!”
  • Anansi’s scalp was starting to sweat.  That bag of beans was starting to feel uncomfortably warm.  “That’s wonderful to hear, sir, and I would appreciate a fresh start.  Thank you.  Now let’s go, Aso.”  “Nonsense, son, I have so much more to say!  Sit down, and let me honor you!”  Anansi didn’t have much choice.  He had promised his wife he’d try to make a good impression, and this was the best their relationship had ever been.  Plus, it would be super embarrassing to dash out while everyone was saying such nice things about him.  He sat back down.
  • The crowd roared its approval.  “More, more!”  His father-in-law spoke another five minutes, and Anansi’s head was beginning to burn.  Those fucking beans might have been a bad idea.  “Thank you, sir, but it’s all too much.  I’m embarrassed at all of this.  I’m sure you’ve said enough…”  “Nonsense!  There aren’t enough fine words to praise
  • you with, but I’m gonna try.”  And he kept on going.  Anansi was in serious pain now.  He tried to lift up the hat, just a little to get a little cool air up inside to help his fiery head, but when he did, the entire bag of beans spilled out of his hat and down his head.
  • He stood there silently as the beans dribbled out of his hat, down his fine shirt, and splattered on his fancy trousers.  More plopped past and landed on his sandals and on the dining room floor.  Everyone held their breath until the beans stopped dripping.  Then, Anansi’s father-in-law approached him.  “What the fuck, man?  Were you stealing food from me?  And after I invited you over here to eat that food?  Are you a goddamned thief?”  The crowd picked up the echo of “Thief! Thief!”  It was quickly turning into an angry mob.  Anansi could see which was the wind was blowing and grabbed Aso’s hand, dragging her behind him as he bolted out the door.  Behind him, the crowd roared in anger.  “Thief!  Anansi’s a motherfucking thief!”
  • Anansi and Aso raced home, and was relieved to see that someone had apparently talked sense into them, because no angry mob armed with spears and torches showed up at the door.  Anansi felt a little of the tension go out of his shoulders, so he stripped and walked out to the river wash up.  The cool water felt incredible on his burned, angry scalp, and at first, all he could feel was the burst of relief; it wasn’t long before he noticed something else, though.  He ran his hands over his head, and he could feel that all of his hair was gone.  The hot beans had burned it all off.  Ever since that day, Anansi (and all other spiders, for that matter) has been bald as a symbol of his greed.
  • This was the first Anansi story I ever heard.  It was back in third grade, and a troupe of African storytellers came to our school to tell some of the native tales from Africa.  This story really stuck with me, and gave me a lasting fondness for the tricky little spider.  I especially like this one because it’s one of the minority of stories where Anansi ends up on the losing end of one of his tricks.  He’s very clever, but he doesn’t always think things all the way through, and it fucks him.
  • Our next story is a little different in tone.  I don’t want to say too much and give something away, so away we go.
  • Once, in a time before the modern time, Anansi the spider was out walking in the bush.  He’d been wandering for a long time, and the sun shining down on his bald head (and now you know why he has it) was making him feel hot and faint.  He desperately needed a drink of cool water if he was going to get where he was going.
  • Soon, he came to a house set just off the path.  On the stoop, sitting blocking the front door, sat a very, very, VERY old man.  Seriously ancient.  One of those guys you might see in a movie where you’re sure you’re looking at a dead body right up until it creakily opens it eyes to stare at you.  The old man looked like nothing so much as parchment-thin skin stretched tightly over a skeleton.
  • Anansi felt a little apprehensive going up to the little house (after all, magic was very real here, so he definitely could be a zombie), but he was dying of thirst and he had no idea when another opportunity might present itself.  He gathered up his courage and said “Good day, kind sir!  I’ve been walking all morning in the sun and the heat, and I’m starting to feel a little faint.  Could I trouble you for a glass of cool water?  You’d be a gentleman and a scholar!”
  • The old man said nothing.  Anansi stood, blinking for a full minute before deciding that the decrepit old man must be deaf.  As old as he apparently was, Anansi should have realized that the old man was probably hard of hearing.  He stepped closer to the figure and repeated his request in that loud, slow tone reserved for adult children speaking to their ancient parents and American tourists speaking with locals who had the audacity to only speak the local language.  “I said GOOD MORNING, SIR!  MAY I TROUBLE YOU FOR A DRINK OF WATER?”
  • The air echoed with Anansi’s loud but polite request, but the old man took no notice.  Anansi scratched his head.  He snapped his fingers in front of the old man’s face, and again got no reaction.  Smirking, Anansi cocked his hand to his ear.  “What’s that, dumbass?  You said I should go on inside and help myself and completely ignore the deaf asshole on the stoop?  Good advice, don’t mind if I do!”  The old man didn’t respond.
  • Anansi scooted past the catatonic figure of the old man and went inside.  He helped himself to a huge glass of cold water and, for good measure, raided the cupboards for all the food he could eat.  He chortled when he found a pot of beans, but was too lazy to make them himself, so he went through collecting things he could eat without cooking.  When he was stuffed full, he stepped over the old man again on his way out, thanked him sarcastically for the hospitality and sparkling conversation, and went home.
  • The next day, around lunchtime, Anansi was getting hungry, but he didn’t feel like going to the market and buying his own food.  Besides, he thought, that old man had a house full of food he couldn’t possibly be eating if he was that skeletal-thin.  It was a shame to let all of that marvelous food go to waste.  Someone needed to eat it, and Anansi thought he just might be up to the task.  He walked back to the house, where the old ass man didn’t seem to have moved, and went inside again to eat and drink his fill.
  • Anansi was enjoying this, so he decided to up the ante a little.  On the third day, he brought his eldest daughter with him.  “Hey there, old man.  Since you’ve been such an amazing host, I thought you might like to marry my beautiful daughter.  She wants to be a cook, and I figured with all of the food in your house, that’s exactly what you need.”  He handed a cheap gold band to his daughter.  “Here’s a wedding ring.  Now go inside and make your old man something tasty.  Hint hint, there’s beans in there.”  The girl did as she was told, though she wasn’t as sanguine about it as Anansi seemed to be.  The old man never noticed though, and they ate and drank whatever they wanted and then Anansi headed back home, leaving his daughter there to prepare a nice breakfast for him in the morning.
  • The next day, Anansi woke up early instead of his usual crack of noon.  He headed again for the old man’s place, and found that once again, the old ass man was right where Anansi had left him.  He walked inside, excited about having an old-fashioned breakfast, but the house was empty.  His daughter had always been fond of hide and seek, so he thought that maybe she was playing now for nostalgia’s sake.  He decided to play along.
  • “Oh where oh where could my daughter be?”  He snapped open the closet door, but it was empty.  He tried under the bed, a favorite spot of hers, but found only dust bunnies.  He quickly ran out of logical places, so he started to wonder if his daughter was playing in hardcore mode.  He checked the icebox, which was a dangerous but effective hiding
  • place, but no daughter.  The only other place he could think of was the oven, which would be a stupid dangerous place to hide.
  • He opened the door, and jumped back, startled.  Sitting in the middle of the oven was the cheap gold band he’d given his daughter to wear, but no daughter.  “Okay, what the fuck?  That old man has some goddamned explaining to do right the fuck now!”  He rushed outside and grabbed the old man by the collar.  Anansi hauled him to his feet and screamed in his face “Where is my motherfucking daughter you son of a bitch?  Tell me!”
  • From the depth of the skeletal throat, Anansi heard a deep, raspy chuckle.  “Do…you…know…who…I…am?” the old man asked, in a deep throated whisper.  “Yeah, old ass man, you’re my son in law and the man I’m about to beat the shit out of if he doesn’t answer my fucking question.”  That quiet, rustling laugh rang out again.  “Your son-in-law?  Arrogant prick.  My name is Death, and you came looking for me.  I did not invite you in, but you broke into my house anyway.  To add insult to injury, you ate my food and left your ugly bitch of a daughter here to bother me, so I ate her.  She tasted better than she looked, fortunately.  Now, I’m going to eat you for lunch.”
  • Bony fingers shot out with unbelievable quickness and seized Anansi’s shirt.  Panicking, Anansi ripped the buttons off and slipped out of the shirt in one fluid motion.  He ran as fast as he could, figuring that it should be child’s play to outrun an old man, but no one can outpace Brother Death.  He catches everyone eventually.  Every time Anansi turned his head, Brother Death pulled a Jason and stepped out of the bushes right behind him.  He never seemed to cover the intervening distance; he was just there.
  • In desperation, Anansi clambered up a tree as only a spider can and worked his way up to the very tippy top.  “Shit,” thought Anansi.  “Now I’ve gone and backed myself in a corner!  Stupid, stupid, stupid!”  He looked down, fully expecting to see Brother Death on the branch below him, reaching out to drag him to his doom, but the branch was empty.  Instead, Death was standing on the ground at the base of the tree staring up at Anansi.  Brother Death couldn’t climb!  Fuck yes!
  • He stared an Anansi for a long time, and Anansi flipped him the bird and stuck out his tongue.  He was feeling cocky again safe in the tree.  Visibly angered, Brother Death stooped down and picked up a rock.  The he stood and hurled it at Anansi.  It arced up, and bounced off the trunk about halfway up.  “You’re going to have to do better than that to get the best of Anansi, Death.  You throw like a child!”
  • Death threw everything he could get his hands on, including one of his own shoes, but nothing reached Anansi.  He soon ran out of things to throw in his immediate vicinity.  Angrier than ever, he raced around the tree looking for a better missile.  As soon as his eyes were off of Anansi, though, he leaped off the tree and, using his spider silk as a parachute, glided to the ground well away from Brother Death.
  • Anansi raced home as fast as he could, knowing that Death wouldn’t be far behind.  As he reached the front yard, he called out, panting, “Aso, grab the puff puff children and climb puff puff to the ceiling.  Now!”  Aso stuck her head out the window.  “What’s that dear?  I couldn’t hear you.”  “I said puff puff GRAB THE CHILDREN AND puff puff CLIMB TO THE FUCKING CEILING!  NOW WOMAN!”
  • “You said do what with the potato peelings?  I think that might give me an infection.”  “I
  • said, oh fuck it.”  He rushed into the house, grabbed his wife and remaining children, and scaled the wall up to the ceiling.  “Everyone grab a wooden beam and hold on tight!”  Brother Death rushed into the house to see Anansi and his family dangling from the rafters like fruit off a bizarre tree.
  • Death took in the scene, closed and locked the door behind him, picked up a burlap sack from near the kitchen, then sat down in the rocking chair.  He smiled, crossed one leg over his knee, and waited under the dangling spider family.  Death is patient.  After half an hour, the youngest son said to his father “Papa, my hands are starting to hurt.  I don’t think I can hold on much longer!”  “You have to hold on, now matter how much it hurts.  If you fall, Brother Death will snatch you up and take you away from me.”  The boy grimaced in pain and opened his mouth to say something else, but his hands slipped and he fell screaming.
  • Death caught the boy.  “It is your father I want, not you.”  He opened the burlap bag and stuffed the boy in.  Then he sat back down to continue waiting.  An hour went by, and now it was his daughter who was gasping and weeping in pain.  “Daddy, help me.  I’m gonna fall.  Help me, daddy!”  Crying, Anansi tried to move over to her, but his own arms were tired and before he could move more than a few inches in her direction, he saw her jerk as one hand slipped free.  She had a moment, clinging by one weakening hand, to look her father in the eyes and whisper “help me” before she too plummeted to the floor.  Death caught her as well, and stuffed her in the bag with her brother.  “I don’t want you, I want your father.”
  • Next, it was his other daughter that fell screaming into the arms of death, then his eldest son.  After all of his children were gone, Aso looked into her husband’s eyes.  “I’m sorry my love.  I can’t hold on any longer.  I love you, but I’m going to be with our children.”  He was pretty sure she let go on purpose as she dropped silently into the waiting arms of Brother Death.  Only Anansi was left, and he knew he couldn’t hold on much longer.
  • His left hand seized up in a cramp 15 minutes later.  He carefully peeled it off the beam and worked it, trying to get a little feeling into it while dangling precariously by one hand.  This wasn’t going to work.  He needed a plan.  His mind raced, and he soon came up with a desperate ploy.  “Brother Death, I regret eating all of your food.  It made me fat as fuck, and when I fall, I’m gonna be to heavy to catch.  I’m gonna hit the floor, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to explode into a bloody, gooey mess.  There won’t be any pieces big enough to put in that bag of yours.  You might have enough to make spider burgers, but that’s at absolute most.  Tell you what, though.  If you go into the kitchen, there’s a big barrel of flour.  If you set that under me, it will cushion my fall, and then you can shove me in the bag with my family.  I won’t splatter, I’ll be battered.”
  • Death scratched his chin, thinking.  Then he grinned a skeleton grin that showed all of his foul, rotting teeth.  “Fried spider does sound delicious.  Maybe I’ll batter your whole family.  It’s bad for my cholesterol, but I’m Death, so who cares?”  Anansi knew that the barrel was a monster, and that it had taken four strong men to move it into his house in the first place.  He figured he’d have a few minutes while Death struggled to drop and and run, but Death was back in a moment with the flour barrel.  Death was stronger than he’d thought, and now he was going to fucking die.
  • Death placed the barrel under Anansi and looked up, estimating his location.  He bent down over the barrel and rocked it back and forth to move it into just the right location.  Anansi seized the moment and dropped down onto the old man’s head, burying his face in the flour.  The powder stuck to Death’s bony face, blinding him, and giving Anansi the time he needed to free his family and get the fuck out of dodge.  This is why spiders make their webs high up in the trees and on the ceiling of your house.  Death has not caught Anansi yet, but he’s patient.  He still can’t climb, so Anansi and his family are still hiding from old Brother Death.
  • I love this story because it does a surprisingly good job of walking between comedy and super dark tragedy in a way that feels natural.  You start out feeling sorry for the old man that Anansi is totally elder abusing, and end up rooting for Anansi and his family to just hold on a little longer.  You know that no one can escape Death forever, but you’re hoping they can get away this time.  It’s a very effective, if surprisingly dark story.  Given that, I figured we’d end on a comedic note with our last story this week, a shorter tale than the others.
  • As we’ve already seen, Anansi’s wife Aso was a fantastic cook.  Also as we’ve seen, Anansi really liked to eat, and he especially like to eat food from other people’s houses that he didn’t have to pay for.  He was kind of a mooch for such a rich guy.  One day, he decided to stop by his good buddy Rabbit’s house.  As soon as he walked in the door, he could smell something delicious cooking.  “Ooh, boy, that smells amaze-balls, Rabbit.  Whatcha makin’?”
  • “Well, Anansi, I’m a bunny rabbit, so I’m making vegetables.  I’ve got some yams boiling, as well as a pot of mixed greens, which are simmering nicely.”  Anansi’s spider senses were tingling.  “Greens, you say.  I don’t suppose you have enough extra for one more mouth, do you?”  He batted his eyelashes at Rabbit, who sighed.  “I knew you were coming over today, so I had a feeling you’d end up wanting to stay and eat.  I made enough for you to join us, if you want (and I know damned well that you’re not gonna say no).  They’re not quite ready yet.  Sit down, and I’ll let you know when it’s supper time.”
  • “I would love to, old friend, and thank you for thinking of me, but I actually have some other errands I need to run today.”  That was a lie.  Anansi knew that if he hung around Rabbit’s house, he would get saddled with doing chores for dinner (setting the table, washing pots and pans, who knew what kind of devious torture his friend would devise for Anansi).  Some part of him probably knew that Rabbit asking for a little help around the house from his rich friend who kept eating all of his food was probably fair, but he was lazy and he really would just rather not.  “I know what I can do.  I’ll spin a web, and tie one end around my leg.  I’ll leave the other end here with you, tied around your pot of greens.  When it’s ready, just give a tug and I’ll fucking come running.”
  • Rabbit knew that Anansi was lying to get out of helping, but he had long since resigned himself to the fact that his friend was an asshole.  Sometimes, he wasn’t really sure why they were friends.  “Okay, Anansi.  You do that.  I need to get back to cooking and setting the table for dinner and taking care of my many kids…”   Anansi left before his friend could finish detailing all of the chores he probably wanted to rope Anansi into helping with.  Fuck it, there were better thing to do than chores.
  • Anansi walked away from Rabbit’s quickly, web trailing behind him, but slowed as soon as he was out of sight.  He didn’t actually have anywhere to be, so he decided to just wander through town.  He could work up a nice appetite before dinner.  He soon wandered past Monkey’s house, and an errant gust of wind sidled up into his nose.  “Oh shit.  Tell me I don’t smell beans!  That is my jam!”
  • Monkey poked his head out of the open window.  “Anansi!  I should have known you’d follow the smell of beans.  You want to come have some beans with us?  They’ll be ready soon.  And I could use some help, truth be told.”  “I would love to Father Monkey, but I’m actually on my way to run some errands.  I do love me some beans though.  I’ll tell you what.  I’ll spin a web and tie one end to my leg.  I’ll tie the other end to your pot, and when food’s ready, you can give it a tug and let me know.  I’ll finish up my errands and come running!”
  • Monkey cast a suspicious eye at the silk trailing away from Anansi’s leg already, but said nothing.  “Alright, buddy.  I guess I can do that, on top of everything else.”  Ignoring the resigned tone of long suffering in his friend’s voice, Anansi spun his web and hurried off.
  • Anansi continued to wander, and soon came to the home of his friend Hog.  Unsurprisingly, he could smell delicious smells leaking out of the house here too.  “Sweet potatoes, if I’m not mistaken.”  He sniffed again.  “With honey.  Am I right, Hog?”  “As always, Anansi.  You always did have a nose for food.  I’m guessing you’ll be joining us?”  Again, Anansi went through his whole spiel about having shit to do, and convinced his friend to tie yet another strand of silk to yet another leg to let him know when food was ready.  A few cell phones would really have simplified this shit.
  • Anansi continued to wander through town, stopping at friend’s houses, and convincing them to tie spider silk to their pots to let him know when food was ready.  Once he made his circuit, he’d have a fine feast off of everyone’s tables and not a penny spent.  By the time he reached the river, he had silk tied to all eight legs.  He pulled up a log and sat down, rubbing his hands together.  “This is a fantastic idea.  I don’t know why I never tried this before.  All of the food and none of the chores.”
  • Just then, he felt a tug on one leg.  “Ah ha.  That’s Rabbit’s strand.  The greens must be ready.”  He stood to head that way, when he felt a second tug.  Then a third.  “Oh fuck.”  He stumbled and fell, pulled in three directions at once.  “I may have made a miscalculation here.  Oh son of a bitch!”  He screamed as a fourth strand took up its slack.  A fifth.  A sixth.  A seventh.  Then all eight legs were being yanked in different direction.
  • “Maybe I shouldn’t have tried to duck out of chores.  I think I pissed everyone off a little, because they’re pulling a little harder than a tug.  This shit hurts.”  He began to wriggle and writhe, scrambling towards the river to try and wash off the sticky web from his legs.  He could feel his legs being pulled and stretched in different directions, and he was desperate for it to stop.
  • Untangling himself was agonizingly slow, but he finally did.  He pulled himself painfully to the river bank.  He lay gasping on the rocks, massaging the legs which had all been stretched frighteningly long and thin.  To this day, Anansi the spider has eight long, thin legs.  And the worst part?  He never did get any food that night.
  • And with Anansi bald, hiding, and hungry, it’s time for Gods and Monsters.  This is a segment where I get into a little more detail about the personalities and history of one of the gods or monsters from this week’s pantheon that was not discussed in the main story.  This week’s monster is the Grootslang.
  • The name is an Afrikaans word that means great snake, and that’s more or less what it is.  Great is, however, an understatement.  The thing is described as being somewhere between a massive python and an elephant.  Eyewitness accounts put the massive creature at anywhere up to 60ft long and supposedly eats elephants by luring them into its cave.  In some accounts, it has massive gems in its eye sockets instead of eyes.  In Benin, it is said to be a huge elephant like creature with a serpent’s tail.
  • Legend has it that the first Grootslang was a mistake.  The gods had just started creating things, and made a rookie whoopsy-daisy.  Realizing that this creature was far too dangerous to exist, having given it size, strength, and cunning, the gods captured them and separated the Grootslangs into two creatures: the python and the elephant.  One managed to escape, though, and all future Grootslangs are descended from that sneaky motherfucker.
  • The most famous Grootslang lives in the richtersveld of South Africa, a mountainous desert landscape, which is incredibly inhospitable.   It is supposed to be a spirit snake whose job is to guard the fabulous treasure in the cavern there, known as the Bottomless Pit or the Wonder Hole from treasure hunters (which just sounds dirty).   They are vicious and powerful, but they covet gems above all else, so if you get cornered by one, I hope you have some major fucking bling.  If you do, legends say you can buy your freedom that way.
  • In 1917, a rich English businessman named Peter Grayson heard the legends of the treasure cave of the richtersveld and decided that no giant snake creature was going to stand between him and coming home a very rich man.  The expedition was snakebit from the beginning.  In spite of spending a long time studying maps, languages, and local customs, people kept dying.  The first night, a lion rampaged through camp, killing one person and grievously wounding a second.  A few days later, a third man was bit by a venomous something (bug or snake, no one is sure) and died.  A fourth man fell ill and begged to be taken back to town and away from this cursed motherfucker.
  • The two remaining members of the expedition both volunteered to take the sick man back, which left an obsessed Grayson to go it alone, boasting “I can do this on my own” (and possibly adding under his breath “you bunch of lily-livered cowards!”).  That was the last anyone ever saw of him.  A rescue party came out a week later, sent by the three men who had returned last, but they found the camp deserted with no sign of Peter Grayson.  Local legend has it that it was the Grootslang that did him in.  Grayson found the cavern, but couldn’t get back out alive.
  • A tough prospector named Travis is the only person to have explored the Grootslang’s cave and survived.  In one account, he had to crawl out of the pit in complete darkness after dropping his flashlight.  Another says that while he was crawling, he met the Grootslang, and survived by playing dead until the monster decided he wasn’t worth his goddamned time and moved on.  There are definitely plenty of perfectly normal death traps in the harsh environment of the richtersveld, so you don’t need a giant snake monster to explain the deaths, but the Grootslang is definitely a better story than dehydration.
  • That’s it for this episode of Myth Your Teacher Hated.  Keep up with new episodes on our Facebook page, on iTunes, on Stitcher or on TuneIn, or you can follow us on Twitter as @HardcoreMyth and on Instagram as Myths Your Teacher Hated Pod.  You can also find news and episodes on our website at myths your teacher hated dot com.  I want to thank Grok Stock and Barrel for the review on iTunes and the feedback on Reddit.  These reviews really help increase the show’s standing and let more people know it exists.  If you have any questions, any gods or monsters you’d want to learn about, or any ideas for future stories that you’d like to hear, feel free to drop me a line.  I’m trying to pull as much material from as many different cultures as possible, but there are all sorts of stories I’ve never heard, so suggestions are appreciated.  The theme music is by Tiny Cheese Puff, whom you can find on fiverr.com.
  • Next time, we’ll be making our first foray into the magical world of 1001 Arabian nights.  Some of these stories are incredibly famous, but I’ll be telling one that’s less well known.  You’ll see why genies come in bottles, that robots can’t be trusted, and that it’s hard to tell time on the bottom of the ocean.  Then, in Gods and Monsters, it’s the disgusting, corpse-eating monster than can be killed and resurrected the same way.  That’s all for now.  Thanks for listening.