Long ago, Tiger ruled the countryside because he was the strongest of all the animals. Everybody did what Tiger said to do. Everything was called whatever Tiger wanted to name it. So many things were named Tiger--tiger moth, tiger lily, and tiger stories.
Anansi, the spider, was the weakest creature in the whole countryside. He had to tiptoe around on his eight, hairy legs, walking so quietly around Tiger. Anansi thought of what Tiger had and what he, Anansi, had. Anansi did not think that Tiger should have everything.
One night, when the stories were being told--the Tiger Stories--Anansi thought of what he wanted from Tiger. Anansi wanted all the stories to be named after him--Spider Stories. When it grew late, Anansi crept up closer and closer to Tiger.
"Tiger, oh Tiger," began Anansi in his whispering voice. "I would like something of yours. I want the stories to be named after me--Spider Stories."
All the other animals started to laugh. The green parrot squawked, the owl hooted, and the bullfrog croaked. Then there was a sudden, silent moment as they all waited to hear what Tiger would say.
"Very well, have your wish, have your wish," growled Tiger.
All the animals were shocked and surprised. How could Tiger give feeble Anansi his stories so easily? But Tiger was loudly clearing his throat to say more to Anansi.
"First," said Tiger, gruffly. "You must do me two favors. Two favors from the weakest counts for one favor from the strongest, does it not?"
"I have always wanted my own hive of bees for honey," said Tiger, hungrily. "You must bring me a large gourd filled with live, buzzing bees. That is the first favor."
"And for the second favor," roared Tiger. "You must bring me Mr. Snake alive--Mr. Snake who lives by the river near the grove of bamboo trees. I have often wanted to sit and talk to Mr. Snake, since I have heard he knows many things. But he never comes close to me."
Tiger jumped up from his place of honor and soon disappeared quietly into the night. As Tiger left, the other animals began to twitter and then laugh. How could little, weak Anansi, the spider, capture all of those bees without getting stung? And how would he bring back Mr. Snake, long, long, Mr. Snake, alive?
Spider did not hear them, no. He went to his house that night thinking of a way he could, first, get the gourd of bees for Tiger.
The next morning, Anansi woke up very early to find a large, empty gourd. After he did, he went walking through the woods.
Iguana asked Anansi why he was carrying an empty gourd. Centipede asked him why he was whispering to himself. And when Queen Bee flew by, she, too, became curious.
Anansi answered, "Queen Bee, I made a bet with Tiger, but I am going to lose the bet. Tiger bet with me that I could not tell him how many bees an empty gourd can hold. Queen Bee, what can I tell him?”
"There is only one way," said Queen Bee. "You have to count us while we fly inside. Then when the gourd is full we will fly out. That way you will win the bet with Tiger."
"That will do it, yes, it will!" said Anansi.
He held up the opening of the gourd to the sunlight so that the bees could see their way it. Then the Queen Bee gave the word and all the bees in her hive, filled with honey, flew into the gourd. While they flew in, Anansi counted each one.
When the last bee flew in, Anansi corked up the opening and hurried off to Tiger. There he found Tiger at the clearing, yawning.
"Look, Tiger!" cried Anansi in his high-pitched voice. "Here is your gourd of living bees filled with honey. Do you hear them buzzing? You have your own hive of honey bees, Tiger!"
Tiger stared, without believing what he saw and heard.
"Is this enough, Tiger? Or do you still want Mr. Snake?" asked Anansi, proudly.
"What! Of course I want Mr. Snake. The strongest has set the weakest two tasks. And you have only done one. Bring me Mr. Snake-- tomorrow," growled Tiger.
Before dawn the next morning, Anansi went down to the river where snake lived. He soon passed Mr. Snake's hole. He woke up Snake, who hissed at him.
"What are you doing here so early, Anansi? I might as well eat you for waking me up," said Mr. Snake.
"Oh, Snake, I am sorry, I am sorry. I came to win a bet with Tiger. I told Tiger that you are the longest animal in the world--longer than the tallest bamboo tree. He says that you are shorter than the tallest bamboo tree."
"Of course, I am longer than that bamboo tree. Can't you see that?" hissed Snake loudly.
"Now that the sun is up, you look very, very long. But the bamboo tree looks just a little bit longer. I cannot be sure. I have lost my bet."
"What are you saying, Anansi? You don't know what you are saying. I am much, much longer than that tree. Cut the tree down and put it beside me and I will show you. You have won your bet."
Anansi cut down the tallest tree and trimmed its branches off. He placed the tree on the ground next to the snake. Then he tied Snake's tail to the end of the tree. But the tree was longer.
"Stretch, Snake!" called out Anansi. "I want to win my bet."
Snake was stretching his long body longer and longer. But still the tree was longer.
Anansi said, "I will tie you at the middle and you can stretch even more."
But, at that moment, Anansi tied Snake's head to the bamboo tree. All the animals who were watching fell silent. Mr. Snake was caught, and ready to be carried to Tiger.
From then on all stories have been called "Spider Stories."