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Home :  African Legends :  Anansi and the Chameleon

Anansi and the Chameleon

As we have said, Anansi grew more and more conceited and arrogant.
In fact, God became so annoyed by Anansi's boast that he had "tricked" God in the episode of the sun and the moon that he was seriously considering removing his patronage from Anansi.
Anansi lived in the same village as the Chameleon. Anansi was rich and owned the finest fields in the area, while the Chameleon was poor and worked hard in his meager fields to make ends meet. However, one year rain fell on Chameleon's fields, which were now abundant with beautiful crops. No rain fell on Anansi's land and the crops dried up and dust blew everywhere. Anansi then resolved to take Chameleon's fields for himself. Anansi first tried to buy the fields, but Chameleon refused to sell. Anansi offered more and more in exchange, but Chameleon still held on to the land.
Early one morning, Anansi walked boldly down the road to Chameleon's fields and began harvesting the crops. When Chameleon saw this, he became very angry and chased Anansi away. When a chameleon walks, it leaves no tracks; it is virtually impossible to tell where a chameleon has been. Knowing this, Anansi took Chameleon to court to sue for possession of the fields. The chief asked Chameleon to prove that the fields were his; Chameleon had no proof to offer. Anansi, on the other hand, took the chief to Chameleon's fields, showing the many footprints on the road. These were Anansi's footprints, and the chief awarded the fields to Anansi right then and there.
Although the court decision gave the land to Anansi, God has a higher justice than that which the courts mete out. Chameleon dug a deep, deep hole and put a roof on it. From the outside, the hole looked tiny. But, in fact, Chameleon had dug a vast cavern under-ground. Then the Chameleon took some vines and some flies and made a cloak. When the sun hits flies, they shine a variety of colors, but they are still flies. Chameleon went down the road wearing this cloak of flies when he encountered Anansi. Anansi's first words to Chameleon were, "Hello, my friend. I hope that there are no hard feelings between us." Anansi saw what appeared to be a beautiful cloak and offered to buy it. Chameleon pretended to be magnanimous and told Anansi that the cloak would be his if only Anansi filled Chameleon's "little hole" with food. Anansi readily agreed, bragging that he would fill it twice over. Anansi then took the cloak to the chief who had acted as judge in the lawsuit and gave it to the chief as a gift. The chief admired the cloak and thanked him profusely. Anansi worked day and night to fill Chameleon's hole with food and still the hole was not full. He worked weeks and still the hole was not full. Anansi knew that Chameleon had tricked him. In the meantime, the chief was walking down the road wearing the cloak of flies. One day the vines broke and the flies buzzed off in every direction, leaving the chief naked and livid with anger at Anansi. The chief grew angrier with each step he took. When the chief found Anansi, he ordered him not only to return Chameleon's property but to give Chameleon the best of his own fields as well. As soon as Chameleon took possession of Anansi's best field, it rained on that field for the first time in months, and now Chameleon was the richest in village.


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