Kanu Above and Kanu Below


                                                                                  A Cumulative story from Limba, West Africa


                            Kanu Above and Kanu Below were both great chiefs.


                        Kanu Above was known to be cruel and harsh and lived in the skies. Kanu Below was known to be fair and

                        good. He lived on the Earth with his beautiful daughter. He loved her very much.


But one day Kanu Above said, “I want her to come and live with me.” So Kanu Above took her up to

Sky Country, while Kanu Below sat alone. He wept for his missing daughter and began to neglect his

chiefly duties.


One day his under-chief came to Kanu Below and said, “I must speak with you. Someone  has come into

our village who is making trouble. His name is Spider, and he is weaving sticky webs over everyone’s

doorways. People are tripping and hurting themselves. What shall we do?”


Kanu Below said, “Send Spider to me.” Spider came and listened as Kanu Below explained why he should

not spin harmful webs across people’s doorways. Then Kanu Below went back to his people and said,

“We will keep Spider among us for a while. Yes, he has caused some difficulties, but he also has much

good in him.”

And it was so.


Two days later, Kanu Below was approached by another under-chief, saying, “Oh, Kanu, now another

stranger has entered our village. His name is Rat, and he is sneaking into our people’s houses and stealing

rice, meat, and koala nuts.”


Again Kanu Below asked that the stranger be brought to him. “Rat, you cannot go into people’s houses and

take things that not yours.” And again, Kanu Below spoke to his people, explaining that Rat had done some

terrible things but he had much good in him and they would keep him in their village.

And it was so.


Before he knew it, Kanu Below was once more approached by a troubled under-chief.“Kanu Below, we

have yet a third stranger who has entered our village. This time his name is Anteater, and he is digging up

everybody’s backyards. People are falling into the holes and breaking their legs. This must not go on!”


“Tell Anteater to come to see me.” Kanu explained to Anteater that he must not dig holes, because people

were falling into them. Then he spoke to his people saying, “I think we should keep Anteater in our village.

Yes, he has caused some trouble, but he also has much good in him.”

And it was so.


Time passed, and one day the under-chief approached Kanu Below and said, “Kanu, another stranger has

entered our village. His name is Fly, and he is biting and stinging people on their necks and on their behinds.

Whatever shall we do?”


“Tell Fly to come to see me.” Again Kanu explained how his people must not be bitten. Then he said to his

chiefs, “It is true that Fly has hurt many people, but he has much good in him as well. I think he should stay

in our village.”

And it was so.


Many days passed, and Kanu Below was still very sad and spent most of the day weeping for his missing

daughter. One day he called his people together and said, “If only someone could climb up into the sky and

speak to Kanu Above about my daughter. Perhaps he would listen and return her to me.”


Most people were afraid of Kanu Above because he was so powerful. So no one volunteered to go.


Then Spider, in a little voice said, “Kanu Below, I will go for you. I will spin a web up, up into the sky.”


Then other three voices joined Spider’s and said, “You have treated us well. We would like to help, too.”


So it was that Spider spun his web and fastened it onto a cloud. Spider, Rat, Anteater, and Fly climbed it

and began walking around Sky Country, calling for Kanu Above. “We come from Kanu Below who misses

 his daughter very much. Can you please return her to him?”


Kanu Above heard them and approached, glaring at them. “Very well, come and sit down and we shall

have some food.” He whispered to one of the women, and Fly decided to follow her to the kitchen.


When the food was served, Fly buzzed to his friends, “Do not eat the meat! It has been poisoned.”


                        So Rat, Anteater, and Spider said, “Thank you, Sir. But we do not eat meat in our country.”  Instead they

                        politely nibbled from their bowls of rice and palm oil sauce.


Soon it was time to go to bed. They had no sooner entered their sleeping quarters when they heard doors

and windows being locked from the outside. Days went by, and they had nothing to eat or drink. Finally,

Rat said, “This is a job for me,” and began gnawing through  the wood. Then he went to various houses

and stole rice and nuts and meat and fed his friends.


Kanu’s men saw that they were still alive. They brought brush to set fire to the house. Anteater said,

“Here is a job for me.” Anteater began to dig. Faster and faster he dug. Finally he dug a hole right under

the wall. The four friends escaped.


Kanu Above said to himself, These creatures are very clever!


He explained to them: “I will return the child if you can pick her out from all the other children here.”


Fly buzzed into the dressing room and noticed one girl who received no help from the others. She had to

braid her own hair and put on her own beads, bracelets, and ankle jewelry.


Fly flew back to his friends and cautioned them, “The girls will all be dressed alike, but watch which

one jumps. That is our friend’s daughter.” Fly buzzed over all the girls and, spotting the one he knew to be

 the “outsider,” he bit her. Whoop! She immediately jumped.


The four friends grabbed her and said, “This is the one! We choose her!”


Kanu Above said, “You are very clever, indeed. Take the girl, and here are four koala nuts for her father,

 to show my admiration for the four of you.”


So the four friends climbed back down with their precious cargo and presented the happy girl to her father,

 along with the four koala nuts.


 “See this,” Kanu Below said to his people. “You wanted to banish these four from our village, but it is they

 who have returned my daughter to me. I am so grateful to them that I have decided they will be my

under-chiefs from now on.”


                                                            And it was so.