My goodness, as I live and breathe, one of my favorite bored gods of all time is Anansi! He's all puffed up with pride these days, because through one medium or another, Neil Gaiman has made Him a star again.
Anansi is a flirt and a trickster, the kind of critter that with a mere wink can persuade you to part with your last piece of pecan pie. He pilfers the pretzels and leaves the lettuce. He snickers when you stub your toe, principally because He's the one who pushed the ottoman just so and made you do it.
Anansi preys upon people's weaknesses and leads them to downfall. He enjoys doing it ... sort of a matter of just desserts.
And speaking of desserts, that must be why He's here. I'm going to make a strawberry pie. How did He know?
Anne: Anansi, my friend, while I'm making this pie, will You tell me a story?
Anansi: With pleasure, Anne. Better make two pies. You might get company...
Anansi and the Jackal
Once upon a time, there was a jackal who was dissatisfied with his life. He had plenty to eat, and he was popular and well-liked in his circle, but he craved more attention and admiration.
Jackal went to Anansi and asked the Spider to make him more famous ... all-powerful over the rest of the animals on the savanna, in fact.
"I will do this,"Anansi said, "If you first give up one of your possessions. Think about it and get back to me."
Jackal thought about it. He was pretty good-looking, in a paunchy, overripe way. He didn't want to give that up. It was already getting harder to attract lady jackals! He was really good at manipulating other animals (particularly those who weren't as smart as they ought to be). Jackal couldn't imagine being powerful without being able to manipulate, so he didn't want to give that up, either. That left him with two possessions: the ability to lie, and a perfect memory. It seemed pretty clear that a good memory wasn't really important if you had lots of power, so Jackal returned to Anansi.
"You can have my memory," he said.
"Done!" Anansi said.
And Jackal was happy, because he felt just the same.
And the animals heaped him with praise and set him in the best seat and gave him the ability to make decisions that would affect the whole savanna.
In his most manipulative and lying way, Jackal promised all the animals that he would make everything great for them. He promised every kind of animal exactly what they wanted. The lions would get more meat. The wildebeests would get more forage and eat it in perfect safety. The zebras would get to cross the rivers safely. And since nobody liked the hyenas, they would be rounded up and sent away.
Needless to say, the hyenas weren't happy. They went to Anansi and complained.
"Wait it out," Anansi said. So they did.
Not long after Jackal assumed power, the lions got hungry. The wildebeests were fat from eating so much forage, so the lions hunted and killed a few.
The other wildebeests went to find Jackal. "The lions hunted us! You said we would be safe!"
"Did I say that?" Jackal replied. "I don't remember."
"You said it," Elephant answered. "I remember everything."
Next thing you know, the zebras went to cross the river. The lions were waiting.
It wasn't pretty.
The other zebras went to Jackal and complained. Jackal said he couldn't recall the exact details of his deal with the zebras.
But once again, Elephant chimed in: "You promised the zebras they would be safe crossing the river."
Jackal was furious. "I'm tired of these elephants!" he shouted. "As of this minute, all elephants are fired!" He sent the elephants away, one and all.
As time passed, Jackal continued to rule, but all of the animals were sullen, if not outright contemptuous. This didn't sit well with Jackal, since he'd gone into the scheme for approval. So after a few months, he went back to Anansi.
"You didn't tell me the job of ruling the savanna would be so hard!" he told Anansi.
"You didn't ask me," the wily Spider replied.
"I didn't know I couldn't make both the lions and the wildebeest happy," Jackal whined.
"Jackal," Anansi said, "you have lived on the savanna all your life. Have you ever seen a time when lions and wildebeest got along, or when zebras could always cross the river safely?"
"I can't remember," Jackal said, feeling exceedingly sorry for himself.
"It's too bad your memory is so poor," Anansi said, clicking His legs together. "The elephants could have helped you with that, but you sent them away."
"All I wanted was universal admiration!" Jackal wailed. Then he got an idea. "Say, Anansi, could you just put things back the way they were ... as I recall, if I'm right ... so I at least have a little band of followers? The rest of them, lions, zebras, one and all, can go rot."
"I can do that for you," Anansi said. "But you'll have to give me another possession."
Jackal couldn't remember his possessions at all. So he said, "Go ahead and just take one. Whichever one you want."
Next thing he knew, Jackal found himself on the savanna with the other jackals he used to hang out with. They all burst into gales of laughter. "Look at you!" they howled. "You are one old, butt-ugly Jackal!"
Jackal ran to the watering hole and looked into the water. At that moment, Anansi gave him his memory back.
It wasn't pretty.
In the end, the elephants and the hyenas returned to the savanna, and everything fell into its old, natural routine. Except for poor old, ugly, Jackal, who could not buy a best friend no matter how much he lied, manipulated, or remembered the past.
Anne: Wow, Anansi, you are amazing! Here, have both pies! And that dusty corner of my attic? It's all yours, whenever you want a bunk.
Anansi: Thanks, Anne, but I'm due back on set in a week. I'm a big star now.
Anne: Justly deserved, Anansi. Justly deserved.