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Author of the Entry:
Divine CheNeba, University of Yaounde 1, firstname.lastname@example.org
Peer-reviewer of the Entry:
Daniel A. Nkemleke, University of Yaounde 1, email@example.com
Eleanor A. Dasi, University of Yaounde 1, firstname.lastname@example.org
Susan Deacy, University of Roehampton, email@example.com
Veronique Mengue (Storyteller)
Age of narrator: 58 (in 2018)
Social status: Commoner
Language of narration: Ewondo
Bio prepared by Divine Che Neba, University of Yaoundé 1, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Beti people of Cameroon are mainly located in the Centre and Southern Regions of Cameroon. A mythic legend among the Beti reports that the Beti came from the other side of the River Sanaga. They finally crossed the river at the end of the eighteenth century on the back of a snake called Ngan-Medza. They fled Ousman dan Fodio, a Muslim leader from the region of Adamawa in the north of the country, who decided to Islamise all Animist peoples in Cameroon at the time. The Beti are descendants of the Bantu. They attached a lot of evil to women because they believed that evil (Evu) entered their community through the woman. The Beti society, like most African societies, is patriarchal.
A very long time ago, there was a spider that went to converse with Zobe (the supreme deity in Beti land also called Zambe/Zamba/Zama). In the course of their conversation, the spider told him “God, humans hate you. They blame you for all their misfortunes.” Zobe replied, “It is incredible! I created men and, of course, the world. So how can they hate me?” Then, the spider told him: “Since you do not believe, follow me”. Both started moving towards the earth. They reached a certain swamp, and the spider saw a blind man crossing a river in an awkward manner and asked him: “Why do you cross the river in that awkward manner?” the man replied: “It’s because I’m blind.” “Who made you blind”, the spider pressed on and the blind man said: “It was God’s will.” As they continued walking, they met a woman moving on her buttocks. The spider asked her: “Why are you walking with your buttocks on the ground and your hands?” The woman said: “I’m a cripple, and it is God’s will.” Zobe felt uncomfortable and decided to abandon the spider and other inhabitants of the world to live eternally in the sky. Then, he punished the spider to persistently spin its web as a means of accessing the sky to no avail.
The spider has been noted in most world mythologies as being wise and at the same time cunning (trickster). The Ashantis of Ghana view it as an animal that glories in the cunning procurement of his wit by tricking other animals in order to hand them over to the sky God, Nyan-konpon. Other beliefs in Africa related to the spider are that it played a great role in the creation of the sun and the introduction of agricultural skills in the world. Other spiders and tricksters related myths among Africans, the Caribbeans, and African Americans include Anansi, Eshu-Elegbara, and myths about the rabbit among the Bantus. Most of the mythological figures, symbolised by the trickster spider and other related animals are capable of exposing the ambivalent relationship, nature and shortcomings of Gods and humanity. For example, the series of questions to the sky God by the spider in the myth also proves that even the Gods are to blame for humanity’s predicaments. The spider, in its adventures, also makes a mockery of God, especially in his interrogation exercise.
Gates Jr., Henry Louis, The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of African American Literary Criticism, New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.
Miller, N. K., “Arachnologies: The Woman, the Text, and the Critic” in Miller, N. K., ed., The Poetics of Gender, New York: Columbia University Press, 1986, 270-295.
Radin, Paul and Sweeney, James Johnson, eds., African Folktales and Sculpture, NewYork: Pantheon/Bollingen Foundation,1952.
Researcher: Divine Che Neba
Assistant researcher: Ezimbi Jean Yannick
Method of data collection: Tape recording and note taking