Everyone knows that Anansi, the clever spider, is big trouble, and that's why when, one day, Anansi came walking their way, the hippopotamus dived under the water. The birds flew high into the sky, and the antelope loped into the forest, followed by the zebras and giraffe. Only Turtle remained at the river's edge; he was concentrating on a fish he'd just caught.
"Where did that come from?" Anansi asked. His mouth was watering.
Turtle frowned. "Ah, it's you," he said. "Well, naturally I caught it."
"Teach me how. I'll gladly pay you for your trouble."
Now everyone knows Anansi can't be trusted, but Turtle put his mind to work. Everyone thinks Turtle is slow, but remember that he always beats Hare in their race. Turtle knew he could outsmart Anansi. "Very well," he said. "The first thing we must do is make a net."
Anansi had no interest in working for food, but he longed to eat fish, so he nodded. "A net, of course," he said.
"Now," Turtle said, "whenever I weave a new net, I get terribly tired, but a partnership is grand. With the two of us, one of us can work while the other gets tired."
"I don't want to get tired," Anansi cried. The thought alarmed him.
Turtle shrugged. "Fine, then you will weave, and I'll get tired."
In his panic, Anansi agreed, and following Turtle's instructions, he began to weave. "Bigger," Turtle said, stifling his yawns. Anansi wove on, pulling threads this way and that.
"I'm not tired at all," Anansi said when the net was finished. Turtle smiled. "That's good," he said. "I'm exhausted. You'll have to do the next part on your own."
"On my own? Oh, I couldn't."
"Well, I'll do it then," Turtle said, "and since there are two of us, while I work, you can get tired."
"No!" Anansi cried. "I don't want to get tired. What else can I do?"
So Turtle explained that now Anansi must cast the net into the water. And that's what he did.
When he returned, he found Turtle fast asleep on the bank. "Wake up!" Anansi tapped Turtle's shell.
Slowly, tired Turtle emerged. "What?" he asked, rubbing his eyes.
"The net is in the river. What next?"
"Ah, Anansi, forgive me," Turtle said, "but I must go home and sleep. Let us meet tomorrow, and I will show you."
The next day at dawn, Turtle and Anansi met. "Now what?" Anansi asked.
"We must pull the net in from the river. And because there are two of us, we'll split the tasks. One of us will pull in the net, and the other will feel achy and tired."
"I'll pull in the net," said Anansi, who was terrified of pain. And before Turtle could say another word, Anansi paddled out to his net.
Now Anansi had a huge fish in his net, and he hurried back to shore to show Turtle. "Look what I've caught!" he said excitedly.
"Very good," said Turtle. "Now one of us will cook it, while the other gets tired."
"Fine," Anansi said quickly. "I'll cook!"
Anansi built a fire and watched over it for a long time while the fish fried.
Meanwhile Turtle napped.
After a while, Turtle woke to the enticing smell. "Mmmm," Turtle said. "Now whenever I eat, I get so full I can't imagine ever eating another bite."
"Marvelous!" said Anansi. "I want to get full."
"Very well, then," Turtle said. "We'll split the chores again. I'll eat and you can get full."
So Anansi, eager to feel full, lay upon the shore while Turtle dug into the fish. He ate and ate, and as he did he called to Anansi, "Are you full yet?"
Anansi shook his head. "I'll keep eating then," Turtle replied, and after some time, he had eaten up every last bit of the fish, though Anansi did not feel full.
When Anansi saw that there was nothing left for him, he heard his stomach rumbling with hunger, for he was starving. "You made me do the work for nothing!" he cried. "I'm going to report this injustice to Owl, who will be our judge."
"Very well," Turtle said. "I'll join you."
Anansi and Turtle set off to speak to Owl, the wisest and fairest of judges.
"I want justice," Anansi said to Owl. "I did all of Turtle's work, and he ate the fish I worked to catch."
Owl blinked twice. He knew Anansi well. This couldn't be; everyone knew Anansi never worked. "You must have gotten tired if you did all of Turtle's work," Owl said. "Why, you must be exhausted."
"Not at all!" Anansi said.
"I got tired," Turtle interrupted. "Not Anansi."
"That's right!" Anansi said. "We split the tasks in two."
"And why was Turtle tired?" asked Owl.
"I've just explained," Anansi said. "We split the work in two. I worked and Turtle got tired."
Turtle smiled up at Owl, who cocked his head to one side. "I'm afraid if Turtle got tired, he did all the work, not you, Anansi. Fair is fair."
Anansi was furious. "That isn't true," he said, but their judge had blinked his eyes closed. "Case closed," he hooted softly.
Turtle shook one of Anansi's hands. "Now you know how to weave," Turtle said, "and you'll never go hungry. So nothing has been wasted, and you're not tired!"
That was true, of course. And ever since that day, spiders have been weaving nets, and none has ever gone hungry, and the turtles know that some folks can outwit Anansi.