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'The Perfect Partnership' | Circle Round 33

(Sabina Hahn for WBUR)
(Sabina Hahn for WBUR)

Have you ever been on a team?

Maybe you’ve played team sports or you’ve partnered with kids in your class on a project?

Being a good teammate… or partner… is all about give and take. But in today’s story, we’ll meet a mischievous fellow who’s far more interested… in the taking.

Today, our story is called “The Perfect Partnership.” Versions of this folktale come from Ghana, in West Africa where you’ll often hear stories about the trickster, Anansi.

Some really great people came together to bring you our tale, including two public-radio favorites: Joshua Johnson and Sam Sanders. Joshua hosts 1-A, the daily talk show from NPR and WAMU Sam hosts NPR’s weekly podcast, It’s Been a Minute. This week’s story, “The Perfect Partnership,” was adapted by Rebecca Sheir and edited by Circle Round’s executive producer, Jessica Alpert. Original music and sound design is by Eric Shimelonis. Our artist is Sabina Hahn.

ADULTS! Print THIS OUT so everyone can color while listening. We’re also keeping an album so share your picture on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest, and tag it with #CircleRound. We'd love to see it! To access all the coloring pages for past episodes click HERE. Our resident artist is Sabina Hahn and you can learn more about her HERE.

Things To Think About After Listening

Think about a time when you were a good partner. Maybe you helped a friend solve a crossword puzzle… or you helped a grown-up do chores around the house!

Find someone you like to have fun with — a family member, a friend — and tell him or her what you did to be a team player… and how it made you and your partner feel.

Musical Spotlight

(Courtesy of Eric Shimelonis)
(Courtesy of Eric Shimelonis)

Similar in form to a xylophone, the marimba has thick wood keys. It’s usually played with soft mallets, and each hit produces a quick, bright, almost playful sound. The marimba originated in Africa, but is now a standard instrument in the percussion section of orchestras and jazz ensembles. Because of the its connection to the African continent — and because its playful sound echoes the playful trickiness of Anansi and the Fisherman trickiness — we felt the marimba was the right instrument for this episode.

Story Transcript

NARRATOR: It was the height of fishing season, and Anansi had a hankering… for fresh fish.

ANANSI: Mmmm. I sure could go for some nice, flaky tilapia. Or tuna! Yeah... Tuna would be good.

NARRATOR: But here’s the thing about eating fresh fish: you have to catch them first. And Anansi… wasn’t big on hard work.

ANANSI: Let’s see… First I’d have to build some traps… then set them in the water… then check them for fish… then pull in the catch… Ugh! Just thinking about all that hard work makes me sleepy!

NARRATOR: Anansi may not have been a hard worker… but he was a quick thinker. His specialty was being clever… and outwitting people who weren’t as bright as he was.

ANANSI: A-ha! I know what I’ll do! I’ll find myself a partner! Someone I can trick into doing all the work. Then I’ll take all the fish, and eat it myself! (laughs)

NARRATOR: Anansi walked along the water’s edge, searching for the perfect partner. He spotted a fisherman carrying a large tuna. Its silver scales glistened in the sunlight. Anansi felt his mouth water.

ANANSI: Hello there, friend! Tell me: where did you get that beautiful tuna fish?

NARRATOR: The fisherman grinned.

FISHERMAN: What, this tuna here? I caught it today, right here in these waters!

ANANSI: Did you now?


ANANSI: Tell me…

NARRATOR: Anansi flashed his warmest smile.

ANANSI: … how would you feel about... having a partner?

FISHERMAN: A fishing partner?


NARRATOR: The fisherman thought for a moment. Then he slipped the tuna fish into his basket, extended his arm, and shook Anansi’s hand.

FISHERMAN: You have yourself a deal… partner! Meet me bright and early tomorrow morning, and we’ll get started.

NARRATOR: The next day… just as the sun was beginning to rise… Anansi dragged himself out of bed to meet the fisherman.

ANANSI: Ugh. I haven’t woken up this early since… since… well, since never! But it’ll be worth it once I trick the fisherman into catching all my fish!

NARRATOR: When Anansi reached the water, the fisherman was already there waiting. In one hand, he held a large knife.

FISHERMAN: Good morning, partner! I can hardly wait to get going!

ANANSI: So…? What do we do first?

FISHERMAN: Well, we can’t catch a fish without a trap, right? So I’ll go into the forest, cut down some palm branches, and build us a set of traps.

NARRATOR: Anansi couldn’t help but notice the fisherman said “I”... not “we.”

ANANSI: (confused) But while you’re cutting down branches and building traps, what am I supposed to do?

FISHERMAN: I’m glad you asked! We’re partners, right? So, we’ll split the chores. While I’m doing all the hard work, you’re the one who’ll get weary and exhausted. Oh - and it’s a super-steamy day, so you’ll do all my sweating for me, too.

NARRATOR: Now, remember: Anansi was not big on hard work. Partly because he disliked feeling weary and exhausted… not to mention sweaty.

ANANSI: Wait a second! Why should I be the one to feel pooped? And sticky? (beat) Why don’t I cut the palm branches, and you get tired and hot?

NARRATOR: The fisherman smiled and held out the knife.

FISHERMAN: As you wish… partner.

NARRATOR: Then he plopped down in the shade of a palm tree.

Anansi took the knife and began scrambling through the trees and cutting down branches, while the fisherman panted and yawned on the ground.

FISHERMAN: (ad lib panting/yawning sounds)

ANANSI: Ha! Look at the fisherman, all worn-out over there. It’s a good thing I’m gathering these palm branches. Otherwise, I’d be an absolute mess, just like him!

NARRATOR: After an hour of chopping and hacking, Anansi brought his palm branches over to the fisherman. The fisherman looked as if he would fall asleep any minute.

FISHERMAN: (feigning exhaustion) Wow! That sure is a big pile of branches, Anansi! Carrying it to the water will be back-breaking work. (beat) But, we’re partners, right? So I’ll bring the branches to the shore, while you get a sore back.

NARRATOR: Now, if you think Anansi disliked hard work because it makes you tired and sweaty, well... he definitely wasn’t a big fan of aches and pains, either!

ANANSI: Wait, wait, wait! I don’t want my back hurting! I will carry the branches, and you will get the sore back.

NARRATOR: The fisherman… smiled.

FISHERMAN: As you wish… partner.

NARRATOR: Anansi scooped up the palm branches and trekked over to the water. The fisherman followed behind, clutching his back and moaning.

FISHERMAN: (ad lib moaning/groaning sounds)

(play under Anansi’s line that follows)

ANANSI: Ha! This partnership is turning out even better than I’d imagined. First the fisherman gets all zonked out... then he nearly breaks his back. Meanwhile, I get all the easy jobs! (beat) You are winning, Anansi. Winning!

NARRATOR: As soon as Anansi reached the shore and dropped the palm branches on the ground, the fisherman collapsed in a heap.

FISHERMAN: (feigning exhaustion/pain) Nicely done, Anansi. Now, the next step is to weave the palm branches in to fish traps. I’ll show you how; you just go over, under, over, under… It’s pretty intricate work, and you’ll probably get a stiff neck… and even stiffer fingers! (beat) But, we’re partners, right? So I’ll weave the traps while your neck and fingers get sore.

NARRATOR: Well, knowing what you know about Anansi… when he heard the fisherman’s newest offer, you can probably guess his reaction.

ANANSI: No way! No stiff neck and fingers for me! Let’s make that your job. I will weave the traps.

NARRATOR: The fisherman stopped clutching his back... and smiled.

FISHERMAN: As you wish… partner.

NARRATOR: Anansi sat on the ground and began weaving the palm branches: over, under, over, under. While Anansi worked, the fisherman grabbed his neck and clenched his fingers, groaning woefully.

FISHERMAN: (ad lib groaning sounds)

(play under Anansi’s line that follows)

ANANSI: It’s official: I am a genius. Look how beautifully my plan is playing out! I’m on my way to getting fresh fish, and the fisherman is more miserable than ever!

NARRATOR: When Anansi was done weaving the traps, the fisherman walked over, flexing his fingers and massaging his neck.

FISHERMAN: (feigning stiff neck/fingers) These traps are beautiful, Anansi! Especially for a beginner! Now, I just need to set them.

NARRATOR: The fisherman picked up the traps and was about to take them to the water when Anansi stopped him.

ANANSI: Wait! If you set the traps, what do I have to do?

NARRATOR: The fisherman arched his eyebrows.

FISHERMAN: Well, there are a lot of fish in those waters... and many of them like to bite. (beat) But, we’re partners, right? So while I set the traps, you’ll feel the sting of the fish bites!

NARRATOR: Anansi began to tremble.

ANANSI: Fish bites? Nuh-uh! I’ll set the traps, and if a fish bites me, you will feel the sting!

NARRATOR: Anansi grabbed the traps from the fisherman. As he bolted toward the water, the fisherman smiled.

FISHERMAN: As you wish… partner.

NARRATOR: Once Anansi was done setting the traps… and he emerged from the water unbitten… he and the fisherman agreed to meet the next morning and see what they’d caught.

Anansi watched the fisherman limp away. The poor guy was rubbing his back, neck and fingers and whimpering softly.

FISHERMAN: (ad lib quiet whimpers)

ANANSI: You know, I almost feel sorry for the fisherman! (beat) But hey, we’re partners, right? And tomorrow, this partner is going to get all of the fish! (laughs gleefully)

[theme music in]

NARRATOR: Will Anansi succeed in tricking the fisherman? We’ll find out… after a quick break.

[theme music out]


NARRATOR: Welcome back to Circle Round. I’m Rebecca Sheir. Today our story is called “The Perfect Partnership.”

[theme music out]

When we left off, trickster Anansi had forged a partnership with a fisherman. Anansi hoped to fool the fisherman so that he could take home all the fish they caught.

So far, Anansi thought he was getting the better end of the deal. He cut down palm branches while the fisherman got tired… he wove and carried fish traps while the fisherman got sore… then he set the traps in the water, so that if he got bitten by a fish, the fisherman would feel the sting.

When Anansi and the fisherman met up the next day, long before breakfast, they found two fish flapping and flopping inside the traps.

FISHERMAN: Well, partner, we did magnificently well. Look at this! Two fish!

NARRATOR: Anansi’s stomach rumbled.

ANANSI: Yes, two fish! Both fresh and plump as can be!

FISHERMAN: Now, I know what you’re thinking.

ANANSI: You do?

FISHERMAN: Yes! You’re thinking that… as partners… we ought to divide these two fish between us. But what we have is a perfect partnership. So I insist you take these two fish for yourself, and tomorrow… when we no doubt catch four fish… I will take the catch.

NARRATOR: Anansi quickly did the math. He would get just two fish, while the fisherman got four...?

ANANSI: Nonsense, partner! Yesterday was such an exhausting, backbreaking day for you. The least I can do is let you take these two fish, and tomorrow I will take the four.

NARRATOR: The fisherman tried protesting, but Anansi insisted.

FISHERMAN: Alright, then. Whatever you wish… partner.

NARRATOR: And the fisherman ate the two fish himself.

The next day… just as the fisherman had predicted… the traps contained four fish!

FISHERMAN: Alright, Anansi. I promised you yesterday, and I am a man true to my word. These four fish… are yours. I will take tomorrow’s fish, whatever the catch. And at the rate we’re going, we’re bound to get eight!

NARRATOR: Having skipped out on yesterday’s fish, Anansi was getting hungry. But why settle on just four fish when he could have eight?

ANANSI: You know what, partner? Why don’t you take the four fish we’ve caught today, and I’ll take what we catch tomorrow.

NARRATOR: Once again, the fisherman tried to argue, but Anansi stood firm.

FISHERMAN: Okay, then. Whatever you wish… partner.

NARRATOR: And, once again, he ate all four fish himself.

The next morning, the fisherman was right again: eight fish were flapping and flopping around in the traps! Only, by now, the traps were starting to fall apart. The weaving was coming undone, and the branches were getting slimy and slippery.

The fisherman took hold of the traps and ran his finger over a slick edge.

FISHERMAN: Anansi, today’s catch was magnificent: eight beautiful fish! These traps, though… instead of using them another day, I think we should sell them at the marketplace. Your weaving is so magnificent, I bet they could fetch an amazing price! (beat) What do you say I take the fish traps to sell, and you take the eight fish, to do with as you like? Eat them, sell them, whatever!

NARRATOR: By now, Anansi was ravenous. But when he heard the fisherman say the traps “could fetch an amazing price”... he forgot all about his belly, and thought more about his wallet.

ANANSI: Well, it’s like you say: I did weave those traps myself, so why don’t you take the eight fish… and I’ll sell the traps and collect the cash?

NARRATOR: The fisherman smiled.

FISHERMAN: Whatever you wish… partner.

NARRATOR: The fisherman collected his eight fish… Anansi hoisted up his slimy, disintegrating traps… and the two men headed to the marketplace.

In no time at all, the fisherman had sold all of his fish. Anansi, on the other hand, well... try as he might to get someone to buy his traps…

ANANSI: Fish traps! Get your fish traps here!

NARRATOR: … all he got were chuckles and odd stares.

Within hours, everyone in town had heard about Anansi. Soon, he was surrounded by hundreds of people, all of them pointing at his crumbling traps and laughing their heads off.

Anansi was so humiliated, he threw the traps to the ground and dashed out of the marketplace. He ran straight into the fisherman, who had witnessed the entire thing.

FISHERMAN: Well, hey there, partner!

NARRATOR: Anansi hung his head.


FISHERMAN: I hope you learned an important lesson, Anansi.

ANANSI: I did...

FISHERMAN: And maybe you’ll think twice before trying to trick someone again?

ANANSI: Maybe...

NARRATOR: Then Anansi lifted his head, and looked at the fisherman with twinkling eyes.

ANANSI: But hey - what kind of partner are you, anyway? When everybody was laughing and pointing just now, the least you could have done was gotten embarrassed for me!

ANANSI / FISHERMAN: (ad lib laughing)

NARRATOR: Anansi and the fisherman laughed.

But, thanks to their “perfect partnership,” Anansi had indeed learned an important lesson. A few, actually.

He’d learned how to collect branches and weave fish traps.

He’d learned how to set the traps, and catch fish.

And… most important of all… he’d learned that when you try to make a fool of somebody else, you’re bound to make an even bigger fool... of yourself.

Rebecca Sheir Host, Circle Round
Rebecca Sheir is the host "Circle Round," WBUR's kids storytelling podcast.



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