Think about a time someone showed you generosity.
Maybe a friend let you borrow a favorite toy. Or a family member gave you a gift, and it wasn’t even your birthday.
We’re about to meet a character who shows a whole lot of generosity… but he shows it to no one but himself!
Our story is called “Pulling Strings.” Versions of this story originally come from the Ashanti people of Ghana, and features a popular trickster we’ve met in past Circle Round stories, like The Perfect Partnership and The Magic Bowl: Anansi!
Voices in this episode include Evan Casey, Feodor Chin, Chelly Li, Shawn Richardz, Mike Smith, Marion Toro, Dawn Ursula, and Bashir Salahuddin. Comedian, writer, and actor Bashir Salahuddin stars in South Side; season three is set to premiere later this year on HBO Max. And be sure to watch for him in the blockbuster action film, Top Gun Maverick.
This episode was adapted for Circle Round by Rebecca Sheir. It was edited by Circle Round’s supervising producer Nora Saks. Original music and sound design is by Eric Shimelonis. Our artist is Sabina Hahn.
ADULTS! PRINT THIS so everyone can color while listening. We’re also keeping an album so share your picture on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, 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
Find some paper, something to color with, and draw two pictures of Anansi – how he looked at the start of the story, when he was as round as a balloon… and at the end of the story, once he got his teeny-tiny waist.
After that, we’d love for you to share your pictures with us! Grown-ups, you can tag us on Instagram @circleroundpodcast, or email a photo of your kiddo and their art. Our address is email@example.com.
Musical Spotlight: The Double Bass
The double bass may have many names — e.g. contrabass, string bass, bass, bass viol, bass fiddle and bull fiddle — but its sound is absolutely distinctive. As the lowest-pitched member of the violin family, the double bass is a whole octave lower than a cello. Bass players often stand while playing, since double basses can be as tall as six feet — and many say it’s one of the hardest instruments in the world to master!
NARRATOR: There once was a time when Anansi the spider was as round as a balloon. Unlike the spiders we see today – with their teeny-tiny little waists – Anansi’s body was plump and full.
This is the story of how everything changed – and not just for Anansi, but for all the spiders who came after him.
It began one day in the forest, when Anansi woke up bright… and early… and hungry!
ANANSI: (ad-lib waking up/yawning/stretching) Boy, oh boy, am I famished! I sure could go for a nice big meal… but that means I’d have to gather the ingredients, chop the ingredients, mix the ingredients, cook the ingredients… And who wants to do all of that work? Certainly not me!
NARRATOR: See, that’s the thing about Anansi. He loved to eat – but he did not love to work. He didn’t want to spend time and energy preparing food. He’d much rather scheme his way to his next meal. And as he rubbed his great big belly, that’s precisely what he decided he would do.
ANANSI: Let’s see… There must be a way for me to enjoy a nice big meal without lifting a finger. The question is… how?
NARRATOR: Anansi thought and thought. But then…
ANANSI: (suddenly smelling good smell) Mmmmm!
NARRATOR: …the answer came to him – straight through his nose!
ANANSI: Oh! (sniffs) What is that delicious smell wafting through the forest? It’s so rich! So fragrant! I must find out where it’s coming from!
NARRATOR: Anansi took off on his eight spindly legs, dashing in the direction of the rich, fragrant smell.
ANANSI: (as he runs) I think I’m getting closer! And closer! And… (gasp) Oooooo!
NARRATOR: Anansi’s eyes grew wide as he reached a village full of thatched huts. In the middle of the village, a group of villagers were gathered around a big iron kettle simmering with peanut stew. When the villagers caught sight of Anansi, their faces broke into wide grins.
VILLAGER 1: Greetings, Brother Spider!
VILLAGER 2: Welcome to our village!
VILLAGER 3: We were just cooking up some peanut stew!
VILLAGER 1: Today is a big holiday, you know.
VILLAGER 2: And every single village is having a feast!
VILLAGER 3: Would you care to join us?
NARRATOR: At the thought of devouring a splendid feast, Anansi’s mouth watered. And at the thought of not having to do any work for it, his spirit soared!
ANANSI: Why, I’d love to join you, folks! Thank you for your generosity!
VILLAGER 1: Oh, we’re always happy to share with new friends!
VILLAGER 2: Hospitality is very important in our community!
VILLAGER 3: Very important!
VILLAGER 1: Thing is, the stew isn’t ready yet. So while we’re waiting, we could really use an extra hand to help us prepare for our feast!
VILLAGER 2: Yes! You could start by setting the table…
VILLAGER 3: Fetching drinking water from the well…
VILLAGER 1: There are all sorts of jobs to be done!
VILLAGER 2: So, what do you say?
VILLAGER 3: Can we put you to work?
NARRATOR: Anansi’s spirit was no longer soaring. Instead – at the mention of all this ‘work’ – it plummeted.
ANANSI: (not liking the idea at all, but trying not to show it) Uhhh… put me to work, you say? Ummm… well…
NARRATOR: Anansi’s mind began to race. He did not like the sound of these chores… but he loved the smell of that stew! Surely there was a way he could fill his big, empty belly without toiling away?
Then suddenly… he had an idea.
ANANSI: Actually – ya know what, folks? I completely forgot that I have an important errand to run! In another village all the way across the forest! But I wouldn’t want to miss that peanut stew. So, here.
NARRATOR: Anansi used the special organs on his belly – the “spinnerets” – to spin a nice, strong thread. He held the thread out to the villagers.
ANANSI: Take this thread, hold on to it, and when the stew is ready, give the thread a firm tug. Then I’ll come running.
NARRATOR: The villagers agreed, and Anansi handed them the thread. Then he scampered back to the forest – with a spring in his step and a mischievous smile on his face.
ANANSI: (little greedy laugh) Oh, this is perfect! Instead of helping those villagers with their silly chores, I’ll find another village whose food is ready to eat! After all, if every single village is throwing a feast, surely another one will have their food cooked by now! I’ll gobble it up, then – when the peanut stew is done – I’ll go back to the first village. If all goes according to plan, I’ll be eating like a king!
NARRATOR: Anansi walked and walked. He still hadn’t eaten, so his stomach felt as empty as a scooped-out melon. But the thought of not one but two holiday feasts kept him going. And then –
ANANSI: (suddenly smelling good smell) Mmmmm! I smell another delicious aroma! I must be nearing another village!
NARRATOR: Anansi took off in the direction of the tantalizing fragrance.
ANANSI: (as he runs) I think I’m getting closer! And closer! And… (gasp) Woahhhhh!
NARRATOR: Anansi’s jaw dropped open as he reached another village. Here, the villagers were gathered around an open fire, roasting sweet yams on a spit. When the villagers caught sight of Anansi, big grins spread across their faces.
VILLAGER 4: Good day, Brother Spider!
VILLAGER 5: Welcome to our village!
VILLAGER 6: We were just roasting some sweet yams!
VILLAGER 4: Today is a major holiday, you know.
VILLAGER 5: And each and every village is having a big communal feast!
VILLAGER 6: Would you care to join us?
NARRATOR: Anansi’s bulging body tingled with excitement. Everything was going according to plan!
ANANSI: Ya know, I’d be honored to join you, folks! I appreciate your generosity!
VILLAGER 4: Oh, we’re always delighted to share with new friends!
VILLAGER 5: Hospitality is very important in our community!
VILLAGER 6: Very important!
VILLAGER 4: However, the yams aren’t ready yet. And there's so much still to do. We could really use your help!
VILLAGER 5: Yes! You could start by putting out the plates…
VILLAGER 6: Filling the pitchers with wine…
VILLAGER 4: There are all sorts of jobs to be done!
VILLAGER 5: So, what do you say?
VILLAGER 6: Can we put you to work?
NARRATOR: Anansi could hardly believe his ears! Another village, eager to put him to work? No thank you!
But luckily, the clever, mischievous spider knew just what he would do!
[theme music in]
NARRATOR: What do you think Anansi will do? Will he get to enjoy the fruits of everyone else’s labors – without having to labor himself?
We’ll find out, after a quick break.
[theme music out]
[theme music in]
NARRATOR: I’m Rebecca Sheir. Welcome back to Circle Round. Today our story is called “Pulling Strings.”
[theme music out]
NARRATOR: Before the break, each village around Anansi’s forest was honoring a big holiday by holding a feast.
Anansi the big-bellied spider loved eating… but he hated working.
So when the second village he visited – the one roasting up sweet yams — asked him to help prepare their feast… he was ready with a trick up his sleeve!
ANANSI: Actually – ya know what, folks? I completely forgot that I have a very important errand to run! In another village all the way across the forest! But I wouldn’t want to miss those sweet yams. So, here.
NARRATOR: Anansi used his spinnerets to spin another nice, strong thread.
ANANSI: Take this thread, hold on to it, and when the yams are ready, give the thread a firm tug. Then I’ll come running.
NARRATOR: The villagers held on to Anansi’s thread, then wished him well as he scurried back to the forest.
ANANSI: Am I a genius or what? Now I’ll find a third village that’s preparing a feast… I’ll gobble it all down… then I’ll go back to the first two villages and eat even more! I’ll let everyone else do the work… then I’ll enjoy the fruits of their labors!
NARRATOR: Sure enough, as Anansi walked amongst the trees…
ANANSI: (suddenly smelling good smell) Ahhhhh! I smell another succulent scent! I must be nearing another village!
NARRATOR: Anansi followed his nose toward the delicious smell.
ANANSI: (as he runs) I think I’m getting closer! And closer! And… (gasp) Hahahaha!
NARRATOR: Anansi’s face glowed as he reached a whole new village. These villagers were gathered around a big clay pot, cooking up chicken and rice. When they caught sight of Anansi, their lips curled into grins.
VILLAGER 7: How goes it, Brother Spider?
VILLAGER 8: Welcome to our village!
VILLAGER 9: We were just cooking some chicken and rice!
VILLAGER 7: Today is a special holiday, you know.
VILLAGER 8: And each and every village is having a feast!
VILLAGER 9: Would you care to join us for ours?
NARRATOR: Anansi felt a rush of happiness in his heart… and a rumble of hunger in his belly.
ANANSI: Gosh! I’d be honored to join you, folks! Thanks for your generosity!
VILLAGER 7: Oh, we’re always excited to share with new friends!
VILLAGER 8: Hospitality is very important in our community!
VILLAGER 9: Very important!
VILLAGER 7: However, the chicken and rice isn’t ready yet. So while we’re waiting, how about helping us get ready for our feast?
VILLAGER 8: Yes! You could pitch in by bringing the tables outside…
VILLAGER 9: Setting up some chairs…
VILLAGER 7: There’s all sorts of preparations to be done!
VILLAGER 8: So, what do you say?
VILLAGER 9: Can we put you to work?
NARRATOR: Anansi clenched his teeth. Yet another village that wanted to put him to work?
Not if he could help it!
ANANSI: Actually – ya know what, folks? I completely forgot that I have an errand to run! In another village all the way across the forest! But I wouldn’t want to miss that chicken and rice. So here.
NARRATOR: Again, Anansi spun some thread. Again, he handed it to the villagers. And again, he told them to give it a firm tug once the chicken and rice was ready.
Anansi spent the next hour tromping from village to village.
VILLAGER 10: Hiya, Brother Spider!
VILLAGER 11: Salutations, Brother Spider!
VILLAGER 12: How do you do, Brother Spider?
NARRATOR: Just as he hoped, all of them were cooking up some sort of delicious food. But, wouldn’t you know it…
VILLAGER 10: …the grilled fish isn’t ready yet!
VILLAGER 11: …the okra soup isn’t ready yet!
VILLAGER 12: …the banana fritters aren’t ready yet!
VILLAGER 10: So while we’re waiting, how about helping us prepare for our feast?
VILLAGER 11: There are all sorts of jobs to be done!
VILLAGER 12: Can we put you to work?
NARRATOR: Naturally, Anansi was not about to let anyone ‘put him to work.’ So he handed out more thread, told the villagers to give it a tug when the food was ready, then he moved on.
Soon, he had dozens of threads tied around his waist, and was getting weak from hunger!
ANANSI: (faint with hunger) Surely one of the villages has their food ready by now! Any second, I’m sure one of them will give my thread a firm tug! … Any second! … Any – (gets interrupted by tug SOT) OW!
NARRATOR: All at once, Anansi felt a yank on one of the threads.
ANANSI: Oh! The peanut stew must be ready! In the first village I visited! I’ll just start heading that way and – (gets interrupted by tug SOT) OW!
NARRATOR: Suddenly, Anansi felt another thread get pulled.
ANANSI: Oh! The sweet yams must be ready! I’ll just go to the first village, gobble up some peanut stew, then I’ll head to the second village and – (gets interrupted by tug SOT) OW!
NARRATOR: Now Anansi felt another thread get jerked.
ANANSI: Oh! The chicken and rice must be ready! [SOT: tug] OW! The grilled fish! [SOT: tug] OW! The okra soup! [SOT: tug] OW! The banana fritters!
NARRATOR: Anansi felt one tug after another. Each village’s feast seemed to be ready at the exact same time!
But Anansi couldn’t make a move toward any of them, because he was being yanked…
ANANSI: [SOT: tug] OW!
NARRATOR: …and pulled…
ANANSI: [SOT: tug] OW!
NARRATOR: …and jerked…
ANANSI: [SOT: tug] OW!
NARRATOR: …in every direction! All at once!
The threads were wrapped and tangled around Anansi’s round belly now, and with every tug, they squeezed his tummy tighter…
ANANSI: [SOT: tug] (feeling the tightness) OW!
NARRATOR: …and tighter…
ANANSI: [SOT: tug] (feeling the tightness more) OW!
NARRATOR: …and tighter!
ANANSI: [SOT: tug] (feeling the tightness even more) OW!
NARRATOR: And then… as Anansi squirmed and squiggled, writhed and wriggled… he realized that his waist was getting smaller… and smaller… and smaller!
ANANSI: My waist is as narrow as a needle! With my top and bottom half bulging out on either side! (despondent) Ohhhhhhh!
NARRATOR: Indeed. Anansi had gotten so tangled in his own web of greed, that he was no longer round and plump… and he never made it back to the villages to enjoy their feasts.
Ever since then, all spiders have a big head, and a big bottom, with a teeny-tiny waist in between. And they have to put in a lot of effort to catch their own meal… in their own webs.
It’s all because of Anansi: a mischievous trickster who tried gobbling all of the food… without doing a lick of work.