How The Spider Got Its Long Legs


JG: Want to know why a spider has long legs?

I: Sure.

JG: My dad told me this story when I was little. Here it is: Once, there was a spider named Anansi and Anansi was a greedy spider. He was about to have dinner with his wife and his wife was a great cook. But he was greedy and wanted to go out and try his friends’ food. So he leaves his wife at his house and he goes to Rabbit’s house. He is drawn in by the smell of something cooking. He finds Rabbit cooking delicious greens. “Oh rabbit,” said Anansi, “those greens look mighty fine.” “Well they are going to be really good and you can wait for them to be done,” says Rabbit. Now, Anansi knows, if he were to wait, Rabbit would just give him a lot of chores to do. Anansi hates chores. “Oh no,” says Anansi, “I got some chores to do on my own. But I don’t want to leave these greens. So I have an idea” “What’s your idea?” said Rabbit. Anansi made a string of web-material. He tied it to one of his eight legs. “Now when you are done cooking the greens, pull the web and I will know it’s done.” So he left. Down the road, Anansi smells something really good, so he goes down the path to Bear’s house. Bear is cooking some delicious looking porridge and invites Anansi to wait for it to be done. “Oh yeah bear I would love to have some, but I still got some chores to do. So why don’t I just tie this string of web around my leg. When it’s done, you just pull on it and I’ll come on back.” And on Anansi goes visiting all of his friends. In the end, Anansi ends up with a string of web tied to each of his eight legs. Anansi thinks, “Now I just need to wait for one of them to pull the string and I can have some delicious food. Then, his foot pulls. “Oh Rabbit must be done.” Then, four of the strings get pulled, and then stretch out his legs, then 5, then 6, then 7, then 8, until all 8 of his legs are being pulled at one time. And they pulled and they pulled. And Anansi finally pushes himself down to the water, which dissolves the webs. When he comes out of the water, he finds he now has 8 very, very long legs.”


The informant was told this story as a child by his father. The informant believes his father likely read it in a book of fables and used it to teach about greed as well as tell a funny story. The informant thinks of it as a silly fable, but says it stuck with him until now, so therefore it must have been entertaining enough to remember since childhood.


This is a classic fable that uses fairytale-like elements– for instance, talking animals and an element of suspended reality. There is no explanation for Anansi’s greed, which implies that perhaps greed is a natural “human” urge (or an urge of living beings) we all must fight. The use of animals rather than people connects the theme of the story– greed– to an element of nature outside of humans, especially as greed causes a visual result on the spider children can recognize.