The king Shon Arei (“Shon” is a respectful form of address, like Sir or Madam) had a large piece of land filled with stinging nettles. He could do nothing with the land. So he went looking for someone to weed the field. Whoever could clear the field without having to scratch himself would win a big, fat cow. But if he did have to scratch himself, his life would end on the gallows.
No one dared to try. They all wanted the cow, but the mere thought that Shon Arei would surely hang them changed their minds.
Nanzi, the spider, thought it over carefully, too. Then one day he couldn’t resist it anymore. He told his wife, Shi (Madam) Maria, that today he would go try his luck. Shi Maria cried, “Nanzi, I’ll never see you again. How can you be so greedy? Leave that cow where it is.”
But Nanzi was stubborn, and he went anyway. When he got to the palace, the king granted him an audience. He wanted to see the person who came courting death. When he saw Nanzi, Shon Arei chuckled. But he said to him, “Do you want to die? You’re not even old yet.”
“No, Your Majesty, I don’t want to die, and what’s more, I’m not going to die. But I will have my cow. But I do have a favor to ask of Your Majesty. Before I clear the field, I’d like to choose my cow. I hope that Your Majesty has no objections.”
“Well, no, Nanzi. Follow me.”
Like a good boy, Nanzi followed Shon Arei until they stopped in front of several beautiful, fat cows.
“Your Majesty, could I have this nice one over here?” Nanzi pointed to a very fat spotted cow.
“Of course, Nanzi, that’s fine. Just make sure you win the cow, you hear? Do your best!”
A corporal came to take Nanzi to clear the field. Nanzi began to work, but the stinging nettles made Nanzi want to scratch himself. He lifted his head and glanced sideways at the corporal, who was watching him intently.
A little further off, he saw his cow standing in the field.
“Say, Corporal! Corporal, do you know which cow is mine? It’s the one that has a spot here, a spot there, a spot over here, and a spot over there.”
All the while Nanzi was scratching to his heart’s content all the spots he was pointing to on his body. Every time Nanzi needed to scratch, he showed the corporal where the cow had a spot. In less than half an hour, Nanzi had cleared the field. The corporal and soldiers had to declare to the king that Nanzi had not scratched himself even once. They never realized that Nanzi was scratching himself each time he was talking to them.
This is how Nanzi won his big fat cow.
Singing happily and in a loud voice, he returned home. Shi Maria and the children came running to meet him. They hugged him and kissed him affectionately. All this time, they were afraid they’d never see him again. And so they shouted:
“Long live Papa Nanzi!”
Nilda M. Geerdink-Jesurun Pinto (Curaçao 1918-1954)
From: Kon Nanzi a nèk Shon Arei i otro kuentanan antiano di e arana sabi. Hoe Nanzi de Koning beetnam en andere Antilliaanse verhalen over de slimme spin, based on the collection of Nilda Pinto. Originally published by Zirkoon uitgevers/Bommes b.v. and Instituto Raul Romer, Amsterdam/Curacao, 2005, p. 154-156. With permission from the publishers.