(a Kenyan folktale)
Once upon a time, a young girl named Fadhila lived in a tiny village on the coast of Kenya. Fadhila had a special talent for picking the most marvelous fruits. Whenever Fadhila picked an orange, it was the juiciest orange; whenever she picked a banana, it was richer and denser than anyone else’s bananas. This was true of every fruit she picked.
The people of Fadhila’s village wondered how she found such delicious fruit, but nobody asked her to reveal her secret. It was understood that everyone has a skill, a special talent, and this was Fadhila’s.
And then one day, as Fadhila was walking past Spider’s house, he called out to her. You see, Spider was terribly lazy. He didn’t like to work for himself, and he had heard tales of Fadhila’s fruits. Spider had a special talent, too. He was a trickster, and this time he thought he could trick Fadhila into sharing her talents with him.
And so, using his sweetest voice, he called out, “Fadhila, good day to you. How are you feeling this beautiful morning?”
“I’m well,” Fadhila answered, and she smiled, but right away she thought Spider must be up to something. “What about you, Spider? Are you feeling well?”
“Ah,” Spider sighed, “well, yes … but I am very hungry. I wonder if I might accompany you into the bush to find some food.”
Fadhila thought a moment, and she looked Spider up and down. “You know, I am sure, no one has ever come with me.”
“Ah, yes,” Spider said cheerfully, “I do know that. And I would consider it a special honor to be the first one to be your companion in the lonely bush.”
“Well,” Fadhila said, eyeing him carefully, “if you come along, you must promise you won’t tell anyone my secrets.”
“Of course!” Spider said. He smiled as he felt his stomach grumbling with anticipation.
“Promise me,” Fadhila said.
“I promise,” he replied. “On my heart. You can trust me!”
Fadhila smiled. “Well, OK then.”
And Spider hurried to her side.
As they walked into the bush, Fadhila asked, “What kind of food do you like to eat, Spider?”
“Well,” Spider said, careful to keep time with the girl, “I like bananas and melons and pineapples, of course. And I like coconuts. And I love honey!”
“Honey!” Fadhila said, and if Spider had noticed, he might have seen the gleam in her eye. “Wonderful, I think I can help you.”
On they walked, Fadhila leading the way down into parts of the bush where few people ventured. Spider clicked his heels with happiness, for he knew he was about to find the special place in the bush, the place that held Fadhila’s secrets. And if he discovered this, he would never again have to work too hard for food. He could offer his secret to anyone who would go into the bush for him.
Fadhila pointed to a tree and exclaimed, “This is the best peach tree! It does not have that many peaches, but each one is the sweetest in the world!”
Spider was a greedy fellow, and as soon as he saw the secret peach tree, his mouth began to water. It was time to act, so he pushed Fadhila into the bushes and quickly climbed the tree. When he was up, he began to eat until he had eaten every last peach. He didn’t leave a single one for Fadhila.
When he was finished, he rubbed his belly and sighed, and he thought this must be the finest day he had ever spent. He looked down and to his delight and amazement, Fadhila said, “Do you want to see my special bananas?”
“A fine idea!” Spider said, and he hurried down the tree. They walked a little farther on, and Fadhila showed him a patch of bananas, and once again, as soon as he saw the spot, he pushed her into the bushes and ate every single ripe banana he could find.
Now Spider’s belly was so full that he thought he had never been happier, but this made him still greedier, and he wanted to know every secret of the bush. So he smiled at Fadhila, and to his great joy, she said, “Are you too full, or would you like me to show you the honey?”
“Oh, yes!” Spider said, and he followed Fadhila along the path, still deeper into the bush. And when they had reached a tree so deep in the bush that no one had ever seen it, Fadhila said, “Here, this is a very special tree. Deep inside is a hole with the world’s best honey.”
Spider’s eyes grew wide, and his greed greater, and once again, he shoved Fadhila into the bushes. He climbed the tree and when he found the little hole, he squeezed himself inside, and once again, he began to eat and eat and eat, and once again, he saved nothing for anyone else. And once again, he did not say thank you.
When he was full, he began to climb out of the tree, but he discovered that he had grown too fat to squeeze through the hole.
“Help, Fadhila!” he cried. “I cannot get out.”
But Fadhila was not the fool Spider had thought. She only smiled. “If you had not been so greedy,” she said, “you would not be stuck.”
“I’m sorry!” Spider cried. “I’m so sorry. Please, call for help!”
“I’m no fool,” Fadhila said, “though you think I am. But I’m a kind girl, too.”
And with that, Fadhila began to cry for help, but she cried as softly as she could.
Naturally, nobody heard Fadhila’s whispers, and nobody could hear Spider, for he was trapped inside a tree, deep in the bush. And so Fadhila finally said, “Well, I think it’s time for me to go home,” and she waved to him, and then she turned and walked back home.
And after that, whenever anyone heard the story of Spider stuck in the honey tree, they knew they would never ask Fadhila to give away her secret. Obviously, it was for her alone to know.