The Adventures of Anansi and Sewa: The Garden Gnome's Gifts
It was the first weekend of the long vacation. Anansi, Sewa and Mummy Spider travelled to spend the weekend with Grampy Anansi Spider and Grammy Ama Spider, who lived in the country. Grammy Spider and Grampy Spider lived in a lovely farmhouse surrounded by their large vegetable farm. Sewa and Anansi always had a nice time whenever they went to visit their grandparents on the farm.
That day when they got to the farm with Mummy Spider, they were sad to see that Grammy Spider was feeling ill. So, their Grampy decided to take her to the hospital the next day.
Mummy Spider, Anansi and Sewa were left on the farm when Grampy Spider drove Grammy Spider to the hospital in the nearest city. When Mummy Spider saw how sad Anansi and Sewa were because their Grammy was ill, she decided to do something to cheer them up.
Why don’t we get some vegetables from the garden so we can have a nice meal ready for Grammy and Grampy when they get back?” she suggested.
“I know just what we should make.” Anansi sounded more cheerful.
“Grammy loves vegetable stews!” Sewa added quickly.
“Yes! Her vegetable stews are the best.” Anansi agreed. “But yours are also delicious,” he added quickly.
Mummy Spider laughed at his attempt to make her feel good about her cooking.
“Thank you, Anansi. But we all know that Grammy and Daddy are the best cooks in this family.”
“But you’re the best dancer, Mummy,” Sewa said.
“Let’s go and see what we can find at the farm. With the three of us working together, I’m sure we’ll come up with something nice.”
They went outside through the back door and were surprised to find that their Grandparents’ usually meticulous back garden had weeds growing in the flowerbeds. Even the garden path was overgrown. They decided to clean it and weed the garden. They started by picking up and cleaning around their Grammy’s precious gnomes. She had several gnomes placed at various points in the garden. The children thought some of them looked really funny, but Grammy Spider always said each one was special because they helped protect her crops. The children and their mother then went further into the farm to harvest some vegetables for dinner. After all the work, the children were tired and hungry, so Mummy Spider let them have their supper and go to bed. “I’ll wait up for Grammy and Grampy. I’m sure they won’t mind that you did not wait up when they see how hard you’ve worked all day.”
So off they went to the room they shared whenever they visited their Grandparents. It had a window that opened to the garden.
They both fell asleep promptly. They suddenly woke up in the middle of the night when they heard a tapping at the window.
They both looked at each other amazed because there, standing just outside the window, was a strange-looking man. He was about 3 feet tall, with brown root skin. He was round, with a pointy hat and a kinky, pointy beard. When the children saw him, they froze. “Could he be a robber?” Sewa whispered, but the little man disappeared just as Anansi stretched out his hand to turn on the bedside lamp.
The next morning when the children woke up, they talked about what they had seen and were eager to tell their mum and grandparents. They were so sad when they found only Mummy Spider and Grampy Spider in the kitchen when they went in for breakfast. They forgot all about the little man.
“Grammy has to stay in the hospital until she gets well.” Mummy Spider explained. That’s why Grampy didn’t come back until very late last night.” She added.
“Can we go with you to visit her today?” Sewa asked.
“No, dear. The hospital doesn’t allow children under 12 to visit sick people.”
“Can I trust you two to take care of yourselves while I go with Grampy to see her?” Mummy Spider asked.
The children promised they would. They worried about their Grammy and wanted her to get well and return home.
Later that day, they went off to weed the front garden. They put on their gardening boots and gloves, and all day long, they worked in the garden, clearing away the weeds from the vegetable and flower beds. They picked up every gnome they came across, dusted them up very carefully and placed them back on the spot where they found them.
Then they had lunch from the leftover stew that their mother made the previous day. They returned to do more work in the garden when the sun went down. They worked really hard and cleared away the garden path. The whole garden looked neat except for the overgrown grass.
When Mummy Spider and Grampy Spider came back, they were impressed to see all the work they had done.
“Tomorrow, we’ll mow the lawn as well,” Anansi said, and Sewa nodded in agreement.
“But, the weekend is over, and we must return home tomorrow.” Mummy Spider reminded them.
“Please, please, Mummy. Can we spend the rest of the holiday here?” Asked Sewa.
“We haven’t spent any time with Grammy since we came.” Agreed Anansi.
They kept pleading with their mum, and their grandpa agreed he could do with their company while their Grammy was in the hospital. So, Mummy Spider asked them to call Daddy Spider on the phone to ask if it was okay with him too for them to remain with their grandparents. Daddy Spider agreed, and the children were excited to spend more time at the farm.
That night again at midnight, they heard a tapping at the window. It was the same little man, but as the window was open, he quickly whispered, “don’t turn on the lights!”
“Who are you?” asked the children, and the man replied, “I’m the Chief Garden Gnome. Thanks for cleaning us up today. We’ve not had a good dust-up since your Grandma has been ill.” He sounded sad.
“Well, what do you want?” asked the two children together.
“May I borrow some herbs from your garden?”
“Yes, you may!” said the two children together again.
“Thank you!” said the little man, and to their surprise, he put his tiny forefinger on his lips. “Promise not to let anyone know that I was here or that you heard me speak.”
“Why not?” Sewa asked.
“Because it’s bad luck. Only special children can hear gnomes speak.”
So, they promised, and he swiftly took a gold coin out of his pocket and left it on the windowsill. Before they could say anything in protest, the gnome disappeared. Sewa got out of bed, picked up the tiny coin and wondered if it was real.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s real. You heard what the gnome said. We can’t spend it because we can’t tell anyone about him.” Anansi reminded her. So, Sewa slipped it into the top drawer of the dresser where their Grammy kept other knickknacks.
The next day, they got up, went to the garden tool shed, got out the lawnmower, and started mowing the garden. All day long, Anansi mowed the garden. Sewa helped to tidy up, collecting all the leaves and twigs. She gathered the fallen leaves on the ground and piled them up before putting them into large garden bags.
That day their grandfather came back with some vegetable seeds. “I’ll plant these as soon as I’m able. Otherwise, I won’t have any vegetables to sell at the village farm on the next market day,” he said, smiling at the children. “I see you’ve kept everything in order while I’ve been away! I’m very proud of you two!”
The following day, their grandfather left again to visit their grandmother. The children kept busy in the morning by cleaning the house. They went out to play after they finished and were playing in the rather large yard when their grandfather returned from the hospital with their grandmother. They were delighted to have her back, and they hugged and kissed her.
“Are you well now, Grammy?” Sewa asked because she noticed how frail her Grandma looked.
“Of course, she’s well.” Anansi snapped. “Why else would the doctors send her home?” He, too, had noticed that their Grandma looked even weaker than when she had gone to the hospital, but he was too upset to admit it.
Their Grandma smiled at both of them and opened up her arms so she could hug them again. She held them tight when she embraced them.
That night, their grandpa sent them off to bed early. He said he wanted them to get up early to help him plant the vegetable seeds. As they were turning in for the night, they overheard him talking to their parents on the phone.
“I had to bring her home because the doctors say she’s better off here since they can’t find a cure for her,” he said in a croaky voice. “Yes, she says she’ll rather be back home too. You know how she hates hospitals.” The children held their breathes as their Grampy fell silent. He was listening to something their parents were saying for a while. “Oh, I’m sure she’ll be happy to see you both. I’ll tell her you’re coming over on Friday. I’ve sent Anansi and Sewa to bed. We’ll tell them together when you come.”
The children huddled together, crying. They loved their Grammy and were scared she might be dying. She was the sweetest grandmother any child could wish for. They could not decide who was the best story teller in the world between her and their Grampy. She made them all sorts of treats whenever they visited, and she had always been healthy as far as they knew. She made tarts, sweet and savoury tamales from corn that she grew on her farm, cakes, pies, and all kinds of things from her special recipe book, which she promised would be theirs when they grew up. Not long after they finally fell asleep, there was a knock at the window. It was the Chief Garden Gnome again!
“Thank you so much for your help. Thanks to your herbs, my wife, who was ill like your Grammy, is well again. So, I brought you two gifts. One is a long-forgotten traditional remedy for your Grammy’s illness. Humans have forgotten about it, but gnomes never forget anything. The other is a bunch of mandrake seeds. The seeds have a special magic in them. Once fully grown, their roots will hold magic people inside them to guard you against robbers and other bad people. The seeds are from fairyland. If you water and take good care of them, they’ll be useful to you in your hour of need!”
“Thank you very much, but you did pay for the herbs,” said Sewa, smiling.
“That doesn’t matter! I’ve been observing you children and thought I should give you these anyway!” he said, taking out a tiny rolled-up piece of parchment paper from inside a small silk pouch and placed his gifts on the windowsill. Instantly, before the children could thank him, he vanished.
The following day the children woke up early to prepare the remedy using the recipe in the gnome’s tiny parchment. When they unfolded the parchment, they were happy to see that their grandparent’s garden had all the herbs needed for the treatment. It was a delicious smelling and tasty broth.
“It tastes a little like some of the broths Grammy makes.” Anansi said when he tasted it. Sewa tasted some and agreed. They also made steamed yams and fried plantains with egg sauce for breakfast.
Their Grammy said it was the aroma of the broth that woke her. She did not need much persuading to have some before breakfast.
“I think you two will be even better cooks than your Dad. He did not show much interest in cooking when he was your age.” Grampy said, going to help himself to some more of the delicious breakfast.
Anansi and Sewa kept watching their Grammy to see if she would start feeling better instantly. After breakfast, she said she was tired and needed to rest, and when she woke up, the children noticed that she looked fresh. “I don’t feel any aches or pain at all!” she said when she joined Anansi and Sewa and Grampy Spider in the garden where they were planting vegetable seeds. The children and their Grampy encouraged her to have some more of the broth before lunch and dinner.
By the next morning, she was the first person up, and they found her in the kitchen making one of her specials, fried bean cakes! Anansi and Sewa hugged her. The hug was not just because they loved her fried bean cakes but because she looked like her old self again.
“Oh, I knew you both love my Akara, but….”
“Grammy, are you feeling like your old self?” Anansi asked.
“Are you now well?” Sewa also asked.
Grammy swayed her waist from side-to-side, dancing slowly.
When Grampy saw her, he got up and held out his hand, inviting her to dance with him.
“I really think I’m cured! I’ve not been able to move like this for months,” Gammy said in a sing-song voice, and the children joined their grandparents in a group hug.
“Well, we’ll go and have the doctors rerun some tests tomorrow!” said Grampy Spider later that day when Grammy continued to grow even more robust.
Grammy and Grampy left for the hospital early the following day. By mid-day, they were back.
“The doctors were surprised to find that Grammy has completely recovered,” Grampy announced as soon as they returned.
“One of the doctors said it’s a miracle because she’s never seen anyone make such a recovery from this disease before!” Grammy could not stop beaming with joy.
When their parents arrived on Friday, their grandfather decided to throw a party. He went out to get decorations and food to cook for the party while Anansi and Sewa went to the neighbours to invite them to celebrate their Grammy’s recovery. All day before the party, Anansi, Sewa, Mummy Spider and Grampy Spider spent their time decorating while Daddy Spider and Grammy Spider prepared all the food, treats and drinks for the visitors.
The next day in the evening, guests started arriving for the party. They had a lot of fun. The party was a hit because Grampy, the DJ, played the best highlife, Jazz, Reggae, Juju, Soul and Afrobeat music. All those who came enjoyed themselves and agreed that the food was simply delicious. One man even suggested that Grammy open a restaurant because the food was so scrumptious! Everyone was exhausted at the end of the day.
That night there was once again a tap on the window. The children woke up and saw that it was the gnome. They told him everything and thanked him.
“No need to thank me, your family deserves it. You both are really good children, and so is your grandmother. Did you plant the seeds I gave you?”
“No, we’ll plant them tomorrow,” said Sewa smiling because they had quite forgotten about the seeds.
“Remember to plant them. And whenever you’re in trouble, blow this whistle,” the gnome said, taking a tiny clay whistle from his pocket and handing it over to them.
The next day after Mummy Spider and Daddy Spider left to return home, Anansi and Sewa planted the seeds. For weeks, they watered and took care of them until they grew into bushy plants.
Then one night, a few days before the end of their vacation with their grandparents, robbers came to raid the farmhouse! They came in the middle of the night. They broke in through a kitchen window, entered the house, and came into the children’s room because it was closest to the kitchen. Sewa was the first to wake, and she blew the tiny whistle as hard as she could, but it made no sound.
One of the robbers who saw her blowing laughed. “Do you think that old piece of junk will save you?” He mocked her.
“Now that you’ve seen us, we must kill you,” Another robber who moved menacingly towards the bed where the children were huddled in fright said.
Just as he was about to strike them, there was a crashing sound from the kitchen window followed by the sound of footsteps as if an army had arrived. The robbers panicked, then in marched six strange-looking tiny people armed with axes and scythes. They were even smaller than the garden gnome. They had large leafy green hair with human faces and bodies.
The robbers did not wait to see what they would do! They fled. Some jumped out through the windows, while others jumped over the tiny creatures and pushed their way through the open door. The tiny people looked at Sewa and Anansi, and one of them asked, “Are you okay?”
“Did they hurt you?” Asked another.
“Should we pursue them?” A third one asked.
“We’re fine. Thank you for scaring them away,” said Anansi heaving a sigh of relief.
“Who are you?” Sewa asked.
“We are mandrakes. We live in the roots of the magical seeds you planted and took care of all this time! Many people think we are evil, but we are good when planted by good people like you and your family.”
“Well, am I ever so glad we planted those seeds,” Sewa said, still in shock.
“Being kind to the earth and its creatures has its rewards.” One of the Mandrake people said before they marched quietly out through the open door.
The children stayed awake for a long time before they finally went back to sleep. The following day they had to tell their Grandparents all that had been happening because of the mess the robbers left when they broke in. Their Grampy looked as if he thought they had imagined most of the things they said.
“We didn’t hear any noise,” said Grampy Spider as he began to tidy up. After cleaning up, he sat down to read his newspapers while the children helped Grammy to make breakfast. Grampy suddenly put down his newspaper and announced, “Other houses nearby were also robbed last night! Lucky for us your mandrake friends came to our rescue.” He added, then peered closely at Grammy, who had not said a word since the children told them about the gnome and the mandrake people.
“Why do you think I keep and take such good care of my lovely gnomes?” She asked, smiling mischievously.
“What?” Grampy Spider and the children chorused.
“I used to be able to talk to them when I was a child, but I lost the ability after I told grownups. So, since I could no longer communicate with them, I keep them and take good care of them in my garden.”
“So, does this mean the gnome will never come to us again?” Sewa sounded disappointed.
Gammy shook her head slowly. “But you can always keep gnomes in your garden. They don’t need to speak to you. They’ll always protect whatever you plant. Just keep taking good care of them.”
“And the Mandrake people? I think they are awesome!” Anansi said.
“Well, you heard what they told you. Mandrakes are good only if they are tended by good people. So, if you want them, you have to be good and kind-hearted.” Grammy explained.
That morning, there was a news report on the TV about the spate of robberies in the village during the night, so Grammy and Grampy took the children to the police, and they described the robbers as best as could.
The following day, the police called to invite them over to the police station to identify some suspects. Anansi and Sewa recognized the robbers among the suspects. They then went home, and their Grammy prepared their favourite Kenke and Tilapia fish dish to celebrate.
Anansi and Sewa were sorry to go back home when their vacation ended because the adventure with the garden gnome and the Mandrake people were some of the most exciting that they had ever had.