gizo Hausa (Niger, Nigeria) The spider, a trickster hero. Gizo’s exploits contain elements common to tales about other African tricksters, such as the Ashanti spider trickster, Anansi. Like the Anansi stories, stories about Gizo are folk tales told for entertainment and are distinguished from myths. The following typical tale of Gizo’s trickery contains a common element in African folklore—the tug of war.
There was once a famine, and Gizo and his family had no food to eat. Gizo went to the chief of the land—the elephant—and told her that the chief of the water—the hippopotamus—had sent him. Gizo said that the hippo wanted 100 baskets of grain, which she would send her young men to fetch. In return, she would give the elephant a great horse. The elephant agreed. During the night, Gizo and his family carried all the grain back to their home. The next day, Gizo went to the hippo and told her that the elephant wanted 100 baskets of fish, which she would send her young men to fetch. In return, she would give the hippo a great horse. The hippo agreed. During the night, Gizo and his family carried all the fish back to their home.
When the elephant and the hippo asked Gizo where their payment was, he told each that he would return with the horse. Then Gizo tied one end of a long rope to a tree near the elephant’s home and its other end to a tree by the riverbank. Separately, he told the two chiefs that the rope was attached to a horse so wild that it would require all their young men to retrieve it. So all the elephant’s young men pulled on their end of the rope, and the hippo’s young men pulled on their end. When all their efforts met with no success, the elephant sent her people to the hippo to ask about the horse, and the hippo sent her people to the elephant. In this way, Gizo’s trickery was revealed. Both the elephant and the hippo resolved to find and punish him.
Gizo hid out until hunger overcame him. Then he disguised himself in an antelope skin and went to find food. When the elephant saw him, she thought he was just a scrawny antelope, and she asked for his help in finding the spider. Gizo told her that she should forget about the spider, because it was the spider who had caused him to waste away to skin and bones. He told the same story to the hippo. Later, when the two chiefs saw Gizo in his own form, out of fear they denied having been looking for him