The young and rash Ashanti Emperor, Nana Osei Yao Akoto, impetuously swore an oath to destroy all the white men on the coast, once and for all. The holy bells on the Golden Stool had rung to warn him of this fool-hardy decision. But like all new kings, the Asantehene wanted to make his mark in the world. My father, Mampong Osei Yao, decided to oppose the Lord Emperor. Standing boldly before the Asantehene and his council of grey-haired chiefs, priests, sub-chiefs, elders and noblemen, this twenty-five-year-old ‘boy’ narrated an untold Ananse story into the ears of the Emperor’s court:
“Anansesem, they change-oo!”, Mampong Osei Yao called out.
“They change with you!”, replied the court.
“Ananse stories: they are dynamic-oo!”, he cried again.
“They are as dynamic as you!”, sang the Emperor’s court.
“Anansesem - they are always evolving-oo!”
“They evolve with you!”
Then father began:
“There lived, there lived, there lived a long time ago, a company of five friends down in the jungle: Osono the Elephant, Kontrofi the Monkey, Ekuor the Buffalo, Okra the Cat and Ponsroma the Starfish. Osono the Elephant had a very big house near the Great Forest River. There, she hosted parties for his friends. Daily, Ponsroma the Starfish would swim out of the river to join Kontrofi the Monkey, Ekuor the Buffalo and Okra the Cat at the elephant’s house to play and feast. Little did Osono the Elephant know that her so-called friends envied her for her impressive physique and possessions.
Kontrofi the Monkey envied the elephant because of Osono’s huge, powerful legs which could clear through almost any forest rubble. The monkey had weak, sensitive legs which were always getting trapped or injured in weeds and thorns and so he longed to have the elephant’s strong legs. Ekuor the Buffalo was jealous of Osono's ivory tusks. The buffalo didn't have any horns with which he could use to defend himself against his enemies. Ekuor thought:
‘If only I had such tusks for teeth, nobody would dare attack me.’
Okra the Cat wanted the elephant's trunk so badly that he began to hate her secretly. Imagine the cat with the elephant’s trunk - Okra would be the toast of the Great Forest with such an impressive nose!
Ponsroma the Starfish had only one intention for frequenting the elephant’s house:
’O! To have such impenetrable skin like the elephant’s’, Starfish coveted.
One night, during one of his many wanderings in the Great Forest River, the starfish discovered something on the other side of the river - a new and lush forest.
He rushed to Osono’s house to tell the company of his new discovery the very next morning. If only there was a way these five friends could cross the Great Forest River, then they would all move into this better forest which was on the other side of the river. The only problem was that the river was too deep for the monkey, cat and buffalo to travel through. And none of them could swim either. Osono offered to carry everybody across since the Great Forest River wasn't too deep for her to trudge through.
Okra got offended by the elephant’s suggestion. He thought Osono was poking fun at them, and so he snapped back:
‘How dare you say that you have to carry us across the Great Forest River?! Who do you think you are? Everyday, you flaunt your trunk and your wealth in our faces, just because we let you. Now, you want to carry us on your back as if we were your little children or something! No way!’'
Elephant was shocked by her friend’s accusations. She defended herself saying:
‘Oh no, Okra my friend! I would never insult you, Kontrofi, Ekuor or Ponsroma like that! I may not be as intelligent as you are, or as agile as Ekuor is; neither can I swim like Ponsroma, nor do I possess Buffalo's indefatigable stamina. But I know that I can easily carry all of us to the other side, no problem. Who knows? Maybe, this is why we all came here in the first place.’
"Has anyone asked you for help? We don't need your help!", Ekuor the Buffalo retorted.
At this, Osono’s friends ganged up on her and beat her to death. They then divided her body parts amongst themselves. Cat took elephant's trunk and affixed it to his nose. He checked out his reflection in the Great Forest River and smiled with pleasure at his new look. He looked better than the elephant, he felt. Monkey took elephant's legs and wore them. Kontrofi joyfully stomped upon the dead elephant with his new-found feet.
Buffalo took Elephant's tusks and added them to his teeth.
‘Now, I have something that rivals the lion's teeth. He and his cousins will never try me again.’, thought the Buffalo.
Starfish peeled off Elephant's skin and hid it underneath his own skin. Ponsroma’s skin became plump and meaty.
It was finally tough and durable, just as he had always wanted it to be.
Buoyed by their enhancements, the four murderers attempted to cross the Great Forest River. They were swept up in the rapids as soon as they got into the water!
The starfish immediately sunk into the bottom of the river! The skin he had peeled from Osono was too heavy for him to float with or swim in. Ponsroma tried and tried to unpeel the elephant's skin from underneath his skin, all to no avail. This is the reason why the starfish is still sunken: lying at the bottom of rivers and oceans - under the mercy of every wave and current.
Okra the Cat didn't know how to use Osono’s trunk. The weight of the elephant trunk began to drown him. Cat forcefully yanked off the cumbersome embellishment from his nose and scampered back onto the shore. Okra lost almost all the fur that once graced his nose. Cats hate water and have single strands of fur near their noses we call whiskers, because of this.
When Ekuor the Buffalo entered the river, he gulped down gallons upon gallons of water. He could not close his mouth because of the huge tusks in his teeth; and he too found himself drowning. Ekuor swiftly paddled ashore, pulled out the tusks from his mouth, and dropped them into the grass where he was kneeling. He bowed his head, coughing and heaving out the river water until there was no more left inside his chest and stomach.
While he was bent over, the elephant's tusks got stuck onto his head, but the buffalo never realized it. And this is the reason why the buffalo keeps roaming about all day. It is still looking for the ever-elusive tusks which have now grown to become horns atop its head.
Kontrofi the Monkey also nearly sank. The weight of the elephant legs he was wearing saw to that. Kontrofi's agility came to his rescue though. He managed to slip out of the weighty legs and hopped onto a nearby tree branch. The monkey stayed up there for a long time, hanging on for dear life. This is the reason why the monkey prefers to dwell in trees - hopping and swinging from branch to branch, tree to tree.
These four friends were never able to cross the Great Forest River to the new home and life they had dreamed of. Rather, they stayed in the same old forest - forever trapped inside the land of their past, never able to crossover into the land of their future.”
Manhyia Palace was dead silent by the time Mampong Osei Yao had finished his Anansesem – folktale. He motioned to a little servant boy. The child ran over to him with a broom in hand. The boy handed Osei Yao the newly-woven, palm frond broom, and ran off again.
Osei Yao pulled out a singular stick from the broom and showed it to all four corners of the court. Then he snapped the stick into two before their eyes. While they were still looking, Osei took the entire broom and tried to break it into two, but he couldn’t.
The meanings of the parable and the broom performance were not lost to the Manhyia court. However, father made his point a third time:
“Spokesman of our Great Emperor, please let these words I speak fall into the good ears of our Asantehene:
Nana, your humble subject begs you these thirty times: do not quarrel, do not quarrel, Nana, do not quarrel! Please, do not quarrel with the white man, for this is not his home! When God sees it fit, He Himself shall drive all of them out of our country. Do not quarrel with his allies: these enemy tribes motivated by their jealousy and hatred of our great empire. They want to see us humiliated but it shall not prosper!
As you already know Nana, God created this empire for the sake of war. Indeed, this is what it means to be Ashanti. But are we to be unnecessarily quarrelsome? No! God forbid! We were made to be liberators, forever waging holy war against tyranny and oppression in this land. Nana, I fear that the path you’re taking may oppose the way of our ancestors. Therefore, Your Majesty, please do not provoke them; for this land is their home too. Finally, You-Who-Sits-On-The-Golden-Stool, please do not let your empire quarrel within herself. May these United States of Ashanti last forever! Far be it from us that our union be divided; lest our enemies gain an advantage over us! Nana, my words have ceased!”
The Asantehene had brought Osei Yao to his palace in Kumase, the state capital, because he thought of Osei Yao as a friend. Also, both men were in their twenties. In a council full of elderly men, Mampong Osei Yao was the only comforting face of youth for the fledgling Emperor. Disappointed by Osei Yao’s refusal to support his war cause, Nana Akoto sent father away from Manhyia – away from the capital, away from the war, back home to Mampong.
“The elders said it, and it is true: a child who learns how to wash his hands well, dines with his elders. Indeed, Osei Yao has learned to wash his hands. But not thoroughly enough to dine with me.”, the Emperor decided.
In the Battle of Dodowa, the Ashanti Empire was on the brink of victory against the coastal-tribal alliance. However, she was suddenly ambushed by the rockets of the British army. These strange exploding missiles, fired from the sky by the British, broke Nana Osei Yao Akoto’s charge towards the sea. It also broke the great oath the Asantehene had sworn. The place of the battle was renamed Aka-Ntam-Su, which means; swear an oath to weep.