Mudcat Café message #3282604 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #142290   Message #3282604
Posted By: Azizi
31-Dec-11 - 03:52 PM
Thread Name: Lyr Add/Req: Wheel, oh, Matilda
Subject: RE: Lyr Add/Req: Wheel, oh, Matilda
MorwenEdhelwen1, thanks for the information about that book. Just a slight correction, Walter Jekyll's Jamaican Song and Story was first published in 1907, and a Dover Edition with additional introductory essays was published in 1996, and 2005. This book is wonderful, though the first introductory contains interesting but quite "dated" information about various Bantu cultures which might be used for comparison with those Anansi stories (Anansi stories are from the Akan of Ghana & The Ivory Coast who aren't a Bantu population.)

In the story "Annancy and the Honey Dram", for some reason, the devil keeps leaving his pot of honey dram (the liquour drambuie] by the river, and Annancy's song John Wee Wee (Little John)keeps stealing drinks. Annancy brings his son home, and it takes 3 days for him to sober up, but when he does, he somehow finds out where the devil lives so he can get more of that drink. The devil's mother whose name is Matilda captures John Wee Wee and forces him to "beat corn". Ananse finds the house, and asks to work alongside his son. He then tricks Matilda by playing a song that compels her to dance until she tires and falls asleep. Annancy and his son escape, and he sets the devil's house on fire. The devil sees the flames and rushes to the house to find his mother. When he doesn't find her he "takes it to heart" and dies.

The song that is included in that story is

Wheel oh! Wheel oh Matilda
Turn the water wheel oh Matilda!
Matilda mah ma los' him golden ring
Turn the water wheel oh Matilda!


Another thing that might be of interest to Mudcat commentators/readers is that the traditional ending to all Ananse stories in this book and elsewhere is "the saying: Jack Mantora me no choose none". Alice Werner, the author of the 1907 introduction to that book hinted at the meaning of that ending. Werner writes that Jack was a principle member of the company hearing the story and that ending statement was the narrator showing good manners and letting Jack and others know that the story's lesson (object) was not intended for him or for anyone else listening then. Additional information and clarification about "Jack Mandora etc" is found on a Jamaican blog: The blogger notes that linguist Frederic G. Cassidy believes the story of Jack Mandora is a "bastardized English Nursery rhyme which went something like this:

I'll tell you a story
And this is how it's began
I'll tell you another
Of Jack and his brother and now my story's done.'"


That particular story might have been told to warn about the dangers of drinking but the narrarator would say the "Jack Mandora" ending for plausible deniability.

Thanks again for pointing out that book, Morwen! It's a wonderful treasure trove of Jamaican stories and songs. And by the way, I agree with you that many Jamaican folk songs-and other Caribbean and African folk songs were first part of stories. I think that the evolution went from stories to game songs to folk songs sung with dance-like movements.