Adannaya’s Sugar

by Carmen Milagros Torres 

Adannaya and the Spider by Carmen Milagros
Crispín loved to invent stories. When he met with the other sugar plantation workers, he would boast that he was from the Canary Islands. He told them that he had been a rich man but used up all his money to free his wife, who had been a slave and was now dead. The plantation workers knew this was not true and ignored Crispin’s lies.

Despite the tales he told, Crispín had a good heart and was an excellent neighbour. He was a loving father to his daughter. He had raised Adannaya alone after his wife died while giving birth.

Adannaya was a beautiful young mulata. Her skin reminded people of the brown sugar produced on the island of Borinken which was the traditional Taíno name for their island. Her eyes were the pale yellow of the morning sun’s rays as they filtered through the coffee plants. Her hair was soft and as black as the night. It fell down her neck like the ripples of water hitting the pebbles in the river. Adannaya loved music and dancing. She was the best bomba dancer of the region. Often, she danced and danced until the night stars faded into the dawn.

One evening, after the celebration of St. Miguel had ended, Crispín started spinning tales. He declared that his daughter Adannaya could turn the brown sugar produced in the local sugar mills into pure white sugar.

“You lie,” said Fabián when he heard Crispín boasting to a group of men.

“I do not lie,” Crispín replied. “Adannaya is not only the most beautiful mulata of this hacienda and the best bomba dancer; she can also change brown sugar into white. Yes she can! And if I only had some brown sugar, I would prove it to you.”

The other men laughed at Crispín and went back home. But Fabián went to Don Jacinto’s house and told him what Crispín had said. Don Jacinto was the overseer on the plantation. He was in charge of the workers and was the most powerful person on the plantation next to the hacendado who owned the land.

When Don Jacinto heard Fabián’s story, he was angered. You see, white sugar was quite expensive in those times. Only the very rich could afford to buy it. Producing white sugar cost too much for the sugar mill owners or hacendados. So most sugar mills only produced brown sugar. Now Don Jacinto was hearing that Crispín’s daughter could turn brown sugar into expensive white sugar. He couldn’t believe it.

“If it is true, then that rascal Crispín has no right to keep the white sugar for himself! Bring him and his daughter to me at once!”

Crispín was nervous when he came before Don Jacinto. He took off his pava or straw hat, and held it to his chest as he bowed down his head.

“Don Jacinto, I was told to come to see you.”

“Yes, I sent for you. People are talking and saying strange things about your daughter.”

“What things, Don Jacinto?”

“They say that your daughter can change brown sugar into pure white sugar. Is this true?”

“Don Jacinto, I do not know what to say.”

“Answer me! Did you say your daughter could change brown sugar into white?”

Crispín was now trembling. Don Jacinto was a cruel man with a hard heart. He was powerful, and his anger was dangerous.The slaves of his hacienda were constantly punished and the peasants or jíbaros like Crispín had to work very hard for very little money. 

“Don Jacinto I did say that but…”

“No buts!” And turning to Adannaya he demanded: “So you, girl, can change my brown sugar into white?”

Adannaya looked at her father. She knew that if she said her father had lied, he would be put in jail and maybe never set free. She loved her father dearly and wanted no harm to come to him.

“Don Jacinto,” Adannaya said, “I am just a mulata girl with many dreams.”

Don Jacinto pulled her outside and took her to an old, empty shed. He opened the door and pushed her inside saying: “There is your brown sugar. You must change it into white before the rooster crows at dawn. If not, you will never see your father again!”

Everything went dark as he closed the door. In despair, Adannaya walked around inside the dark shed, touching the bags of sugar. She didn’t know what to do.

“Oh, how can I change these into white sugar? I have no powers. How can I help my father?”

And then she heard a soft voice say: “You may not have the power, but I do.”

Adannaya stood up in alarm. She peered into the shadows, trying to see who had spoken.

“Who are you? I cannot see you in this darkness.”

“Wait until the moon shines. Then you will see who I am.”

And when the full moon shone and lit up the dark room, Adannaya still did not see anyone anywhere. Now she began to tremble in fear because she knew for she had heard a voice.

“Are you a spirit like the ones my godmother Tata says exists in the darkness? Oh, tell me, who or what are you?”

The small soft voice laughed. “No I am not a spirit of the dead. Look up to where the window is and there you will see what I am.”

And there, all lit up by the silver beams of the moon, glittered an immense spider web. On that web sat a big, black spider with long hairy legs. It slid down and landed on Adayanna’s shoulder. She moved back since spiders repulsed her.

“Ah, so you do not like me?” said the spider.

“I am sorry. Spiders scare me.”

“And why is that, may I ask? Has one ever harmed you?”

“No,” Adayanna admitted. “But spiders look ugly. I do not want to offend you, but that is what I feel.”

“No matter,” said the spider and moved up into the web. “Let us talk about you. You seemed to have a problem.”

Adannaya told him all that happened. When she finished, she said to the spider: “You said you could help me. But how can that be? You are just a spider.”

“Yes, that is true. But I do have powers. I can change this brown sugar into white sugar. But I must receive something in exchange.”

“What do you want, spider?”

“Something valuable. What can you give me?”

Adannaya was poor. The only thing of value she owned was a small shell that she wore around her neck on an old string. The shell had belonged to her mother. “I have only this,” she said, as she took the shell necklace from around her neck.

“That is no treasure. It is just a useless, old shell!”

Adayanna grew angry. “How dare you say that! It belonged to my mother. For me, it is more valuable than all the white sugar in the world!”

“Is that so? Who would have thought a small, insignificant shell could be so valuable? Well, what do I know? After all, I’m just a repulsive spider.”

“Spider, I am sorry I offended you. You spoke kindly to me and I am treating you badly. You are a splendid spider for you could have just ignored me, and you did not.”

“But,” said the spider, “since you have not given me any treasure, I cannot change the brown sugar into white.”

“I understand,” said Adayanna. It is not your fault I am here. I am so sorry that my father always makes up stories. Now he is in so much trouble! I only wish I could give you a treasure, but I cannot.”

“So what do you plan to do? Dawn is almost here.”

“When Don Jacinto comes,” said Adayanna, “I will plead for my father’s life.”

“Ah, Don Jacinto,” said the spider “Is this the same Don Jacinto that I know, the cruel man that punishes his slaves and pays almost nothing to the free workers?”

Tears were falling from Adayanna’s eyes as she said, “I know he is cruel. But he must have some mercy in his heart. I will give up my freedom for my father’s life. Just like my mother once was, I will become a slave. It doesn’t matter, just as long as my father is free and no harm befalls him.”

“Do you know what you are saying? To become a slave means a life of hardship and pain.”

“I know, but I love my father so.”

The spider moved down and sat again on Adayanna’s shoulder. This time she didn’t feel any disgust.

“Spider, thank you for listening,” Adayanna sighed and then she sweetly kissed the spider.

Suddenly, the room filled with an intensely bright light that blinded Adannaya. When she was finally able to see again, a tall handsome man stood next to her. He had beautiful dark skin and lovely white teeth.

He smiled as he said: “Adannaya, you have liberated me from a centuries-old curse! I am Zuberi from an ancient African tribe. Centuries ago I was cursed and became a spider. Only an expression of pure love could free from the curse. By giving me your greatest treasure, your love, you have turned me back into a man. And now I will keep my part of the bargain.”

He held his arms up high and chanted:

“Sugar that is brown 
Change to white 
Make your color light 
With the touch of my thread.” 

At his words an immense spider web quickly covered the sacks of sugar. When the web disappeared, the sugar was sparkling white.

“And now,” said Zuberi, “come with me. We can live in happiness and you will always be free.”

“Zuberi, I wish I could,” said Adannya longingly, “but I cannot leave my father to suffer Don Jacinto’s anger.”

“That is no problem,” said Zuberi. “You will see.”

The next day, Don Jacinto found all the sacks of brown sugar transformed into white sugar. But Adannaya was nowhere to be found. Only a broken spider web hung in a corner of the room. When Don Jacinto sent his men to arrest Crispín, they discovered that he too had disappeared.

People say that on the night of Adannaya’s and Crispín’s disappearance, three shadowy figures had been seen walking towards the river. Some say a boat was waiting for them and it is believed they went west to an island where there was freedom for all, an island where Adannaya and Zuberi could dance all night under the moon.


About the author/illustrator...

Carmen Milagros Torres is a professor at the University of Puerto Rico at Humacao. She is currently completing a PhD in Caribbean Linguistics. Her interests include photography, crocheting and reading children's literature, especially Caribbean children's books which highlight the Afro-Caribbean experience.

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About Anansesem

Anansesem is an online magazine of Caribbean children's and young adult literature by adults and children. We strive to bring you the best in news, reviews and creative content from the world of Caribbean children's publishing.
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  1. AnonymousJune 15, 2012

    This is a story worth to be told for generations! Excellent!

  2. Wau, Carmen. Very nice and illustrative. I like it.

  3. AnonymousJuly 09, 2012

    I totally enjoyed it and will read it to my kids. I'm sure they will enjoy it too.

  4. Sarah VenableApril 23, 2013

    What an enchanting story! It has love, danger, history and magic. The stuff of legends is here.

  5. Loved the story and the characters. I liked the use of mahic in this story and will read it with my students.



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