September 28, 2023

#08-346: All Stories Are Anansi's

A computer-generated image of Anansi (Wikipedia)

Note: This story asserts that without stories, there is no civilization. Learn how the tricky trickster god Anansi brought the power of storytelling to society.

Get Ready: What role do stories play in your life? Or in a culture?

The Akan people of West Africa have a trickster god named Anansi, which in their language means "Spider." He sometimes does appear as a spider, but sometimes as a human or even a god.

His father was Nyame, the creator and sky god, and his mother the Earth goddess Ya Nsia. He chose to live in his mother's domain, our blue-green earth.

Here on earth, there were animals and people--but the people were little different from the animals: they had no civilization and no stories.

So Anansi tricked his father into giving the people (whom Nyame despised) civilization. Here's how he did it: He said he would give his father the thing he wanted most, but Nyame would not tell Anansi what that was.

So Anansi disguised himself in a cloak of bird feathers and eavesdropped on a party his father was having with a billion other gods, planets, stars, and so on.

"What I really want," Nyame said to them, "is the moon, sun, and darkness, which I put away after the creation and have now lost."

Anansi took this knowledge to his friend Onini, the python--who just happened to have these exact items in a bag at the bottom of the underground lake where he lived! Anansi gratefully took these back to his surprised father, who gave the people civilization--farming, towns, and so on--but no stories. And without stories there was no culture.

So Anansi asked Nyame to set him another test to win all the stories. Nyame gave him what seemed impossible tasks: "Bring me," he said, "the python, the hornets, the leopard, and the fairy Mmoatia."

And tricky Anansi did this, too. He tricked his friend the python into lying alongside a branch to see which was longer--then tied him to it and gave it to his father. He tricked the hornets by throwing water on them and saying it was raining, they had better get into the gourd he carried. And they did, and he gave it to his father. The leopard was easy: Anansi simply dug a hole and covered it with brush, and the leopard fell in. Anansi tied him up and gave him to his father. Finally, he tricked the fairy by making a doll and putting sticky gum on it; when she hugged it, she was trapped, like Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby (see Lessons #08-185 and #08-186), and he gave her to his father..

When he had given these all to his father, his father released the stories.

That is why the people, "Aay all stories are Anansi's."


Practice: Match the term to its definition:

Term Definition
  1. cloak
  2. despised
  3. domain
  4. eavesdropped
  5. fairy
  6. gourd
  7. gum
  8. hornets
  9. python
  10. trickster god
  1. an outer coat
  2. the hollowed-out shell of a vegetable like a pumpkin
  3. stinging insects, worse than bees
  4. area of control
  5. a small human-like creature
  6. a sticky substance found in some trees
  7. listened in
  8. one who opposes other gods
  9. hated
  10. a giant kind of snake

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for September 28, 2023

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. a; 2. i; 3. d; 4. g; 5. e; 6. b; 7. f; 8. c; 9. j; 10. h