• Georgia Garfield-White

In Summary: How Anansi won the World’s Stories


Originating among the Akan people of Ghana, Anansi is a popular figure who has spread across West Africa, the Caribbean and even to America. He is an important trickster god sometimes said to either be a spider, or to have the ability to transform into one. He is known for his cunning and is said to have inspired several mythical figures including; Aunt Nancy, Br'er Rabbit and Ti Malice.

 

"Anansi, a spider who sometimes imparts knowledge or wisdom - and sometimes casts doubt or seeds confusion."

Gabriella Coleman

 

Anansi once wished to be the owner of all the world’s stories which, at the time, were in the keeping of Nyame – the sky god. Approaching the god, Anansi requested the stories. Nyame laughed, astounded by the spider’s audacity. He told Anansi that many kings, communities and men had come to Nyame, offering anything he wanted in exchange for the stories, and none had been able to pay the price. Not one to back down from a challenge, Anansi asked what the price was. Nyame informed Anansi that he would only give the stories to someone who could capture the four most dangerous animals in the world: Onini the Python, the Mmoboro Hornets, Osebo the Leopard, and the Fairy Mmoatia. Anansi refused to back down, and swore that he would fulfil Nyame’s conditions, and win the stories.


Returning home Anansi planned how he would capture the creatures. Depending on the story, either alone or with his wife Aso’s help, Anansi came up with four cunning tricks that he would use.


First, he went to capture Onini the Python. He collected some vines and laid a long branch on the ground near Onini’s home, puzzling over it for such a long time that the python came to see what Anansi was doing. Anansi explained that he had bet that Onini was longer than the stick and wished to find a way to prove this. Agreeing to help Anansi win his bet, Onini laid down next to the stick, stretching himself to his full length. Not wasting a moment, Anansi pounced, binding the python to the stick with the vines he had collected. No matter how much he struggled, Onini could not escape, and Anansi proudly carried him off to Nyame.


Next, Anansi decided to capture the Mmoboro Hornets. Knowing that they were afraid of rain, he filled a gourd full of water and went to their home. He poured the water around and waited for them to come and see what was going on. When they appeared, he pointed to the wet leaves and convinced them that it had been raining. When they grew worried, he told them not to be frightened, for they could find shelter in his, now empty, gourd. Relieved, the hornets flew inside, only for Anansi to close the lid behind them. A triumphant Anansi carried the trapped hornets to Nyame.


Thirdly, Anansi decided to capture Osebo the Leopard. Knowing the areas that Osebo usually roamed, Anansi dug a deep hole and covered it with leaves and branches, so that it would be completely invisible at night, then he went home and waited. The next day he went to check the pit and sure enough, Osebo was trapped inside. Anansi pretended to be surprised as Osebo’s predicament, asking how he had managed to get stuck in the pit, and promising to help him out if Osebo promised not to attack him. When Osebo finally let his guard down, Anansi knocked him unconscious, bound him in web and carried him off to Nyame.


Finally, Anansi decided to capture the Fairy Mmoatia. Covering a doll in sticky tar and tying strings around its waist so that he could manipulate the doll’s movements, Anansi travelled to the fairy’s forest. Using the doll, he goaded the fairy into believing that the doll was being unforgivably rude. Enraged, the Mmoatia struck the doll, first with one hand, then with the other. Due to sticky tar on the doll, Mmoatia’s hands became stuck to the sticky surface and no matter what Mmoatia did, the fairy was unable to escape. Thrilled with his success, Anansi carried the final creature to Nyame.


Surprised, but honest, Nyame was true to his word and declared from that day forth all stories would belong to Anansi.

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