Anansi is a popular folktale character who originated from West Africa. He was passed on to the Caribbean during the time of the transatlantic slave trade hundreds of years ago. Anansi often takes the shape of a spider, and is known as quite the trickster. He has the ability to outsmart, outwit, and beat his opponents using his cunning creativity. Although Anansi is a trickster, he is often seen as the protagonist in his stories, as he learns lessons from his weaknesses and turns them into messages of triumph and goodness.
Tales about spiders have been found in West Africa for many years, but the Anansi stories are the most popular, as the word “Anansi” is the Akan word for “spider”. These stories have been passed from Ghana all over to The West Indies, Jamaica, Aruba, and Bonaire. Anansi has many different names such as Ananse, Ba Anansi, Kompa Nanzi, and Aunt Nancy to name a few. He is depicted in many ways, and is sometimes seen as a human man with spider-like features. In several of his stories, Ansani has a family that includes a wife named Okonore Yaa, several sons, and a beloved daughter named Anansewa.
Ansani stories were part of the oral tradition, and Ansani himself was sometimes known as the god of stories. He was often celebrated as an important symbol of slave resistance and survival, and is believed to have had an impact on the lives of the enslaved. Ansani’s tales inspired strategies to hold on to their African past, while giving them the ability to assert themselves and their identities while being confined.
Many Ansani stories have been published as children’s books, and oftentimes they instruct and inspire children and adults as much as they entertain them. Ansani has evolved from a trickster to someone who is considered a classical hero. In the Caldecott Award winning children’s book Anansi the Spider: A Tale From the Ashanti, Anansi’s six sons work together to save him from great danger. When Anansi finds a great globe of glowing light, he cannot decide who is more deserving of the prize, as they all helped him equally. Rather than giving it to one of his sons, he put the beautiful light up in the sky for all to see at night, and it still remains there today; and that is how the moon came to be.
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