Anansi

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Anansi (pronunciation Ah-nahn-see) the trickster is a cunning and intelligent spider, and is one of the most important characters of West African and Caribbean folklore. He is also known as Ananse, Kwaku Ananse, and Anancy; and in the Southern United States he has evolved into Aunt Nancy. He is a spider, but often acts and appears as a man. The story of Anansi is akin to the tricksters Coyote, Raven or Iktomi found in many Native American cultures.

The Anansi tales are believed to have originated in the Ashanti tribe in Ghana. (The word Anansi is Akan and means, simply, spider.) They later spread to other Akan groups and then to the West Indies, Suriname, and the Netherlands Antilles. On Curaçao, Aruba, and Bonaire he is known as Nanzi, and his wife as Shi Maria.

Contents

Stories

Anansi tales are some of the best-known in West Africa[1] The stories made up an exclusively oral tradition, and indeed Anansi himself was synonymous with skill and wisdom in speech.[2] It was as remembered and told tales that they crossed to the Caribbean and other parts of the New World with captives via the Atlantic slave trade.[3]

Stories of Anansi became such a prominent and familiar part of Ashanti oral culture that the word Anansesem - "spider tales" -came to embrace all kinds of fables. Peggy Appiah, who collected Anansi tales in Ghana and published many books of his stories wrote: "So well known is he that he has given his name to the whole rich tradition of tales on which so many Ghanaian children are brought up - anansesem - or spider tales."[4] Elsewhere they have other names, for instance Anansi-Tori in Suriname and Kuent'i Nanzi in Curaçao.

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