Anansi The Spider: What’s behind the Name!
In Jamaica, story telling was a central part of the life of our ancestors. Back then, it represented their entertainment, as well as their way of passing on the heritage to their generations. Anansi stories were ranked the most popular, but there were other such as “Big Boy stories”, “Duppy stories” (ghost stories), and “River Mumma sties” (mermaid stories).
The name Annancy or “Anansi” is the Ashanti (West African group) word for “spider” which symbolizes wisdom. Anansi’s first name is Kweku, which means Wednesday. His father is known to be Nyame and his mother’s name is Asase Ya.
Anansi stories spread from Africa throughout the world and can be found in countries such as Jamaica, other the Caribbean countries, Belize, Central and South America, and South Carolina. As a matter of fact, in South Carolina Aunt Nancy is sometimes used as a folk name for the spider because the term is the Americanized version of Anansi.
Anansi is a central mythical character of the story who was quite an imaginative animated character. He is depicted in numerous forms: a spider, a human, or a combination of both. Anansi is mostly a trickster (plays pranks or otherwise disobeys normal rules and norms of behavior) and sometimes a hero. It is often through his mischievous pranks in folktales or trickster tales that we learn to behave. In the stories, Anansi was generally called “Brer Anansi” (Brother Anansi), his wife was called “Crooky”, and his son was called “Tacooma”. Anansi had other animal associates in his adventures, namely, “Brer” (Brother) Snake, Dog, Tiger, Puss and Monkey.
What made these stories so interesting was that Anansi’s weakness and strengths lies in his cunning character. This cunning character was also what gave Anansi his great charm. Anansi is known as the “likeable rascal”. Other characteristics of Anansi is that he speaks with lisp speech, he is comical and heroic. The stories of his doings are agreeable. The listeners are usually cheerful and made to feel better after a story. There are hundreds of Anansi stories and one will find that there are often different versions of the same story. Most of the stories are creation myths. By tricking the sky god, Anansi is credited with placing the sun and moon in the sky. By trying to keep a pot of wisdom all to himself he accidentally drops it, which is the reason wisdom spread around the world.
In the past, it was custom for the grandmothers to tell Anansi stories to their grandchildren or the entire family, as a form of bedtime stories. On a sad note, with the passage of time, the Anansi story custom has passed away. Jamaican children today know little or nothing about Anansi except for his name. Some adults may scarcely even remember the entire story, even if they attempted to tell one.
Anansi’s Life Profile
Given Name (s): Brer Anansi or Kweku Anansi
Date of Birth: Unknown
Day of Birth: Wednesday
Country of Birth: Asanti, Ghana
Height: Short beyond measure
Weight: Light as feather
Date of Death: Anansi has died a few times in some of his stories, but seems to be immortal
Father’s Name: Nyame, the Great Sky God
Mother ‘s Name: Asase Ya, Earth goddess / Goddess of Fertility
Other Common Names: Ananse, / Annancy / Annansay /
Annancey / Anancyi / Anawnsy / Hanansi / Hanaansi / Compe Anansi / John Anansi / Nansi /
Nance / Nancy / Mr. Nancy / Brother Anansi / Bro’ Anancy / Bra’ Nancy / Bre-Nancy / Aunt Nancy
/ Miss Nancy / Anansi-Tori / Ti Malice / Uncle Bouki / The Spider / Spider-man
Address(es): Kumasi, Ghana, Jamaica and other Caribbean territories, The Sea Islands and South Carolina (Gullah) USA , The island of Haiti , Paramaribo and other districts within Suriname, South America, Garifuna Communities, Belize, Central America.
Areas of Specialty: Trickery; Quick-change-artist; Uses his brains; Hustler; Outsmarts
persons larger than himself; Known to travel with immigrants; Often gets in trouble for
Main Enemy: Osebo the Leopard, A.K.A: “Bre’r Tiger”, “Bra Tiger”, “Bro Tiger”, Tiger