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

Gender: Male

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

Specie: Deity-homo-arachnid

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.

Profession: Trickster

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

a misdemeanor.

Main Enemy: Osebo the Leopard, A.K.A: “Bre’r Tiger”, “Bra Tiger”, “Bro Tiger”, Tiger

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