Bold, tricky, and often extremely selfish, Anansi is sometimes a spider and sometimes a man. It's hard to say why he changes form, but his character remains the same. He comes from Ghana in West Africa and has travelled as far as the Caribbean. You will enjoy hearing how he tricks animals, people and even gods. It's equally fun when he gets his just comeuppance.
Adapted by Bertie.
Read by Richard.
Proofread by Jana Elizabeth.
Hello, this is Richard.
If you have been listening to Storynory for a while, you’ll be used to the idea that storytellers can change form. Take Bertie - during his story-writing career, he’s been both a frog and a prince. Well, today I’m going to bring you a tradition from Ghana in West Africa about a hero called Anansi. He is the spirit of storytelling, and he shifts shape between a spider and a man. He’s a tricky fellow, and he’s not always sweet-tempered. In this first story, we will learn how Anansi brought stories to the world.
The god of the skies is Nyankopon. His name means 'He who knows and sees everything.' His right eye is the sun, which he opens during the day, and his left eye is the moon, which he opens during the night.
Long ago, all the stories in the world belonged to Nyankopon. But down on the earth, a lowly creature called Anansi the spider held a very high opinion of himself, and his own wit and wisdom.
“How come all the stories belong to Nyankopon?” he thought. “I’m sure I could spin a far, finer tale.”
And so Anansi climbed to the top of the tallest tree and spoke to the sky god directly.
"Nyankopon,” he said. "Why don’t you give all the stories to me? I will look after them well for you.”
And Nyankopon looked down with this sun-eye, saw the arrogant little spider, and chuckled to himself:
“Why of course, Anansi,” he replied. "You can have all the stories you want, but first you must bring me three things that I would like.”
“And what would those be?” asked Anansi.
“Mmmm, Onini the python, Osebo the leopard, and the Mmoboro hornets,” replied Nyankopon, and he could not help laughing: "Ha Ha HA HA!” at the thought of the tiny spider getting the better of such fierce beasts.
But Anansi was happy with this bargain. “Done!” he said. “It’s a deal.”
And he set off on his eight legs to catch the python, the leopard, and the hornets.
As he went through the forest, he looked around for a long straight stick. He found one and laid it on the ground outside the door of the python’s house. When Onini the Python returned home, he saw Anansi pondering this stick.
“What are you doing my hairy-legged friend?” he said.
“Well you see,” said, Anansi. “I have a bet on with Nyankopon. I say that you are longer than this stick, and he says that you are shorter. Let’s show the all-seeing one that he is wrong.”
As it happened, Onini was proud of his long python body, and he was happy to stretch out by the stick and show that he was longer. He did not expect that Anansi, quick as a flash, would spin thread around him and tie him to the stick. Now he was trapped and could not move. All he could do was to protest with his long, silvery tongue. “Anansi you trickster, untie me or you will be sorry.” But Anansi looked up at the sky and said: “Nyankopon, I have delivered to you the first part of the bargain.”
The sky-god laughed and said: “You are indeed a tricky little spider, but I doubt that even you can catch Osebo the leopard.”
“We’ll see about that,” said Anansi. But in fact, seeing was not part of it. He sewed up his left eye so that he couldn’t see anything with it. The one-eyed spider paid a visit to the tree where Osebo the leopard lived. The big spotted cat dangled a powerful paw down from the branch he was using as a couch and said:
“Anansi, my wily little fellow, what happened to your eye?”
And the deceitful spider replied: “Nyankopon sewed it up for me, and now I can see the most wonderful things with it - worlds, stars and the whole universe - just like gods see.”
“How simply divine!” exclaimed Osebo the leopard. "Sew up my eye so that I can see these wonders too.”
“I’ll do one better than that,” replied Anansi. "I’ll sew up both of your eyes so that you will be practically a god.”
And when he had finished doing what he had promised, poor Osebo was completely blind, and it was all too easy to lead the leopard to Nyankopon.”
“Well, Well, Well,” said Nyankopon. "Perhaps I have underestimated your cleverness, my little spider, but you have left the most difficult task for last, for the hornets are angry little creatures than no one has ever tamed.”
“I said I will bring them to you, and I shall,” replied Anansi with great confidence, though Nyankopon thought it was perhaps foolish confidence given the ferocity of the hornets.
Anansi went to the place where the Mmoboro hornets kept their nest, and he brought with him a large jar. The hornets swarmed around, buzzing and saying:
“NNNNN, What is in that jar, Anansi?”
“Why nothing,” replied the wily spider. “But I have a bet with Nyankopon about it. The sky god says you cannot fly into it. I say you can. Will you help me prove him wrong?”
“Why of course we can fly in!” exclaimed the hornets angrily. “Who does the all-seeing one think he is to say what we can and can’t do?” And with that, they flew as one into the jar and as soon as they were all inside, Anansi slammed the lid on tight.
Now, when Anansi brought the jar of Mmoboro hornets to Nyankopon, the sky god was truly impressed with the little spider’s successful trickery.
“Who would have thought that such a small and insignificant little creature could capture great beasts?” he said. “Truly Anansi, you deserve the stories of the world, for you have proved yourself to be the smartest animal on the earth.”
And that is how Anansi the spider got all the stories in the world - or at least all the stories in Ghana because so much of their folk law is about him. He has travelled to the Caribbean too, and his stories of trickery have influenced Brer Rabbit in the southern states of the USA. As you will hear, he sometimes takes on a human form. It’s not clear how or why he shifts from being a spider to being a man, but his tricky personality always stays with him.
I’ll be back soon with some more Anansi stories here on Storynory.com.