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Trickster Anansi... || Reading Notes: West African Folktales Part A

His son was cooler than him...

  • Anansi always tricked and ripped people off. It seems that he did eventually develop a reputation with those around him. However, he was still able to convince many people to go along with his schemes.
  • Most people in these stories have a really quick sense of when they were tricked and act accordingly.
  • While Anansi is a classic trickster, he doesn't ever seem to get away with his tricks. I'm not sure whether this is common in other culture's mythologies but I feel like sometimes the tricksters tend to get away with their tricks.
  • All of Anansi's schemes are usually quite clever, even if they usually end up failing him. 
  • There are lots of famines in these stories. Of course, I am willing to bet that this was (is?) a harsh reality for that area of the world. It makes sense that many of the stories of Anansi's selfishness would come of his own desperation for food. 
  • The fact that Kweku Tsin is such a contrast to the wicked ways of his father reminds me of the contrast between Mara and his son Sarthavaha from the Life of Buddha. 
  • The personification of animals forms the majority of the characters for these stories.
    • I'm not entirely sure if it's explicitly stated, but Anansi is a spider?
    • At least, he is a few of the stories.
  • Of this first round of stories, I think that I like the ones that explain the origins of things the best. Such as why the lizard moves his head up and down or why termites destroy property or why spiders are found under rocks. 
    • The cleverness behind some of these explanatory stories is really awesome.
    • They manage to explain a fact of life that is just taken for granted with a fairly long story with semi-plausible reasons. (Plausible in the sense of the story.)
Spider Anansi

Photo Credit:

Unit: West African Folktales
By: William H. Barker and Cecilia Sinclair
Illustrations: Cecilia Sinclair


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