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Week 7 Story: How Anansi Became the God of Stories

Once, there was a man who eschewed hard work. Every day he spent figuring out ways to avoid work. So it happened that, one day, he turned to theft. He went around to the houses in the area, robbing each at night. So this went until he was caught in the act. A crowd gathered and demanded his head for his crimes. He pleaded for his life and promised to repay every person he robbed. With reluctance, the people allowed him to live, but only if he made true on his promise to repay his debts.

The man returned home to think of a way he could pay off his debt. He decided to plant an orchard such that the trees, eventually, would do most of the work in paying off his debt. For once, he worked diligently in planting and caring for the trees of tamarind and dates.

The trees grew well, and, eventually, the time came to harvest. As the man began to collect his produce, a great storm came and blew it away. So great were the winds, that his trees were blown over and shattered.

The man looked around him in despair and realized that his chance of repaying his debt was dying. His old habit of laziness began to reassert itself, and he quickly devised a new solution. Shaking his fists at the sky, he yelled out to the god of winds and storms.

“You've ruined my livelihood and condemned me to death!”

The god of winds and storms was shocked to hear this and responded, “Condemn you to death? How is this so?”

“These trees were to be my livelihood. They would pay off my debts! Without them, I will be executed. So, by the law of the great god of the sky, my debts are your responsibility!”

The god of winds and storms was ignorant of the law of his superiors and, trusting in the word of the man, accepted the debt with great reluctance and sorrow.

The god pondered how to pay off the enormous debt. He was still pondering when, by chance, he met with the god of drought and famine. The two fell into a heated argument about the nature of their duties. The argument quickly escalated into a battle between the two and, in the end, the god of drought and famine stood victorious.
However, his happiness with his victory was soon overshadowed as his injured rival told him of the debt he was carrying.

“By the laws of the great god of the sky, this debt is now yours!”

Ignorant of the laws of his superiors, the god of drought and famine accepted the debt with great reluctance and went on his way.

He thought about how he would repay this debt. He was still considering this when he came across the great god of the sky. He cried out to the great god and blamed his misfortune on his laws.

The great god of the sky was confused. "I have no such law concerning the transfer of debt! The debt you speak of does not belong to you. It is the responsibility of the original holder. Unless the original holder is dead?”

With delight, the god of drought and famine informed the great god of the sky that the original holder of the debt was alive and, together, they sought out the god of winds and storms. Upon finding him, the great god of the sky informed him that the debt was still his to carry.
“Why did you think that such a law of mine existed?” the great god asked.

“Why, because I was given the debt myself! The man who passed it on to me claimed it was your law!"

The great god was surprised by this statement and, together, they set out to find the original man. The gods found him relaxing by the ruins of his farm and, at once, the god of winds and storms approached him, demanding to know why he had lied.

"Here before you stands the great god of the sky who tells me that no such law exists to transfer debt the way you did to me."

"Surely you are mistaken," the man replied hastily. "This is the way of the gods. You have merely brought forth a charlatan so that you do not have to pay your debt."

Upon hearing this, the great god grew angry and approached the pair.

"You dare call me a charlatan when you yourself have lied about my laws! Be silent you trickster! This debt is yours and yours alone."

The man heard this pronouncement and immediately realized his folly. With shame, he accepted his debt again and bowed to the gods as they departed.

Standing among the ruined scraps of his orchard, the man pondered his options. He had little but scraps of wood to his name and could devise no clever means by which to repay his debt.

Hunger overcame him, and, with nothing to eat, he peeled the bark off his fallen trees so that he might chew upon something. As he chewed, an idea came to him. Taking the wood from his mouth, he pounded it flat with a rock before laying it to dry by a fire. When the pulp had dried, he held the first piece of paper ever created. With delight, he drew a stick from the fire and used the charred end to draw upon its surface. Taking his invention into town, he showed it to the villagers. People began to buy much of this new material from the man. With the wealth he accumulated, the man quickly paid off his sizeable debt. People took his creation and used it to write down the stories and histories that had been passed down orally to them through the years. And so it was that Anansi, the man and trickster, came to be known as the god of stories.

Anansi from American Gods 


Author's Note:

This story is based on the story of How Mushrooms First Grew. I started with the same basic concept, but I wanted to integrate Anansi into this story and give him credit for the creation of something. Given that Anansi is sometimes referred to as the god of stories, I thought that crediting him with the creation of paper would be appropriate. Additionally, I wanted to pay homage to his roots as a trickster and con man with this story. If you liked my version, I highly recommend that you read the rest of Anansi's tales at the link below!

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

Photo Credits:
Anansi from American Gods

Comments

  1. Hey Rhys,

    This was a good one! It really felt like a well-told "how story" about the creation of paper, and you did a good job of implementing Anansi's roots as a trickster. I found it pretty funny that all of the gods were just completely ignorant of the laws of their superiors, though I thought it was a good way of highlighting just how persuasive a con man like Anansi can be.

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  2. Hey Rhys!

    I really like how you played into Anansi being a trickster as I also wrote a story about him and after reading much of his source material I found that he is always at his best when he is up to his usual trickster ways. Anansi acting as a sort of con man in this specific retelling really brings it all together for a great story.

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  3. Hey Rhys!
    This was such a great story! I almost can't believe that this is an original story and not the actual origin of Anansi! It fits his personality so well, and it makes perfect sense for Anansi to weave this lie of transferring debts to get out of his own misfortune. Also, I have a headcannon here that Anansi wasn't really lazy; he just hadn't found the thing he liked yet: stories (because they hadn't been invented!). Any story that can inspire extra thought in the characters is a great story!

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