Anansi(The Spider) and the Chest of Stories

Anansi tales are some of the best-known amongst the Asante people of Ghana.[1] The stories made up an exclusively oral tradition, and indeed Anansi himself was synonymous with skill and wisdom in speech.[2] It was as remembered and told tales that they crossed to the Caribbean and other parts of the New World with captives via the Atlantic slave trade.[3] In the Caribbean Anansi is often celebrated as a symbol of slave resistance and survival. Anansi is able to turn the table on his powerful oppressors using his cunning and trickery, a model of behaviour utilised by slaves to gain the upper-hand within the confines of the plantation power structure. Anansi is also believed to have played a multi-functional role in slaves’ lives, as well as inspiring strategies of resistance the tales enabled slaves to establish a sense of continuity with their African past and offered them the means to transform and assert their identity within the boundaries of captivity. As historian Lawrence W. Levine argues in Black Culture and Consciousness, slaves in the New World devoted “the structure and message of their tales to the compulsions and needs of their present situation”

Stories of Anansi became such a prominent and familiar part of Ashanti oral culture that the word Anansesem—"spider tales"—came to embrace all kinds of fables. One of the few studies that examines the role of Anansi folktales among the Ashanti of Ghana is R.S. Rattray’s Akan-Ashanti Folk-Tales (1930). The tales in Rattray’s collection were recorded directly from Ashanti oral storytelling sessions and published in both English and Twi.[4] Peggy Appiah, who collected Anansi tales in Ghana and published many books of his stories, wrote: "So well known is he that he has given his name to the whole rich tradition of tales on which so many Ghanaian children are brought up – anansesem – or spider tales."[5] Elsewhere they have other names, for instance Ananse-Tori in Suriname, Anansi in Guyana, and Kuent'i Nanzi in Curaçao.

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