How did stories of Anansi come to North America?

During the 1600's, the transatlantic slave trade took place. Ghanaians (that means people from Ghana) were captured and kidnapped to North America and the Caribbean to work against their will.


Before they went to sleep at night, the slaves would tell each other Anansi stories. They would teach them to their children, who would tell them to their children throughout the years.


The slaves enjoyed Anansi's stories because he used his wisdom to trick animals that were bigger than himself. This made them think of ways to survive the difficult times while fighting for their freedom.


Over time Anansi's stories changed and so did his name. He is also known as Ananse, Anancy, Hapanzi and Nanzi. But don’t be fooled — he is still the cunning trickster!


In the United States, Anansi was known as Aunt Nancy, a spider woman. And in some states he was adapted into a rabbit called Brer Rabbit.


Some people believe that Brer Rabbit later became the beloved mischief-maker, Bugs Bunny.


That would be cool, wouldn't it? After all, they have many similarities and are both creative and funny characters.


By: Karlene Millwood

Did you know there was a spider man before Spider Man? Meet Anansi! He’s a main character in West African folklore. His stories are part of a rich, oral tradition (which means it wasn’t originally written down).


Stories of Anansi were shared from the memories of elders of the community, or grandparents and parents and passed on to children. Because of this type of storytelling, Anansi and his adventures were able to survive and withstand the test of time.


Behind each tale of Anansi, known as a trickster tale, is a lesson of moral value. Anansi, who is still popular among children in Ghana and the Caribbean today, is a character worth knowing!


Who is Anansi?

Anansi is a shape-changing spider. Sometimes he's a spider with a human face. Other times he's a human with eight legs.


What is he known for?

Anansi is known for his wisdom. In fact, he's so clever that he uses his skills to outsmart others. Even powerful animals like leopards! Some people believe that his trickery led him to become a spider.


In one story, Anansi is a god who refuses to stop being mischievous. As punishment, his father, Nyame, changed him into a spider.


Another account said he killed the king's prize ram and blamed it on a spider. When the king found out the truth, he became angry. He was so upset that he kicked Anansi, and split him into two! One piece was a spider and the other was a man.


Where did the Anansi stories originate?

The stories come from the Ashanti people who form one of the largest tribes in Ghana, a country in West Africa.


In Ghana, the stories are known as "Anansesem" which means spider tales. Some people believe that Anansi is a Ghanaian superhero. We were pleasantly surprised to see superhero Anansi in the 1990s cartoon, Static Shock. You can watch a clip here.


Anansi Tricster at Twitter.jpg

Image: @AnansiTrickster