Given Name: Kweku Anansi
Father: Nyame, the Great Sky God
Mother: Asase Ya, Earth goddess / Goddess of Fertility
Alias(es): Ananse, from the Twi language for spider. AKA: Anansi / Annancy / Annansay /
Annancey / Anancyi / Anawnsy / Hanansi / Hanaansi / Compe Anansi / John Anansi / Nansi /
Nance / Nancy / Mr. Nancy / Brother Anansi / Bro' Anancy / Bra' Nancy / Bre-Nancy / Aunt Nancy
/ Miss Nancy / Anansi-Tori / Ti Malice / Uncle Bouki / The Spider / Spider-man
Race: Mixed (50% negroid, 50% supernatural)
Date of Birth: Unknown (around the time when animals and humans spoke to each other).
Day of Birth: Wednesday
Height: Little. Weight: Light.
Address(es): Kumasi, Ghana / Kingston and the counties of Jamaica and other Caribbean
territories / The Sea Islands and South Carolina (Gullah), USA / The island of Haiti / Paramaribo
and other districts within Suriname, South America / Garifuna Communities, Belize, Central
Country of Origin: Asanti, Ghana
M.O. (Modus Operandi): Trickery; Quick-change-artist; Uses his brains; Hustler; Outsmarts
persons larger than himself; Known to travel with immigrants; Often gets in trouble for
Main Enemy: Osebo the Leopard, A.K.A: "Bre'r Tiger", "Bra Tiger", "Bro Tiger", Tiger
History: According to the Dictionary of Jamaican English, edited by F.G. Cassidy and R. B. Le
Page, Anansi is "the central character of numerous fables, West African in origin, extremely
popular in Jamaica and many other parts of the West Indies. Anansi, the spider, pits his cunning
(usually with success) against superior strength; he also symbolizes greed and envy." In
Jamaica Talk: Three Hundred Years of the English Language in Jamaica, by Frederic G.
Cassidy, Anansi "is supposed to be tongue-tied, or to lisp. He uses a form of Jamaican dialect
with the most Africanisms ('Bungo talk'). For example, [Anansi] says 'yiki' for 'little'. He cannot
pronounce 'r' and he speaks with a falsetto whine. If the story is well told, one knows at once
when Anansi begins to speak."
Kweku Anansi (or Ananse) is the son of the Asanti (Ashanti) Supreme Being called Nyame.
Nyame the great sky god, turned Anansi into a spider-man. Nyame is also called by other
names. As Oboadee (Creator), Odomankoma (Infinite, Inventor), he created life and death.
Once death used venom to overcome Nyame. Nyame used an antidote to combat death's
venom, therefore, he has eternal life. A part of Nyame's eternal spiritual form was placed into the
human soul or "kra". Therefore, this kra also cannot die. Additionally, Nyame is known as
Ananse Kokuroko, which means The Great Spider or The Great Designer.
Nyame allows Anansi to bring rain, especially to quench forest fires. It is also Anansi who
determines the borders of oceans and rivers when they flood. Anansi is so famous that he is
credited with creating the sun, moon, stars, night, day and the first man in whom Nyame
breathed life. He showed humans how to plow and sow grain. His Web of Life inspired humans
by showing them how to weave and how to construct houses. The web also showed human
beings how to link themselves together in order to form a society. The web is also a symbol of
the life-giving sun.
Anansi's mother is Nyame's wife, Asase Ya, the goddess of the Earth and of fertility. Anansi's
first name, Kweku, means Wednesday. This day-name signifies that his soul first appeared on
that day. His mischief had infuriated Nyame one time too many and for this final transgression
Nyame permanently turned his son into a small spider-man. From that time forward, Anansi the
spider-man had to use his mental skills to survive. Undaunted by his fate, Anansi rose to
become the "Keeper Of All Stories". He is the hero of children and the champion of the little guy
and the powerless. Like them, he often gets in trouble and must use his intelligence to save
Anansi's stories spread his fame among the Akan people of West Africa and their neighbors. In
the Americas he was adopted by enslaved Africans from different ethnic groups. The variations
in the spelling and pronunciation of his name reflects this cross cultural change from Akan into
English, French, Dutch, creole and patois. These cultural exchanges also occurred between
Africans and Europeans in the Americas. Separated from his Asanti origins for hundreds of
years, his gender also changed in some locales because of the similarity in sound between
Ah-nancy and the English name Nancy. However, the use of the term "Nancy story" did not
necessarily imply a gender change and was just a shortening of the name Anansy.
Anansi stories are both entertaining and instructional. Listeners are sometimes advised either to
follow Anansi's example or beware of his folly. So as not to upset a listener whose actions or
personality may mimic Asansi's, a storyteller sometimes issues a disclaimer in telling a tale.
Some stories include a proverb at the end or may incorporate a song. Anansi stories occur at
various periods of his life. In one tale he may be a bachelor in search of a bride or the hand of
the king's daughter. In another story he may have his wife Aso and his son Intikuma. In Jamaican
stories Intikuma is Takooma or Bra' Takooma. Anansi's wife may just be referred to as Mrs.
Anansi or as "Cookie" in a 19th century account. Some traditional Asanti stories may refer to his
children by name or by ability. Some Anansi tales may not include Anansi and others may be a
"Why" or "How" story. For example, "Why Dogs Have Narrow Behinds", or "How John Crow
(turkey vulture) Got a Peel (bald) Head."
A song from an AnansiStory teller
A song from the Animal Race story tradition, "Horse and Turtle". Told by Alfred Williams to
Martha Warren Beckwith between 1919 and 1921 in Maroon Town, Cockpit Country, Jamaica.
Mr. Williams, a Maroon song-leader, inherited the song's lyrics from his African ancestors.
Jamaican Maroons originated from the ranks of the island's indigenous people, the Taino. Some
Taino chose to remove themselves from the Spanish ranches that were established in Jamaica
after Christopher Columbus' arrival there in 1494. The "wild" or "cimarron" Taino were later
joined by African runaways after the English captured Jamaica in 1655. Today, Jamaican
Maroons are predominantly of African descent many of whom originated among the Akan
peoples of Africa's Gold Coast. Famous Jamaican Maroons like Captains Cudjoe (Kojo/Monday),
Cuffee (Kofi/Friday), Quaco (Kwame/Saturday) and some enslaved Africans in 19th century
sugar plantation accounts, also had Asanti day names.
Copyright 2007 by Michael Auld
Kweku + a spider
Kweku Anansi the Spider-man
+ a human
ALL YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT THE
He once enjoyed his life as a man. Nyame
(N'-ya-mae), his father, changed his
mischievous son into a spider. As a
spider-man, Anansi continued his pranks.
Through his actions we learn how to