Anansi the Spider

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A spider mask from West Africa (but only fifty or a hundred years old)

Anansi the Spider: A spider mask from West Africa (but only fifty or a hundred years old)

When were Anansi stories written?

African story-tellers tell stories about a clever spider named Anansi. Nobody wrote down these stories about Anansi the spider until about a hundred years ago, so we can’t know whether they are the same stories that people told in medieval West Africa or not. But they are traditional stories, and many people think that they are versions of stories that were told a very long time ago.

Do they come from Buddhist stories?

One reason we think the stories were told for hundreds of years is that people told very similar stories in Central Africa and South Africa, so the people in those parts of Africa must have had time to learn the stories, or maybe the Bantu brought these stories with them when they traveled to Central Africa and South Africa about 400 AD. Possibly they are related to Buddhist Jataka Tales from India, which people first wrote down around 300 BC.

Anansi stories come to America

Certainly people were telling these Anansi stories in the 1700s AD, because many of the people who were forced to leave Africa and go to North America as slaves brought these stories with them, where they mixed with Cherokee stories and became known as the Br’er Rabbit stories. Here are some stories about Anansi the Spider:

You might want to compare these Anansi stories to the Br’er Rabbit stories.

Bibliography and further reading about African literature:

African languages and literature
Ancient Africa home

By |2018-04-12T08:54:05+00:00May 19th, 2017|Africa, Literature|0 Comments
Cite this page: Carr, K.E. Anansi the Spider. Study Guides, May 19, 2017. Web. December 19, 2018.

About the Author:

Dr. Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.

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