Anansi the Spider Stories: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Joseph Wallace

Joseph is a recently retired elementary school principal and is a teacher with 36 years of experience in elementary education. He hold an EdS in Advanvced Professional Studies

When we think about spiders, we usually think of small creatures with eight legs that spin webs and hide in dark places. The Anansi stories tell us about the adventures of a spider that is very different from the ones we see around us.

Anansi the Spider

The story of Anansi (Ah-nan-see) begins in Ghana in West Africa many, many years ago. People believed that Anansi was the son of a great sky god named Nyame (Nye-AH-mee). Anansi was very powerful and could make it rain, or tell the oceans where they should be.

He was so powerful that he made the sun and the moon and put the stars into the night sky. Anansi even made the sun shine during the day. He also taught the people how to plant crops, build houses and live in groups.

Anansi had one serious weakness: he was very mischievous, or troublesome. He couldn't help himself. He loved to play tricks on people.

One day, Anansi's father got so upset with his son that he turned him into a spider and took his powers away. But that didn't stop Anansi. He may have lost his powers, but he was very smart.

Anansi used his intelligence to trick and fool other animals and to get out of trouble. Often these animals were much larger and stronger than he was, but Anansi didn't care. He tried to trick them anyway.

Spread of Anansi Stories

Beginning in the mid-1500's, some of the people from West Africa were brought as slaves to the southern United States, the Caribbean and South America and brought their Anansi stories with them. There were no televisions or books at that time, so these stories spread by word of mouth from one village to another. This is called an oral tradition.

As time passed and the stories were told over and over again, storytellers gave Anansi different names and made up different stories about him. In some places he was called Hanaansi, Compe Anansi, Nansi, Bro Anancy or Uncle Bouki; he was also called Mr. Nancy, Anansi-Tori and Ti Malice. In some parts of the United States, people thought he was really a woman and called him, or her I guess, Aunt Nancy.

Characteristics of Anansi

Depending on the story, Anansi sometimes looked like an ordinary spider, or a man with a spider's legs. At other times, Anansi had the body of a spider but the head of a man and wore a man's clothes.

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