Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Ashanti Trickster: Anansi Tries To Steal All The Wisdom In The World

A long time ago, Anansi the spider, had all the wisdom in the world stored in a huge pot. Nyame, the sky god, had given it to him. Anansi had been instructed to share it with everyone. Every day, Anansi looked in the pot, and learned different things. The pot was full of wonderful ideas and skills. Anansi greedily thought, "I will not share the treasure of knowledge with everyone. I will keep all the wisdom for myself." So, Anansi decided to hide the wisdom on top of a tall tree. He took some vines and made some strong string and tied it firmly around the pot, leaving one end free. He then tied the loose end around his waist so that the pot hung in front of him. He then started to climb the tree. He struggled as he climbed because the pot of wisdom kept getting in his way, bumping against his tummy.
Anansi's son watched in fascination as his father struggled up the tree. Finally, Anansi's son told him "If you tie the pot to your back, it will be easier to cling to the tree and climb." Anansi tied the pot to his back instead, and continued to climb the tree, with much more ease than before. When Anansi got to the top of the tree, he became angry. "A young one with some common sense knows more than I, and I have the pot of wisdom!" In anger, Anansi threw down the pot of wisdom. The pot broke, and pieces of wisdom flew in every direction. People found the bits scattered everywhere, and if they wanted to, they could take some home to their families and friends. That is why to this day, no one person has ALL the world's wisdom. People everywhere share small pieces of it whenever they exchange ideas.
This story may as well be called "Trickster gets tricked, acts in Anger." Cause and effect. But it's not as simple as that. Anansi in Ashanti/Ghanaian folklore is the master trickster with an incredible amount of folly, although his actions cease to be seen as folly when you consider the overall implications, perhaps the reason the trickster remains a special character even in today's modern times, mostly seen as unreliable yet charming. Just like Achebe in the previous trickster entry, Taban Lo Liyong, the Ugandan-Sudanese African author utilizes this trickster story in his book: Carrying Knowledge Up A Palm Tree, (1998) while addressing important cultural and contemporary issues in African writing, learning and history.

Click this link to read more Anansi stories, including how he became a spider, how he came to America, spider woman and much more, illustrated.
Kweku Anansi

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