Today I was at a lovely school teaching ‘Stories from Different Cultures”. I was asked to look at Anansi and the Tinga Tinga tales. The tale of how the elephant got its long trunk would form the children’s big write so I focussed on that but had a great opportunity to tell loads of Anansi stories.
Anansi is a fantastic character because he triumphs over bigger and stronger characters with his wit, foresight and creativity. Much like the Norse Loki he is not good or bad or altogether on anyones side except his own. He is an annoying enemy and an uncertain friend who looks to his own interest and uses the vices of his enemies against them.
He is directly related to Br’er Rabbit who is another witty and intelligent antagonist. Both are trapped in the same way by the tar baby. Both lose their tempers with a figure made of tar which they fight and find themselves stuck to. Anansi is shamed by his difficult son More-Cunning-than-Father and Br’er Rabbit escapes Br’er fox but pleading with him not to throw him into the Briar patch. Br’er Fox plays a similar role to Anansi’s friend the Tiger, when I say friend…
Poor Br’er Fox and Tiger are the big guys who are the foil for these two tricksters. They are tricked into letting their quarry escape, becoming the prey of the weaker or just looking foolish. The stories have no moral compass but certainly show that might is not the whole picture and that Tiger can be ridden like a pony by a spider.