Imagine this: the Sky God, Nyame, has possession of all of the stories in the world. You, however, are a trickster by nature; stories are your essential to your craft. So, you go to him, and ask him what he wants in exchange for his countless tales.
The Sky God answers:
Onini the Python
Osebo the Leopard
The Hornets named the Mboro
and Mmoatia, the ill tempered, invisible fairy.
Now, any one of these tasks appears seemingly impossible – especially for you – because…
You are a Spider. However, you are no ordinary arachnid –
You are Anansi, the Great Trickster, and you are determined to get Nyame’s stories…
Anansi started by searching out Onini, the Python.
Finding the palm tree where Onini lived, he started musing out loud to himself.
“My wife, Aso, wonders how long Onini really is…is he actually as long as a palm branch? She thinks he might be, but I’m not certain.”
Of course, Onini overheard the Spider’s monologue. And of course, Ansansi continued:
“Maybe he isn’t that long. I’m sure he can’t be that long.”
Phallic taunting? Yes.
Did it work? Of course.
Onini the Python slithered down from the safety of the Palm trees, and challenged the seemingly innocuous Spider.
“I AM as long as any palm branch.” he stated.
“You coil, and you loop, my friend. We will never know your actual length unless you lie straight across one of these palm branches. Aso, my wife, thinks you are very large…prove her right”.
“What do you suggest?” asked the Python, ready to show his massive length.
“Let me tie you to the longest branch; that way, you can uncoil yourself, so that everyone will know how long the mighty Onini is!”
Onini agreed to this, and uncoiled himself upon the longest palm branch he could find. Anansi, meanwhile, tied him along his outstretched body to the branch…
And so it was that Onini’s ego to be the longest snake led him directly into Anansi’s trap, and straight into Nyame’s catch.
Osebo the Leopard was a little bit trickier for Anansi. While ego had been Onini’s undoing, Osebo wasn’t as easily fooled. However, gravity always wins: Anansi dug a pit, which Osebo fell into. Anansi offered webs to help the Leopard out, and while the webs did get Osebo out of the pit, they also ensnared him. Anansi had completed two of his tasks, bringing Osebo to Nyame, the Sky God
For the Hornets, Anansi came up with another trick. He filled an open gourd with water, held a banana leaf over his head, and started pouring ‘rain’ over himself and the Hornet’s nest. He screamed at the Hornets:
“The deluge is coming! It will be a flood! Come, my brothers, take refuge in this gourd before it is too late!”
The unwitting Hornets flew into the gourd for safety, at which point Anansi sealed the vessel, and took it to Nyame, the Sky God, the keeper of stories.
If you didn’t know, Fairies love ano.
Ano is a paste made from pounded yams and eggs (with a little oil), a specialty that Aso, Anansi’s wife, had mastered.
To complete his fourth trial, bringing Mmotia, an ill-tempered and invisible Fairy to Nyame, Anansi had to use all of his wits.
To this end, he made a doll, an effigy, that he covered in his sticky silk.
He tied a string around the doll’s head, and placed the Ano paste, like an offering, in front of it.
Meanwhile, he hid behind a tree.
The invisible Mmotia came to the doll, and asked if she could have some of the Ano.
Anansi used the the string to make it appear that the doll was nodding yes; however, Mmotia asked further questions, for which the doll had no answers.
Irritated, the angry Fairy struck the doll, only to find herself stuck in Anansi’s sticky web. She struggled, even kicking at the effigy, which only served to bind her further.
(For those of you who are familiar with story of Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby, you’ll see the parallels. Most ethnographers trace a direct line from Anansi to Brer Rabbit, which eventually leads straight to that Wascally Wabbit, Bugs Bunny).
And so, Anansi claimed his fourth capture, and Nyame, against his will and better judgement, was forced to forfeit: Anansi the Spider, Trickster God, was now the rightful owner of all the stories of the world.
And so it was that Anansi, weaver of stories, master of tales, came into his own. So what did he do with all of those stories?
That is the take-away: he did what any trickster would do: he used them to trick his way through time and space.
And we, being gullible humans, pretty much fell for all of his tricks…(not to mention the tricks he played on the Gods).
Perhaps he should run for political office.
Then again, perhaps he already has…