209 Facts About Anansi


Anansi is an Akan folktale character and the Akan God of Stories, Wisdom, Knowledge, and possibly creation.

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Anansi often takes the shape of a spider and is sometimes considered to be a god of all knowledge of stories.

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Anansi is best known for his ability to outsmart and triumph over more powerful opponents through his use of cunning, creativity and wit.

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Anansi is among several West African tricksters including Br'er Rabbit and Leuk Rabbit.

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Spider tales are found extensively throughout West Africa, but the Anansi tales originating from Ghana are among the best-known, as Anansi's name comes from the word in the Akan language for "spider".

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In others, Anansi is an anthropomorphized spider with a human face, or conversely, a human with spider-like features, such as eight legs.

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Anansi has a family in several folktales involving him, consisting of his long-suffering wife Okonore Yaa – known in other regions as Aso, Crooky, or Shi Maria; Ntikuma, his firstborn son; Tikelenkelen, his big-headed son; Nankonhwea, his son with a spindly neck and spindly legs; finally, Afudohwedohwe, his pot-bellied son.

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Anansi has a beautiful daughter named Anansewa in other tales, like those introduced in the work of Efua Sutherland: in Efua's tale, he embarks on a mission to ensure that Anansewa can have an appropriate suitor.

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Anansi stories were part of an exclusively oral tradition, and Anansi himself was seen as synonymous with skill and wisdom in speech.

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Anansi is believed to have played a multifunctional role in the slaves' lives; as well as inspiring strategies of resistance, the tales enabled enslaved Africans to establish a sense of continuity with their African past and offered them the means to transform and assert their identity within the boundaries of captivity.

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The proverb is: "If yuh cyaan ketch Kwaku, yuh ketch him shut", which refers to when Brah Dead, a personification of Death, was chasing Anansi to kill him; its meaning: The target of revenge and destruction, even killing, will be anyone very close to the intended, such as loved ones and family members.

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Anansi becomes both an ideal to be aspired toward, and a cautionary tale against the selfish desires that can cause our undoing.

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Anansi has effectively evolved beyond a mere trickster figure; the wealth of narratives and social influences have thus led to him being considered a classical hero.

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Anansi wanted Nyame's stories so he went to Nyame and asked if he could buy them from him.

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Anansi was not intimidated and promised he could afford them, asking Nyame their price.

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Undaunted, clever Anansi promised to bring Nyame those four things and even added his own mother Ya Nsia for extra measure.

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Anansi returned with them, and Aso told him to take them to the river where Onini lived nearby, pretending to argue with her to draw the Python's attention.

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Anansi then pretended to debate with her in an imaginary argument over the length of Onini's body while he headed there, pretending Aso had claimed Onini's body was longer than the branch of a full-grown palm tree.

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Onini eventually heard Anansi pretending to argue with Aso, so he approached the Spider and asked Anansi what he was talking about.

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Anansi explained and Onini quickly agreed to help Anansi prove that he was longer than a palm tree branch.

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Anansi then took the string creeper vines he had gathered and tied up Onini completely.

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Anansi then lost no time in carrying Onini off to Nyame, mocking the Python along the way as he informed Onini of his bargain with Nyame.

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Anansi asked her for advice, and his wife obliged, telling him to find a gourd and fill it with water.

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Anansi was then to carry the gourd along with him to see the Hornets.

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Anansi followed her advice, heading toward the bush where the Hornets roamed in search of them.

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Anansi then sprinkled some of his water at the Mmoboro Hornets, careful to save some for himself.

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Soon the Hornets flew to him in a fit but Anansi showed them his banana leaf – still wet – and explained that it had been raining.

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Clever Anansi then warned the Hornets that the rain was dangerous, suggesting that they could enter his gourd so that they would not be overcome.

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The Hornets agreed and thanked Anansi for helping them – unaware of his scheme – and they all flew inside, filling the gourd as they sought the shelter Anansi had promised them.

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Anansi bade the Spider to continue his search, and Anansi left for home.

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Anansi soon returned to Aso afterward and informed her of his success, then plotted against Osebo the Leopard with her.

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Anansi dug a deep pit in the ground, covered it with brushwood, and decided to return home, knowing that Osebo would eventually stumble into the pit as night drew near.

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Sure enough, Anansi returned to the pit the next morning and found Osebo trapped inside of it.

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Anansi feigned sympathy and asked the Leopard why he was trapped inside; he asked Osebo if he had been drinking again, something Anansi had constantly warned the Leopard about, and the Spider continued his act, lamenting that he wanted to help Osebo but was certain that Osebo would attempt to eat him afterward.

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Anansi went aside and cut two long sticks with his knife for the Leopard to climb out of the hole with and told Osebo to stretch his arms wide, secretly leaving the Leopard vulnerable.

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Osebo, unaware of yet another scheme by Anansi, then attempted to scale the sticks so that he could escape, but Anansi withdrew his knife again and tossed it at Osebo.

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Satisfied that his scheme had worked, Anansi gathered some additional sticks and formed a ladder, descending to the bottom of the pit to collect Osebo.

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Anansi then presented Osebo to Nyame when he arrived, and Nyame accepted Anansi's gift.

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The Sky-God was still not convinced that Anansi would succeed in completing his challenge, and reminded the Spider that he had yet to accomplish all of the tasks he was assigned.

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Once he had filled the basin, Anansi then took some of his silk and tied a string around the Akua doll's waist so that he could manipulate it, heading off to the land of fairies once he had finished.

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Anansi placed the doll in front of an odum tree, a place where Fairies often congregated, and sat the basin with the eto in front of it as bait.

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Anansi then hid behind the odum tree and waited for one of the Mmoatia to appear.

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Anansi then tugged the Akua doll's waist and it nodded its head in response, which made Mmoatia excited.

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Anansi then emerged from hiding and used the rest of the string he had tied around his doll to bind Mmoatia with his string entirely.

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Anansi then mocked Mmoatia, just as he had done to the others he had captured before her and told the Fairy of his scheme to offer her to Nyame as well.

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However, Anansi still had another task he wished to complete before he returned to the Sky-God.

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Finally, Anansi headed to his home to visit his mother Ya Nsia, and reminded her of his agreement with the Sky-God to exchange her as part of the price for Nyame's stories.

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Anansi's mother complied with him, and the Spider then carried her alongside Mmoatia to Nyame, presenting both of them to Nyame to complete the bargain for the Sky-God's stories.

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Nyame then told them about the task Anansi had accomplished when none else – not even the greatest kingdoms – could afford his stories.

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Nyame recounted each of the creatures Anansi had presented the Sky-God with, as well as his own mother Ya Nsia, and allowed his audience to see each of these gifts for themselves.

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Soon Anansi collected all of the wisdom found throughout the world and sealed inside of a pot.

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Ntikuma noticed the pot was much bigger than Anansi could handle; he couldn't hold it while trying to climb the tree.

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Yet, the pot still obscured Anansi and caused him to slip down the tree as he climbed.

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Anansi was so annoyed by his failed attempts and the realization that his child was right that the pot slipped from his possession.

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The currents of the stream carried the wisdom Anansi had collected out to sea, and soon it spread throughout the entire world, ruining Anansi's plan and making his goal impossible.

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One day, a famine came and Kwaku Anansi told his family that he'd search for food so they could eat.

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Anansi soon went to a stream and met some people, who he discovered were spirits.

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Anansi was intrigued and asked if he could join them, and the spirits in turn gave him their permission.

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The spirits were using their skulls to drain the river, and when Anansi approached, the spirits asked if they could remove his as well.

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Anansi said they could, and they did so, giving him his skull so that he could join them.

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Anansi said that he had no reason to sing it again, because they'd given him more than enough to eat and he wanted nothing else.

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Anansi began to sing it again, and as soon as he finished, his skull fell off again like they'd warned him.

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Anansi picked his skull up in embarrassment and cried out to the spirits that his head had fallen off.

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Anansi begged them for help and apologized to them, asking them to restore his skull.

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Yet, just as soon as they'd left, Anansi heard them singing their song and repeated it himself.

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Anansi harvested a yam known as "Kintinkyi" in secret, and decided that the son who could guess it would become chief and receive his royal stool as proof.

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Anansi gathered feathers from every bird known and covered himself with them, and then flew above Nyame's village, startling the villagers.

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Nyame saw Anansi but did not recognize him within his disguise, and mused to himself that if Anansi were present, he'd know the name of the bird – because he'd said he knew that Nyame wished his son Owia to receive his stool and that he would give whomever could guess his yam's name the seat.

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Anansi continued to ponder in secret while Anansi overheard Nyame's plan and finally flew away, removing his disguise.

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Anansi went to Esum's village first and told him that his father wished to see him, but kept Nyame's plans secret.

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Owia then prepared the best sheep for Anansi to eat as thanks, and in return Anansi decided to tell Owia of his father's intentions in secret, revealing the name of the yam he'd harvested.

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Anansi then made a pair of drums that would shout the yam's name so that Owia would remember the name of Nyame's yam, which was Kintinkyi, and the two returned to the other sons of Nyame.

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Anansi brought them each before Nyame, and Nyame called an assembly together so they could welcome Anansi and Nyame's sons.

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Anansi said he'd completed Nyame's task, and the Sky-God revealed his intentions to his three sons.

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Anansi then told Esum, who was oldest, that he would be allowed to guess first.

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Anansi played the drums as he had promised, and Owia remembered the true name of Nyame's yam, "Kintinkyi".

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Anansi gave him the rainbow to protect himself from his brothers if they ever wished to harm him, and promised that it would remind his subjects who saw it that danger would not befall them.

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Anansi wanted to take one of Nyame's sheep, named Kra Kwame, and eat it.

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Anansi told Nyame that if he was allowed, he would bring Nyame a maiden as a gift from one of the villages in return.

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Nyame agreed and gave him the sheep, so Anansi left and set out for his home, later preparing the sheep.

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Once he was finished preparing it, Anansi searched for a village and discovered one where only women lived; the Spider settled there and gave each of them some of the sheep he had killed, marrying every woman in the village and forsaking his promise to Nyame.

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Anansi's messengers obeyed and took every woman, save one that was ill at that time, and presented them to Nyame.

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Anansi asked her and she simply told Anansi to gather a gourd and bathe her, filling up the gourd with the water he'd used afterward; that water would then house all of the diseases that had afflicted her.

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Anansi saw Anansi's wife, now beautiful beyond comparison, and returned to Nyame to report what he'd discovered.

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Anansi complied, showed them where his wife was, and they took her with them to Nyame.

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Anansi however, had a plan of his own, and began his scheme once they left.

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Anansi searched for the gourd that had the water he'd bathed his wife with, and then took a skin and made a drum with it.

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Anansi then made another drum and called for his son Ntikuma.

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Anansi however, told them that he could only perform his dance around his wives and that he needed his drum.

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Anansi promised that he would dance before Nyame if he agreed to this, so the messengers informed Nyame and he agreed to Anansi's terms.

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Anansi watched all that transpired and soon went to Nyame himself; he promised Nyame that he could accomplish what other men had not.

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The Sky-God asked if Anansi was certain and the Spider answered that he would be able to as long as he was given the items he requested to help him, namely medicine to make guns as well as bullets.

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Soon, Anansi went throughout many villages and told them that Nyame had told him to bring the powder and bullets to them so that they could go hunting for him.

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Anansi told them that he would return and then take the meat they collected so that he could give it to Nyame.

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Anansi then left for a time and wove a palm-leaf basket, returning when he had finished to the villages he'd distributed hunting supplies to.

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Anansi then carried the basket with him, which still had more than enough meat, and reached Akwasi-the-jealous-one's village.

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Kwasi-the-jealous-one came out and inquired who Anansi was, and the Spider replied that he'd come by the order of Nyame to rest on his journey.

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Anansi simply replied that she was welcome to have it as he didn't need it, and then informed Aso that she could feed any pets they possessed with it.

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Anansi then asked Aso cook him some food, and she obliged, preparing to make Fufu.

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Anansi then asked her to use a larger pot, and when Aso did so, Anansi offered more of the meat he'd collected, with one caveat: out of the meat he possessed, Aso could only cook the thighs, which numbered 40.

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Anansi was not satisfied and complained, saying that the fufu Aso had prepared lacked salt.

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Akwasi-the-jealous-one soon returned, but Anansi informed Aso's husband that he was full and no longer needed any; Akwasi sat the salt aside and began eating his fufu again, completely oblivious to what Anansi had done.

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Anansi replied that his name was "Rise-up-and-make-love-to-Aso, " which startled Akwasi, so he asked his wife Aso if she'd heard his name as well.

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Anansi's parents had conceived him there, so he was forbidden from sleeping in closed rooms.

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Once Anansi finished, he put his sepirewa aside and fell asleep.

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Suddenly, Anansi awoke to hear Akwasi-the-jealous-one calling out to him.

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Akwasi refused to call the Spider by the name he'd been given, so Anansi remained silent; the medicine Anansi'd poisoned Akwasi-the-jealous-one with had worked.

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Anansi responded to Akwasi-the-jealous-one and opened his door, asking Akwasi what troubled him.

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Anansi asked her if she'd heard what Akwasi had said, and she instead asked him to tell her.

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Akwasi-the-jealous-one would leave while Anansi snuck into their bedroom to make love with Aso, for a total of nine times before morning came.

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Anansi left Akwasi's village when the next day arrived and did not return.

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Anansi pointed to Anansi and told Nyame that he was the one who'd impregnated her.

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Anansi moved further down on the ridgepole in an attempt to hide again, but Aso found him there.

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However, this caused Anansi to fall over, dirtying himself, and in return Anansi complained that their actions had defiled him, for he was Nyame's Soul-washer and Nyame's wishes had been ignored.

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Utterly embarrassed, Akwasi finished his sacrifice and then told the Sky-God that Anansi could have Aso, giving her to the Spider to become his wife.

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Yet there was another cost for what had transpired: the child Anansi had sired through Aso was taken and killed; what remained of its body was scattered throughout Nyame's village as a reminder.

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Anansi approached the messenger and asked him why he'd come, and the man responded that Anansi's mother-in-law had died the previous day.

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Anansi spared no time and went to the others in the village for a favor and found Odwan the Sheep, Okra the Cat, Okraman the Dog, Akoko the Fowl, and Aberekyie the Goat.

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Anansi told them of his mother-in-law's passing and asked if they could accompany him to her funeral, and they agreed.

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Anansi thanked them, and then returned to his home to prepare.

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Anansi made clothes to wear to the funeral, sewing a hat from leopard's skin; he dyed his cloth russet, and had the attire he wished to wear prepared.

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Anansi called those who'd agreed to accompany him, and they left the village, but not without supplies – guns, drums, palm-wine, and other things first so they would have things to share with the rest of those who attended as they celebrated his mother-in-law's memory.

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Soon, Anansi reached his mother-in-law's village and fired their guns in the air to signal they had arrived, and went to the home where her wake was taking place.

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Anansi shared all that he'd brought, giving palm-wine to those mourning.

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Anansi then presented an offering to help pay for the funeral: six peredwan packets of gold dust, a velvet pillow, two cloths, a wool blanket, shell money, a sheep, and more palm-wine.

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However, Anansi said that he was not allowed to, as it was his mother-in-law's funeral and he would not eat until the eighth day.

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True to his word, Anansi asked Aso to find them food and she brought it to them.

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Anansi went into the kitchen and saw that there was a fire going, and at that fire there were beans boiling in a pot.

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Anansi decided he would eat those, so he took his leopard hat and scooped some of the beans inside once he was sure no one was watching him.

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Startled, Anansi hatched up another plan and told Aso that a hat-shaking festival was taking place in his father's village; he intended to go there himself.

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However, Anansi refused to listen to his wife's advice and she stormed off.

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Anansi left, but the villagers followed him, even when he told them to leave.

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Anansi promised the road that he would thank it if it helped him escape, and it agreed to, leading him away from the villagers and to medicine he could use.

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One day, Kwaku Anansi went to Okraman the Dog and told him he wished to build a new village to live in.

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Anansi would do the same, and the two would then meet together.

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Anansi told Okraman that he would gather a gourd and fill it with water and wished the Dog to do so ; the pair would have water in case their destination lacked it.

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Okraman and Anansi had reached the half-way point on their journey when the two became exhausted, and the Dog recommended they both rest for a moment and drink some of the water they'd prepared.

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Anansi would give Okraman a signal, and the Dog would try to escape his bindings.

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Anansi disagreed, scolding the Dog, and reminded Okraman that he was his elder, causing Okraman to accept Anansi's terms in their game.

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However, Anansi did not know that Okraman was hungry and had no true desire to play Anansi's game.

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Once Anansi realized Okraman's plan, he began mourning, but the Dog paid him no mind, continuing to carry Anansi away until they both reached a stream.

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Anansi asked Okraman about the matter but the Dog was too frightened to respond.

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Anansi thanked the Crocodile and asked if there was a means he could repay him for his kindness, but Odenkyem said that he didn't want anything in return.

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Yet, Anansi was insistent and told Odenkyem that if he had children he would come and style them, dressing their hair so that they could be very beautiful.

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Anansi returned home after speaking to the Crocodile and told his wife Aso that he needed palm-nuts and onions for a stew he planned to make; he'd bring a crocodile back to supply meat for it.

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However, the Spider had tricked him; Anansi withdrew his knife and cut the Crocodile with it, but the blow he dealt to Odenkyem was not fatal; Anansi didn't realize this however, and left for home without a second thought.

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The Crocodile was still laying there when she arrived, and flies now surrounded him; Aso took note of this, and told Anansi what she'd observed when she returned to their home.

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Anansi explained to Aso that he'd used a special medicine to kill Odenkyem and thus had to wait until the next day before he collected his kill; he then thanked her for confirming the crocodile had died and set about for the stream on his own, with a stick he'd prepared for defense.

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Anansi soon arrived and noticed Odenkyem was still laying in the riverbank.

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Anansi carefully strode over to the Crocodile's body, poking him with his stick.

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Anansi eventually stopped prodding the Crocodile with his stick, convinced he was dead, and edged closer to Odenkyem's body, stretching his hand out to check the Crocodile a final time.

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Anansi decided to take a basket, along with a large pot, and headed toward seaside to go fishing.

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Anansi repeated this until he filled both his pot and basket with a variety of fish, then sat his basket aside.

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Anansi spared no time cooking all of the fish he'd captured inside his pot and ate them.

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Anansi then collected his things once he was full and headed back toward his home, hiding his-empty pot in a bush along the way.

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Anansi replied in a feeble voice that his basket was empty.

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Tiger let the Spider go about his way, but remained suspicious of Anansi, and decided to spy on the Spider once the two had gained some distance between each other.

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Tiger watched as Anansi soon sat near a tree and opened the basket with the fish he'd caught earlier that day.

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Anansi made an excuse and said that he'd gone to take a bath after they met and caught some fish while he was out bathing.

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Tiger thus demanded that Anansi give him all of the fish he'd caught, and the Spider obeyed.

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Anansi complained under his breath that all of his hard work had gone to waste and decided to spy on Tiger, planning to trick him.

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Anansi reached the top of the fruit tree and noticed Tiger was standing directly beneath him; the Spider warned Tiger that he could see lice in his hair.

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Tiger agreed and Anansi came down, pretending to search for the lice he claimed to have seen.

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Soon his scheme was successful; Tiger fell asleep while Anansi did so, because of how long it was, and the Spider wasted no time tying Tiger's hair to the fruit-tree.

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When he was finished, Anansi woke Tiger and told him that he couldn't find any other lice in his hair.

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Anansi was no longer afraid of Tiger and left his rival behind, heading home.

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One day, Anansi saw his friend Dew's crop and noticed the corn Dew grew was much finer than his own.

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Anansi became very jealous of Dew and craved the corn that Dew had grown more than his own, so he decided he would trick Dew.

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Anansi approached Dew and bragged, saying that his corn was better than Dew's, and suggested that Dew cut his corn so it would be as fine as his.

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Anansi promised Dew that if he cut his own crop, his corn would grow back and be the same quality as Anansi's corn was.

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Anansi bought a scythe, hoe, axe, new clothes, and other equipment.

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Anansi saw what was happening and grew jealous of Dew, wishing his very own mother was dead so he could get what Dew was getting from his own mother as well.

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Anansi noticed Dew's mother had come and asked if the woman he saw was in fact her.

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Anansi went to the bush and spoke with his friend Hunter, and told Hunter his dilemma, asking Hunter if he could have Gun.

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Anansi told the animals in the village that it was time for them to bury Gun, their arch-enemy, for Gun had died.

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Anansi made each of the animals pass in front of Gun's coffin during the funeral while he and his children claimed that they would carry Gun to be buried.

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Anansi pointed Gun at them all while they remained oblivious to his true plan.

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Soon, all those Anansi had called to the funeral were lined up in front of Gun's coffin, and Anansi then struck.

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Anansi began using Gun to kill each of the animals that had arrived, until none else were alive or able to escape.

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Anansi then took their meat when the deed was done, and was able to feed his family with it.

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Anansi went to the King one evening and asked him if he could become a preacher.

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The King entertained Anansi's offer and said that if he wished, he could preach the following Sunday.

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Anansi saw them hanging on his side of the yard one day, and took a machete.

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Anansi then cut the bunch of coconuts directly in half, and took the ones that hung on his side of the fence for himself.

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Cockroach noticed this and took great offense at Anansi, asking him why he'd taken the fruit from his tree, as it clearly belonged to him.

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Anansi agreed that the tree belonged to Cockroach, but replied that the coconuts he'd cut down were hanging extremely low.

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Anansi asked his wife if she could clean his black suit so that it would be ready in time for the sermon, and she agreed.

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Anansi's wife took the black suit the King had given him and then hung it outside to dry.

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Cockroach however, noticed this taking place, and saw that half of Anansi's suit hung above the fence separating his yard from Anansi's.

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Cockroach then took his own machete and, eager to enact vengeance Anansi for cutting his coconut fruit, cut the half of Anansi's suit that hung over his yard off.

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Soon Anansi's time was served, and the next time he saw Cockroach again, the Spider told him that he would never forgive Cockroach for his treachery.

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Anansi searched throughout the bush, but soon found that there were no animals he could find in the bush to eat.

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Anansi did not want to offend Death, so he approached him and greeted him first.

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Anansi then told Death his plight, and noted that he had searched throughout the bush for an animal to kill for food, but had found none.

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Anansi became enticed by all of the meat that Death was cooking, and saw that an enormous amount remained even after Death let the Spider have his fill of it to eat.

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Anansi thanked Death for his hospitality, but was still curious how Death had acquired such an impressive amount of meat, and asked him afterward.

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Anansi thus asked Death for a favor, explaining that he had come to the bush so that he could find food for his family during the famine.

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Anansi wished to bring some meat back to them and asked for Death's permission to do so.

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Anansi took the meat that Death gave him and returned from the bush to his village in the city, where he met his family again and told them of his discovery.

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Anansi told his wife that he could go to visit Death and take meat when necessary.

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However, Anansi's greed overcame him and he told her that he could even steal meat from Death.

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Anansi came to Death's village one day, completely unaware that he was still present, and then gathered a large basket of meat from his stores as he normally did.

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Death immediately surprised Anansi and asked him why he had chosen to steal from him, but Anansi was too afraid to answer his question.

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Anansi then cried out to the people that Death was coming, and that they should shut their doors if they wished to live.

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One of the times Anansi himself was tricked was when he tried to fight a tar baby after trying to steal food, but became stuck to it instead.

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Elements of the African Anansi tale were combined by African-American storytellers with elements from Native American tales, such as the Cherokee story of the "Tar Wolf", which had a similar theme, but often had a trickster rabbit as a protagonist.

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Anansi is often depicted in popular tales interacting with the Supreme Being and other deities who frequently bestow him with temporary supernatural powers, such as the ability to bring rain or to have other duties performed for him.

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In others, Anansi is sometimes considered an Abosom in Akan spirituality, despite being commonly recognized as a trickster.

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Anansi being a Guede Lwa is a little bit different from the average Lwa as he belongs to the Guede family of loa.

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