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1001 Stories Collection

Anansi and the Collection of Stories

Added on 25th June 2020

Oral tradition West African folktale

A fun folktale about a plucky little spider and his quest for stories.


Once there were no stories in the world. The sky god Nyame had them all up in the clouds. Anansi the spider wanted those stories so he went up to see the sky god and he asked for them. Nyame set Anansis three challenges. He must bring Mmboro the Hornets, Onini the Python and Osebo the Leopard. If he could capture all three, he could have the stories. What would Anansi do?

Why we chose it

A story about sharing stories. Anansi is an important character in West African and Caribbean folklore and popular with storytellers today. Benjamin Zephaniah chose this story as his favourite for our 26 Characters exhibition.

Where it came from

Anansi is a spider who sometimes acts and looks like a man and is loved for his trickery and skill with words. The Anansi folk tales are thought to have originated with the Ashanti people in Ghana, for whom the word anansi means ‘spider’ and all fables are known as anansesem or ‘spider tales’.

Where it went next

The stories, which are often about small but plucky Anansi outwitting more powerful creatures, spread with slavery to the Caribbean and southern United States, and are now loved across the world.

Still popular in oral storytelling traditions, Anansi increasingly appears in books, films, games and songs, and is featured in original spider man.

Associated stories

Anansi is a trickster character. Trickster stories can be found all over the world. Foxes and wolves are frequently tricksters in European stories – like Reynard the Fox. In North America coyote is often the trickster. Others include Brer Rabbit and Loki the Norse god.

Added on 25th June 2020

Oral tradition West African folktale