The origin of Ghana’s Kweku Ananse Stories

The origin of Ghana’s Kweku Ananse Stories

Kweku Ananse is a popular fictional character found in a lot of oral and written Ghanaian stories. Ananse means spider in the Akan language. Similar to other folktales, Ananse tales, traditionally known as Anansesem are stories about aspects of human life; good or bad, origins of places, animals, cultural values and traditions. Ananse stories are believed to have started from the 1500's as part of an oral tradition of the Ashanti people of Ghana in West Africa. Anansesem is well known throughout West Africa and parts of the Carribean.

Who is Kweku Ananse?
Ananse is a fictional spider character who is well known for his crafty and cunning disposition. He is wise and witty and is referred to in most stories as a trickster. In some stories Ananse is recorded as a human being and in other stories he is known to be a spider. Settings of Ananse stories range from forests to villages and towns. He is regarded as self-seeking and uses his knowledge to gain advantage over other animals who are usually bigger and stronger than him. In a few instances he uses his wisdom for good by solving a social problem thus becoming the hero of the story. However, he is often portrayed as a mischievous creature who takes advantage of others. It's no surprise that most of Ananse's stories end up with him being defeated by the person or animal he had tried to trick.

Some stories around the creation of Ananse

  • There are some beliefs that suggest that Ananse was the son of a great sky god and could make it rain and move oceans. Ananse was so powerful that he made the sun, moon and the stars. However, he was a mischievous trickster and couldn't help playing tricks on people. It is believed that Ananse’s father turned him into a spider and took his power away. Even after being stripped of his power he still continued playing tricks on humans.  
  • Others believe that Ananse was actually the creator of the world. He acted as a spokesperson for humans in their dealings with the sky god Nyame.
  • In other tales Ananse brought writing, agriculture and hunting to earth. He taught people how to take care of themselves in a world with beautiful trees and animals.
  • Once, Ananse collected all the wisdom of the earth into a calabash (gourd) to hold for himself. He did this because he didn't trust humans could handle such knowledge. The wisdom kept spilling out of the calabash that he soon had a change of heart. He decided to share the knowledge among all the people rather than spilling everything.

The significance of Ananse Stories
Before the emergence of TV and social media, storytelling was one way to keep children entertained and engaged in the evening.  It also served as a bonding activity between the elderly and children as children were always interested in hearing the tales of Ananse and his mischievous deeds.

Some Ananse stories serve as a means to pass down social norms and wisdom to the younger generation. They teach children about actions and their consequences. Ananse stories are both entertaining and educative but a deep dive into these stories will reveal simple truths that are helpful for both adults and children.

Although Ananse is known to be cruel and selfish, he is also brave and confident. He doesn't take no for an answer and is willing to do whatever it takes to get what he wants. I am definitely looking forward to a resurgence of Ananse stories in homes and to seeing out Book Club community coming up with their own Ananse tales.

Booksie’s stocks a number of fun Ananse storybooks. Check them out below.

  1. Ananse’s Justice: Click here to buy Ananse's Justice
  2. The Contest and Other Spiderman Tales: Click here to buy The Contest and Other Spiderman Tales
  3. Ananse and the squirrel: Click here to buy a copy of Ananse and the Squirrel
  4. The Marriage of Anansewaa: Click here to buy The Marriage of Anansewaa
  5. Ananse and the mysterious stone: Click here to buy Ananse and the mysterious stone


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