African Mythologies

Legba and Ananse

What is the story of Ananse?

Some say Ananse was the son of the sky god creator, who in some tales is Nyame, in some Wulbari, in some, other creators. His mother was the earth goddess. Some see Ananse as primarily a culture hero who brought humans gifts they needed in order to survive. Ananse, as a spider, was small, but he was especially cunning, and like other tricksters, he was not above stealing to accomplish his goals.

The Ashanti people say that it was Ananse who, in fact, created the sun and other astral bodies, as well as the first people, although it was the sky god Nyame who gave them the breath of life. Like all tricksters, Ananse had an erotic appetite; he even seduced and stole away the sky god’s daughter.

In a Krachi tale the sky god Wulbari heard Ananse bragging that he was cleverer than the high god himself. Wulbari decided to teach Ananse a lesson by sending him on a mission to earth to find something without telling him what the something was. “If you’re so smart, you should know what I want,” he said. Ananse went down to earth, took feathers from different birds, attached the feathers to himself, and flew back to heaven disguised as one of them (tricksters can take any shape they want). Wulbari was amazed to find the mysterious and beautiful bird perched on a tree. He asked the animals what it was. They suggested that Ananse might know. “I can’t ask him, because I sent him to earth to find something,” said Wulbari. The animals asked what that something was, and Ananse, who was actually the bird, overheard. “I didn’t tell him,” said Wulbari, “but I had in mind the sun, the moon, and darkness.” The animals laughed and complimented the god for apparently outsmarting the trickster. But now, Ananse knew what Wulbari wanted, and, in fact, he collected the sun, the moon, and darkness, and placed them in a sack. He then returned to Wulbari. When he pulled darkness out of the sack no one could see anything. When he took out the moon, the animals could see a little bit. Finally he brought out the sun; those who looked at it went blind, but those who blinked did not. This is how blindness came into the world.


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