West Africa is the home of Anansi, a folk hero, who is both spider and man. He is a trickster, a provider of wisdom and a keeper of stories. His role is both light hearted and profound, often providing the link between people and the supreme being.
Once upon a time, there lived Kweku Ananse and his family in a small village near a deep river. Ananse, Konoroh Yaa and the children led a dissatisfied life. Ananse was a successful farmer and a linguist of the chief of the village. He commanded respect among the elders of the village.
In spite of all these, he was not satisfied. He wanted to become the wisest man in the village and eventually the chief. Since the head of the family was not happy, the wife and children were also in the same mood. One sleepless night followed another. Ananse tossed from side to side on his bed and Konorah Yaa his wife was becoming worried. “What is worrying you my dear husband?” she asked with a lot of affection. “Oh” nothing really serious, it is just that the cases at the court are becoming too many” he replied, trying to hide the cause of his worry.
Ananse’s worries increased with each passing day. He lost appetite for food and sat in a somber mood each day, he was fed up with being just a linguist. He wanted to hold the akofena, the chief’s sceptre, and to have an umbrella hovering over his head. Then suddenly, one afternoon, Anansee smiled to himself. He was very sure he had found a solution to his problem. He must collect all the wisdom around including the chiefs and hide it. Life came into Ananse, he became a bit cheerful, but did not hide the fact that he was still worried. “ Agya Ananse what is wrong with you these days?” is it the naughty children and the affairs of the home?” the chief asked with concern.
“Oh, it is the woman and her problem of chopmoney. I am getting fed up with her” Ananse said with a sad smile on his face. “Oh Ananse you are the most intelligent man in my court. I will help you out of this problem. Just tell me how much money you need”, the chief enquired. “I think I can manage things at home, thank you” Ananse said.
Ananse sat alone always in very profound thought. Occasionally there was a sinister smirk on his face. At long last the idea of the wisdom pot was hatched. One afternoon, when all the inhabitants of the village had gone to their farms Ananse got a small black pot and started collecting wisdom. It was very easy, by the help of the village fetish priest who used a charm to collect all the wisdom. He was a very wicked man. He left even his wife and children with nothing in their heads. There was only one person he couldn’t deprive of wisdom and that was his son Ntekumah. In fact, ever since his father’s countenance changed, Ntekumah’s eyes were glued to him. He followed him secretly wherever he went. He knew his father was up to something sinister.
Ananse stopped going to the chief’s court. He pretended to be seriously sick and was left alone at home when the others went to farm. At such times he thought about where to hide the wisdom pot. The idea came very suddenly.
One Saturday morning, when all the villages including his wife and children had left for their farms, he got up and picked the pot to execute his plan. It was a very quiet morning, only the cries of birds and the roar of the flooded river were heard. Ananse moved quietly on until he came to the deep river. A tree stood tall and challenging.
Ananse took a quick look around, and satisfied that there was on one around, he got his climbing gear ready, and started climbing with the pot in from of him. It was approaching midday and all was quiet. He was full of great expectations. “To be the only wise man in the village…that would be so great…” he mused. The pot on his stomach hampered climbing, yet he struggled fruitlessly to climb. He would painfully climb a few steps up, then slip down, up..slip,up..slip, so it went on. Anyone else would have given up, but not Ananse. The prospect of becoming the wisest man in the village urged him on. It was too good a chance to miss. But Ananse could no longer stand the strain. As mentioned earlier on Ntekumah had been spying on his father, ever since he noticed a change in Ananse and suspected he was up to something bad. Sometimes he pretended he as going to farm but would come back secretly to spy on his father. This particular day was no exception.
Ntekumah was beginning to enjoy his father’s frustration. His father was sweating profusely, as he climbed up, and slipped down. He watched his father sweating profusely in frustration. Eventually as he saw his father making no progress and felt that he had been punished enough, he decided to help him.
“Father put the pot behind you” Ntekumah shouted. Imagine Ananse’s shock. He turned around quickly and saw his son Ntekumah and wondered what he was doing there. He saw the wisdom in his son’s advice, but Ananse’s humiliation at having been outwitted was so great, that he dropped the pot and it fell on a big rock in the river and broke into pieces scattering the wisdom all over the world. Ananse climbed up the tree , without the wisdom pot and lived the rest of his life in misery and shame up there.