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The myth of Anansi, the trickster spider - Emily Zobel Marshall

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Long ago, all stories belonged to Nyame, the all-seeing Sky God. But one creature, Anansi, was determined to bring the stories down to Earth. Anansi went to Nyame and requested to take ownership of the world’s stories. The Sky God told Anansi that he could have all the stories he wished — but only if he could complete an impossible task. Emily Zobel Marshall shares the cunning spider's journey.

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Meet The Creators

  • Educator Emily Zobel Marshall
  • Director Keegan Thornhill
  • Narrator Christina Greer
  • Storyboard Artist Keegan Thornhill
  • Animator Jono Allan, Keegan Thornhill
  • Background Artist Dwayne de Kock
  • Composer Salil Bhayani, cAMP Studio
  • Sound Designer Amanda P.H. Bennett, cAMP Studio
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Director Alex Rosenthal
  • Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Associate Editorial Producer Cella Wright
  • Content Associate Abdallah Ewis
  • Script Editor Iseult Gillespie
  • Fact-Checker Jennifer Nam
  • See more creators
Additional Resources for you to Explore
Anansi is the trickster spider of Akan Asante origin. He is physically weak and thwarts his powerful opponents using the only means available to him, his wit and his cunning. The Akan Asante are based predominantly in central Ghana and have enjoyed cultural and political dominance in the region for many centuries.

The Akan Asante called Anansi “Kwaku” Anansi, a day-name traditionally given to males born on a Wednesday. The Anansi stories found among the Akan Asante are about Anansi’s ability to bring things down to earth for people from the realm of Nyame, the powerful Sky God. Anansi is a mediator between mankind and the gods. When Europeans enslaved many Akan Asante people and forced them to journey to the Caribbean to work on their plantations, the Akan Asante brought the tales of their trickster spider with them. The stories inspired the enslaved by teaching them ways to resist the plantation system. The stories also helped them keep their African culture alive.

Links to Resources

·     You can find out more about Anansi in my book Anansi’s Journey: A Story of Jamaican Cultural Resistance (2012).
·     You can also read an exciting story about my journey into the forests of Jamaica in my search for Anansi
·     If you want to hear my talk about Anansi and another African trickster figure Brer rabbit you can listen to my podcast Longing for Freedom: The Story of the African Trickster. I will take you on journey through black history and across continents, guided by a most captivating character, the trickster spider Anansi. I will reveal the roots of the Anansi folktales in Ghana and demonstrate Anansi inspired both psychological and physical resistance to enslavement on the Jamaican plantations. I will show us the vital role the trickster plays in our lives by testing and exposing abuses of power.
·     You can read some early Jamaican Anansi stories collected in 1924 by Martha Warren Beckwith.
·     You can listen to an Anansi story written by the great Caribbean poet John Agard. John has written lots of Anansi stories and poems that you can find on the [Anansi] web!
·     You can also watch a short animation of an Asante Anansi story here called Anansi the Spider: A Tale from the Ashanti by Gerard McDermot. You can also buy the book!
·     Finally, you can read some of my research on the Anansi folktales
·     And you can find out more about me here

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About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Emily Zobel Marshall
  • Director Keegan Thornhill
  • Narrator Christina Greer
  • Storyboard Artist Keegan Thornhill
  • Animator Jono Allan, Keegan Thornhill
  • Background Artist Dwayne de Kock
  • Composer Salil Bhayani, cAMP Studio
  • Sound Designer Amanda P.H. Bennett, cAMP Studio
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Director Alex Rosenthal
  • Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Associate Editorial Producer Cella Wright
  • Content Associate Abdallah Ewis
  • Script Editor Iseult Gillespie
  • Fact-Checker Jennifer Nam
  • See more creators