SOSC 4319
2003 - 2004

Group Project








Dramatis Persona-

Ananse: hero or anti-hero?

Kwenku-Ananse is a unique character. In the Ananse stories, he takes on the appearance of a spider but it is clear from the folktales that Ananse has human traits. In plain terms, Ananse is a trickster and in some of the tales his wits gets him what he wants but at other times it brings him grief. In Ananse becomes the Owner of Stories, from the Badoe and Diakite collection, Ananse is cleverly successful at capturing three other major characters for which he is granted the title 'Owner of Stories' by the forest king. However, in another tale called The Pot of Wisdom, Ananse, because of his pride, fails to bring the pot with all the world's wisdom to the Sky God and does not receive the title 'Sage of All Time.'

Beyond Ananse's virtues and vices, which invariably add humour to his tales, Ananse's unique feature is that he embodies both the hero and villain personalities. This is a breakdown of the general structure of folktales, which usually has a hero who conquers a villain and earns recognition. Cultural Ambassador and folklore icon of Jamaica Louise Bennet-Coverley, says of Ananse, "Ananse is the only folk hero, story hero that makes himself also the villain because he points out the weakness of the human being and show you how you can be tricked by your own greed or envy because you don't examine what you're doing properly" (Armstrong, 24). In Propp's language, Ananse might be considered a "victim hero" although often a victim of his own undoing. At other times, Ananse himself may embody what Propp refers to as a "seeker hero" but there is no guarantee that Ananse with be successful in his exploits in spite of having fulfilled the other functions of a hero (Berger, 27).

Ananse's actions often have unintended consequences ending up in some punishment for Ananse. However, this not always the case, Ananse may also outsmart the other characters, which include Pig, Chameleon, Tiger, Crow Monkey, Dog, Turtle, Rat, Bug, Donkey, Puss, Conch and Goat. Laura Tanna in her telling work Jamaican Folk Tales and Oral Histories points to a subtle characterization in the Ananse tales. She indicates that those animals living in water are usually mindless and inferior to Ananse and are the dupes of his tricks; those characters living on earth have the peculiarities of human beings and can be deceived but those living in the air are generally more intelligent and ethically superior to Ananse (Armstrong, 24). The personality of Kwenku-Ananse is made clear when contrasted with these characters in his stories.

Image courtesy of Badoe and Diakite The Pot of Wisdom










  Disclaimer           Haile Clacken                     © 2003 - 2004 by class of SOSC 4319 at York University