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Anansi Tries to Steal All the Wisdom in the World

A folktale, adapted by Matt Evans

The following African folk- tale about a spider named Anansi (or Anancy) is from the Ashanti people in Western Africa.

Anansi the spider knew that he was not wise… “I know… if I can get all of the wisdom in the village and put it in a hollow gourd… I would be the wisest of all!” So he set out to find a suitable gourd and then began his journey to collect the village’s wisdom… He looked around and spotted a tall, tall tree. “Ah,” he said to himself, “if I could hide my wis- dom high in that tree, I would never have to worry about someone stealing it from me!”… He first took a cloth band and tied it around his waist. Then he tied the heavy gourd to the front of his belly where it would be safe. As he began to climb, however, the gourd full of wisdom kept getting in the way…

Soon Anansi’s youngest son walked by… “But Father,” said the son, “wouldn’t it be much easier if you tied the gourd behind you instead of in front?”… Anansi moved the gourd so that it was behind him and proceeded up the tree with no problems at all. When he had reached the top, he cried out, “I walked all over and collected so much wisdom I am the wisest person ever, but still my baby son is wiser than me. Take back your wis- dom!” He lifted the gourd high over his head and spilled its contents into the wind. The wisdom blew far and wide and settled across the land. And this is how wisdom came to the world.

Understanding Literature

Folktales The African folktale you have just read is called an animal-trickster tale.Trickster tales come from Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin American countries. Trickster tales por- tray a wily and cunning animal or human who at times bewilders the more powerful and at other times becomes a victim of his or her own schemes. Describe other kinds of folk- tales,such as fairy tales and tall tales

Respond to the Reading

  • 1.

    Is Anansi a clever spider?

  • 2.

    Why did Anansi scatter the wisdom he had collected?

  • 3.

    Linking Science and Writing Write a folktale featuring an animal as a trickster. Elements are classi- fied in relation to

one another in a periodic table. They also are classified in groups of elements that share similar characteristics.Thus,there is a group of elements known as the alkali metals, another called the halogens, and so on. This way of classifying elements is similar to the way in which folktales are classified. Trickster tales have similar characteristics such as a character that has certain traits,like cleverness,wit,cun- ning, and an ability to survive.


  • K CHAPTER 4 The Periodic Table

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