Posts Tagged Anansi

tiger soup

Here’s Sam making “tiger soup” – we made another pot full on Saturday and it was very tasty.

It’s called tiger soup not because it has any tigers in it, but because there’s another story about a tiger, this time a Jamaican Anansi story called Tiger Soup. It’s given in full at this soup website:

It’s a fine day, down by the side of Blue Hole, and Tiger is cooking. Tiger has a fire, and he has a pot, and in the pot he is putting everything that can make a soup delicious.

Tiger is stirring the soup with a big spoon. From time to time he takes the spoon from the pot. He sticks out his pink tongue, shuts his eyes, and tastes the soup.

“Mmmm,” he says. “This soup needs–Coconut!”

Tiger scatters in coconut. He slowly takes another taste.

“Ooo!” he says, shaking his head. “Better, better, better! What about I put some–Fresh mango!?”

Tiger chops the mango, flings it in.

“Ahhh, yes,” says Tiger, sniffing the steam. “This is sweet soup now. Maybe just some little pinch of–Nutmeg?”

Now along comes Anansi, dancing through the forest. His nose in the air, sniffing the breeze.

“Hmmmmmm!” says Anansi. “I smell sweet soup.” And he rubs his belly. “Soup time, Anansi, m’dear. Hi-hee!”

Anansi swings out of the woods. Lands just beside Tiger.

“Oh! Brother Tiger! Such a happy surprise to see you here. And you so busy working, m’friend.”

“I’m just cooking, Brother Anansi. Is nothing but a little soup to satisfy the working man hunger.”

“Yah!” says Anansi. “I’m not so fond of soup myself….Sure is hot today, not so, Brother Tiger? Nothing in the world so nice as a swim in Blue Hole on a hot day like today.”

“I’m not a swimmer, Brother Anansi, so I wouldn’t know about that.”

“Ah,” says anansi, shaking his head. “Such a shame to live your whole life near Blue Hole and never take a swim….You want me to teach you to swim, Brother Tiger? Is always a pleasure to help a friend.”

“Well, Anansi, is that I do appreciate the offer, but right now I was planning to eat some soup.”

“That soup?” says Anansi. “That soup looks mighty hot and nasty, Brother Tiger. That soup will burn your tongue, m’friend.”

“Let me just wait, then,” says Tiger. “Soup will cool.”

“You know,” says Anansi, stretching his legs this way and that, “swimming in Blue Hole like magic….”

“How’s that, Brother Anansi?”

“Swimming does make plain ordinary soup taste like angel soup, Brother Tiger.”

“The soup already delicious, Brother Anansi,” says Tiger.

Tiger is thinking, How am I gonna get shed of this lazy fellow so I can eat my soup?

Right then, Anansi says, “Brother Tiger, I am bound and determined to teach you to swim today. Let’s get started, so I can be on my busy way!”

“On your busy way, Brother Anansi? Agreed!” says Tiger.

Tiger and Anansi stand by the edge of Blue Hole.

They look down past their feet to the water.

“We close our eyes,” says Anansi. “then I count to three, and we both dive in.”

“Right,” says Tiger, and he shuts his eyes tight. “We close our eyes. You count to three. We both jump in.”

“Yes,” says Anansi, one eye on Tiger, one eye on the soup.

“ONE, TWO THREE!” yells Anansi. On three, he chunks a big coconut into the water. SPLASH!

Tiger, his eyes tight shut, hollers, “Here I come, Brother Anansi!” SPLASH!!!

Ooooo!” says Tiger, coming up all wet in Blue Hole. “This is nice. This is fine….Where you, Brother Anansi? Ooooo, I do like this swimming!” And off he goes, splashing and singing.

Back on shore, Anansi quick quick grabs up the spoon to slurp down all of the soup. Then, fast as he can drag his fat self, he scurries off to the woods.

Anansi is scared of Tiger now. He sidles along over branch, under leaf, thinking and thinking, till he comes to Little Monkey Town. All the little monkeys are playing outside. Shooting nutmegs, down on the ground.

“Psst!” whispers Anansi. “come, come!”

The little monkeys are curious. “Chee! Chee! Who is this fat fellow with all the legs? What will he say to us?”

“I hear a new song today,” says Anansi. The little monkeys–they love a new song, so they all come gather near.

“Is like this,” says Anansi, and he begins to tap his toes and sing.

“Just a little while ago
We ate the Tiger soup!
Just a little while ago
We ate the Tiger soup”!

“Try it, little monkeys!”

And they do.

Pretty soon all the little monkeys are dancing and singing with Anansi, beating sticks together, shaking shells, making that song a song.

So Anansi, leading the dance, quick thinks up another verse:

Yum yum yum yum yum
Taste that coco-nut!

Brother Anansi is so full up with soup, he can dance no more. Not only he tire, he fit to die laughing. Anansi falls down on his back, all his little legs in the air, and goes right on singing:

“Yum yum yum yum yum
Little bit o’ sweet mango
Yum yum yum yum yum
Little bit o’ sweet mango!”

Anansi feels a thump come up through the ground. Seems like he hears a roar in the woods.

The little monkeys–they so busy dancing they hear only the song. Anansi calls to the little monkeys, “One more time now, little monkeys! Sing it loud!”

And they do.


Just then, Tiger pokes his head out from behind a bush, and Anansi’s gone. All the little monkeys there, dancing and yelling their song for Tiger alone.

Tiger’s ears stand up, and his fur stands up, and his teeth stand up, and he stands up.

Tiger roars:


But in the time it takes Tiger to roar, all the little monkeys swing up into the treetops, where they been living safe, safe ever since.


Well, your very welcome, dear reader, to come round chez Gregg for some tiger soup.

I’ll also let you know my own special recipe:


6 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 kilogram carrots, peeled and chopped

4 onions, chopped

2 tablespoon ginger, peeled and finely chopped

6 cups vegetable broth

2 cans of cream of coconut

2 large mangoes, peeled and chopped

2 tablespoon lime juice

1 pinch of nutmeg

Salt, pepper

1. Heat the oil in a pot and sauté the carrots for 5 minutes. Stir in the onions and ginger and continue to sauté until the onions are soft.

2. Add the broth and simmer 10 minutes.

3. Add the cream of coconut, mango and heat. Purée.
Add lime juice, salt, pepper and nutmeg, and perhaps a little red chilli.


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keeping wisdom safe

It’s the time of year when I tell Anansi stories.

A favourite (among many favourites) is Anansi and the pot of wisdom.

Here’s how wikipedia has it:

Anansi and the dispersal of wisdom

Another story tells of how Anansi once tried to hoard all of the world’s wisdom in a pot. Anansi was already very clever, but he decided to gather together all the wisdom he could find and keep it in a safe place.

With all the wisdom sealed in a pot, he was still concerned that it was not safe enough, so he secretly took the pot to a tall thorny tree in the forest. His young son, Ntikuma, saw him go and followed him at some distance to see what he was doing.

The pot was too big for Anansi to hold while he climbed the tree, so he tied it in front of him. Like this the pot was in the way and Anansi kept slipping down, getting more and more frustrated and angry with each attempt.

Ntikuma laughed when he saw what Anansi was doing. “Why don’t you tie the pot behind you, then you will be able to grip the tree?” he suggested .

Anansi was so annoyed by his failed attempts and the realisation that his child was right that he let the pot slip. It smashed and all the wisdom fell out. Just at this moment a storm arrived and the rain washed the wisdom into the stream. It was taken out to sea, and spread all around the world, so that there is now a little of it in everyone.

Though Anansi chased his son home through the rain, he was reconciled to the loss, for, he says: “What is the use of all that wisdom if a young child still needs to put you right?”

Here’s an illustration of the story, from Peggy Appiah’s admirable collection The Pineapple Child and Other Tales from Ashanti. The illustration’s by Mora Dickson.

I dressed up a bit for some of the tellings. My good friend Matthew kindly lent me some of his Ghanaian clothes and things again. I wrestled  with The Cloth and managed to get it into roughly the right shape.

Not only does Ghana have all that wisdom in the Anansi stories, there is even wisdom in all the patterns and symbols that adorn all sorts of artifacts, the adinkra symbols.

Look at the stool. It has the Gye Nyame symbol, (meaning “except for god”).

And the staff or stick. That has the sankofa symbol, a bird reaching behind it for an egg.

Sankofa means, apparently, ‘to go back and get it.” I read here that the “symbol often is associated with the proverb, ‘Se wo were fi na wosankofa a yenkyi,’ which translates to, ‘It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten.'”

Here, I’ve gathered up (from lots of the symbols:

gye nyame sankofa sankofa adinkrahene funtunfunefu denkyemfunefu denkyem dwennimmen akoma ntoaso nyame nti nyame biribi wo soro
bin nka bi akokonan fihankra eban akoben nkonsonnkonson owo foro adobe akoma hwemudua hye wonhye
nkyimu sesa woruban epa dame dame ese ne tekrema nyame nnwu na mawu nyansapo odo nnyew fie kwan mate masie fofo
wawa aba aya nyame dua mframadan nea ope se obedi hene woforo dua pa a wo nsa da mu a boa me na kete pa me ware wo
tamfo bebre duafe mmusuyidee osram ne nsoromma kintinkantan bese saka asase ye duru mpataro nsaa
tamfo bebre duafe mmusuyidee osram ne nsoromma kintinkantan bese saka asase ye duru mpataro nsaa

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a fable and an illustrator

Sam is nine and in a CM1 class at his école primaire. There’s a lot of memorising for homework, which seems like an old-fashioned sort of way of learning. With poems it’s OK, but with history, like the reigns of Clovis and Charlemagne, and long poetry like this fable of La Fontaine I’m not so sure:


Rien ne sert de courir ; il faut partir à point.
Le Lièvre et la Tortue en sont un témoignage.
Gageons, dit celle-ci, que vous n’atteindrez point
Si tôt que moi ce but. Si tôt ? Êtes-vous sage ?
Repartit l’Animal léger.
Ma Commère, il vous faut purger
Avec quatre grains  d’ellébore.
Sage ou non, je parie encore.
Ainsi fut fait : et de tous deux
On mit près du but les enjeux.
Savoir quoi, ce n’est pas l’affaire ;
Ni de quel juge l’on convint. …

STOP!  That’s enough, Jean! Remember kids are going to have to learn this!

So let’s brighten things up a little with a favourite illustrator, Barbara Nascimbeni. You can see a couple of her illustrations of the same fable here:

When Sam was a toddler we had Noisy Ralph:

Later on we had Archie Hates Pink:

I like her way of painting, also the way things leap all over the place, the way the point of view seems to dance.

I like the books she chooses to illustrate too. The one above, though it is German, seems to be an Anansi story (translate it please!) She’s done some Aesop’s fables, like the hare and the tortoise of course. She seems to have managed to get published in all sorts of countries too.

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why mosquitoes

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the moral?

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how to exploit

I like this story about Anansi – it’s told even better in Peggy Appiah’s Pineapple Child, but the bookshelves are overloaded and untidy and I can’t find it.

Instead, here’s a picture from Flickr :

Cover art for Peggy Appiah’s 1966 opus, Ananse the Spider. Illustration by Peggy Wilson

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gathering all the wisdom up


Anansi did once try to collect all the wisdom in the world up in one place for safe keeping. He went round sweeping bits of it up in the market place and on the highways and byways. Everywhere there was a scrap Anansi scooped it up. It was dirty work, but in the end he had accumulated pretty well all the wisdom that was available. He put it in a gourd and made a stopper for it.

But where to keep the gourd?

He decided to hide it in the tallest tree in the forest. He tied the gourd in front of him and tried to climb up the tree. But it was hot and his hands kept slipping. And besides the gourd was in the way.

Secretly his young son had followed him, and could keep quiet no longer:

“Father, if you tie the gourd behind you, you’ll be able to climb.”

Anansi was already hot and bad-tempered. Having his small boy tell him, Anansi, how to climb trees was too much. He lost it, shouted at his son to go home and – threw the gourd down. It broke and immediately all the wisdom started to escape. By the time Anansi was back at the bottom of the tree it was too late.

But the advantage was that, as the rain washed the wisdom into the rivers, and the rivers carried it to the sea, small amounts of wisdom were spread all over the world.

And, as Anansi said, what\’s the use of all that wisdom anyway if your small son can so easily put you right?

There are plenty of versions of this one on the internet, such as this one here.

There are book versions too, like this one:

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