The Dominion of Anansi: Why Does Storytelling Persist?

Centuries ago, in the Western region of the continent of Africa, there existed a divine being known for his cunning, wit, and mischievousness. Known as Kwaku Ananse, he was a spider god and the patron of stories. (Part of me wonders if this is connected to weaving stories the way spiders weave webs, but I could find no source to back this up…) His many misadventures included victory over entities that were often far more powerful than he was, and even such benevolent acts as gifting fire to mortals.


His preeminence wasn’t to last, however. Kwaku Ananse was taken by force from his home, where he was revered by the Akan and Ashanti people, shipped like cargo across the Atlantic, and landed in a small island more than 10,000 km away.

There, on an island was colonised by his captors, he eventually forgot his full name. In fact, due to the jealous nature of the coloniser god, who wanted to be the sole proprietor of worship, he even forgot his divinity.

And so, he became Anansi. Though, at least in the island now known as Jamaica, his realm is now largely relegated to the realm of primary school literature classes, it has nonetheless persisted as the tales of a trickster who almost always gets his way.

The question is: Why?

For me, this is an existential question. I am a writer. It is my dream, my passion. Yet, storytelling has existed for longer than I may ever know. And, like Anansi himself, it has changed: From oral tellings and dramatisations to the first written texts to novels to short films to blockbuster productions and video games. Today, people spend millions to bring stories to life. And many others spend collective millions consuming them.


The power of storytelling seems to be independent of whether or not the stories are true, or even believed to be true. No one believes Gotham City exists. Or that a girl named Binti truly traveled light-years to attend an interstellar university. And yet, we devour these tales.


Stories have the power to evoke emotion, to create connections, to instill messages.

That, I have come to believe, is my calling. Perhaps I should make Kwaku Ananse the patron of my blog.