My rating: ★★☆☆☆
The Illustrated Anansi contains four Caribbean folk tales, From Tiger to Anansi, Anansi and Turtle and Pigeon, The Quarrel, and Anansi and the Crabs.
In From Tiger to Anansi, Anansi, the weakest of the animals, makes a request of Tiger, the strongest. Anansi wishes to have something named after himself–the stories. Tiger agrees, but only with an impossible condition; for the stories to be named after Anansi, the spider must bring Snake, alive, to Tiger.
I was a bit disappointed by the ending of this one, although it’s obvious why it ended how it did. Anansi being a trickster deity, his story could only ever end with him outwitting his fellow animals… regardless of how much easier the task would have been if Anansi simply asked Snake to accompany him to Tiger. But a trickster’s going to be a trickster, I suppose.
Anansi and Turtle and Pigeon was a very short and, frankly, odd story. In it, Anansi and Turtle ask Pigeon to teach them to fly; Turtle gets to try learning first, so he accompanies the pigeons to Tiger’s cornfield, from where they “steal” his corn every day. But turtles can’t fly, so Turtle is caught by Tiger’s watchman… and Tiger decides to make Turtle stew.
Now, Turtle gets away when he remembers a bit of Anansi’s advice… but it doesn’t make a ton of sense. I imagine there’s some cultural nugget I’m missing that gives the scene significance, but without it, I’m finding myself rather puzzled.
The Quarrel explains why Anansi–and spiders in general–live in webs… and it’s even weirder than Anansi and Turtle and Pigeon, casting Anansi as a layabout and a thief. Tiger and Monkey get a rep in this story than Anansi, which I have to say surprised me. The explanation of webs is intriguing, but I find it almost more interesting that the myth casts its own protagonist in such a negative light.
…and Anansi and the Crabs might be the most utterly WTF thing I’ve ever read. In the story, Anansi wishes to preach, but he has no one to listen. Then he learns that the crabs have neither a preacher nor a church, so he sets out to preach to them. Over the course of several days, he preaches in their town and is ignored. Finally, after getting several other animals to assist him, he convinces the crabs to let him baptize them… upon which he promptly shoves them all in a bag to eat for dinner. WTF #1. WTF #2 comes when the crab king tries to get vengeance by sending Aligator after Anansi; the spider pretends to be related to Aligator, which he “proves” with more trickery. So Aligator leaves without doing anything about the fact that Anansi just ate his entire “congregation”. I just… wtf?
I was really hoping to enjoy this… but no.