The Stories

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Anancy’s Score is a collection of twenty short stories that feature the adventures of Anancy, a spider person. In the “Author’s Note,” Salkey acknowledges that his Anancy is an amalgamation of the Anansi of West African and Caribbean folklore and his own imagination. True to his folkloric forebears, Anancy, in Salkey’s words,holds no reservations; makes only certain crucial allowances; he knows no boundaries; respects no one, not even himself, at times; and he makes a mockery of everybody’s assumptions and value judgements.

Using the generic conventions of the fable, Salkey reconstructs Anancy’s stories by employing an omniscient, third-person narrator who is identified as Brother Oversea in one tale. The identity of the narrator is unclear in the other stories. The stories are told chronologically, emulating the oral telling and retelling of tales in the folkloric tradition. In the first story, “How Anancy Became a Spider Individual Person,” Anancy’s story becomes a fusion of Caribbean folklore, Judeo-Christian tradition, and postmodern cynicism. Diverging from the pedestrian “In the beginning” motif, the narrator opts to begin this creation myth with a bitter political commentary:Once, when neither mushrooms on the ground nor mushrooms up in the air were killing off people, when trees were honestly trees, when things used to happen as if they hadn’t any good reason not to happen . . . all the animals and trees and everything had a magical, straightback dignity of bearing, as if they were special, free creatures and things on the lan’.

Within this land, called “The Beginning,” Brother Anancy and his wife reside harmoniously with all the other creatures. Anancy is content to live idly in The Beginning, spending his days drinking water-coconut and eating bananas, much to the chagrin of his clever, ambitious wife. One day, while Anancy philosophizes with his friends, Brother Dog and Brother Tiger, Anancy’s wife approaches the “serious...

(The entire section is 819 words.)


(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Abrahams, Roger D. Introduction to African Folktales: Traditional Stories of the Black World. New York: Pantheon Books, 1983. Offers a brief but lucid discussion of the trickster figure in African folklore. States that such tricksters as the Hare, the Jackal, and the Spider are actually creatures that live between culture and nature, obeying the laws of neither. The trickster illustrates how not to act.

Berry, Jack. Preface to West African Folktales, collected and translated by Jack Berry, edited by Richard Spears. Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1991. Proffers a short discussion of the Anansi as a symbol of physical and moral liberation. Claims that his family—a wife and an adopted son—merit more critical and anthropological scrutiny than has been afforded them in the past.

Courlander, Harold. “Anansi, Trickster Hero of the Akan.” In A Treasury of African Folklore: The Oral Literature, Traditions, Myths, Legends, Epics, Tales, Recollections, Wisdom, Sayings, and Humor of Africa. New York: Crown, 1975. Asserts that the Anansi not only is the quintessential trickster in Ashanti and Akan folklore but also is a cultural hero. Although adversarial, he is, at times, a sympathetic and wise character. In the role of the cultural hero, much like the role in which Salkey frequently casts him, the Anansi is responsible...

(The entire section is 458 words.)