Popular Tales from the Norse, by George Webbe Dasent, , at sacred-texts.com
SINCE writing the Introduction to this Appendix, the Translator has been able to consult "The Vocabulary of the Oji Language, by the Rev. H. N. Riis, Basle, 1854," and "A Grammar of the Akra or Ga Language, by the Rev. J. Zimmermann, Stuttgart, 1858," both which excellent works prove beyond all doubt, not only that these West Indian Ananzi stories are spider stories, but that similar tales called by the same name still exist in abundance on the west coast of Africa. These two languages, and others closely akin to them—of which the Yoruba is one—are spoken by the tribes now settled on the Gold Coast, but which reach inland as far as the Kong mountains. The Asánte—once so formidable to the ear of the British public under the term Ashantee, and still so odious for their slave hunts—are the most powerful race among them, and have reduced most of their kindred to subjection. The following passages from the works of Messrs. Riis and Zimmermann sufficiently prove the connection between the West Indian "Spider Stories" and those of West Africa. They also show that the true spelling of the word should be Anánsi.
"Anánse, subst., a spider; Anansisém, subst., story, tale, fable; to anansisem, to tell a tale, from ananse and asem literally a tale of Ananse, a mythic personage, generally called Agya Ananse, father Ananse, to whom great skill and ingenuity is attributed; probably a personification of the spider and its ingenuity as displayed in making its web."—Riis, p. 147.
Better still Zimmermann,
"Ananu (Oji ananse) n. spider. This animal is the subject of many superstitions; for instance, that it has a bad influence upon children sleeping in the same room; it plays, moreover, a principal role in their fables, in which the acting personages are mostly animals; whence these fables are called in Oji spider stories, anansesem. The spider is represented as speaking through the nose, and its hobbling walk and other peculiarities are correctly imitated by the voice and gestures of the relater."—Vol. ii., p. 17.
At vol. i., p. 193, we have two specimens of such stories, the first of which, about Anansi and his son, reminds one of one of the many stories of Boots and his Brothers; while in the second, the "Little Birds" reveal to a hunter the conduct of his wife at home. The root of the word Anansi, in different African dialects, is nan, ran, or lan, all which are verbs, meaning to spin. Anansi is therefore, the spinner. The connection between it and aranea, ἀράχνη, and lana, will be evident to philologists.