Iktomi & Anansi Essay

Many civilizations pass down folktales orally as part of their cultural traditions. Iktomi, a Native American tale; and Anansi, a West African tale, are a few of these well-known stories. Even though these tales are from different regions, they are essentially the same. Both revolve around a trickster who is clever, greedy, and supernaturally powerful. Iktomi and Anansi both show that they are very clever characters. Iktomi proves that he is clever in how he catches ducks for his food. He tells the ducks he will teach them how to dance, but they must close their eyes or they will be cursed.

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Being naive, the ducks follow his orders, giving Iktomi time to kill a few of them before they realize what is happening. Similarly, Anansi must catch an entire hornet’s nest as a way to learn all the stories of the world. He convinces the hornets that a massive storm is approaching. To survive, he tells the hornets they must all fly into a hole dug in the ground.

The hornets were just as naive as the ducks and flew right into the hole, making it very easy for Anansi to trap and catch them all. Along with showing that they are clever, Iktomi and Anansi showed a less desirable character trait as well: greed.

Anansi’s greedy side shines through when his family’s crops become less abundant. Instead of sticking by his families’ side during this hardship, he fakes his own death because he knows he will be buried in the crop fields, easy access to food. Anansi stays in his coffin during the day, but sneaks out at night to freely eat the best crops from the field. He leaves his family to starve so that he can live off the land. Iktomi proves himself to fall guilty to this dreadful character trait as well. Once again, he is hungry so he goes out into the cold weather to find food.

The only warmth he has is the blanket he brought along. He decides to ask help from the sacred rock. Iktomi sacrifices his blanket to the rock to help him find food. When Iktomi leaves the rock, he crosses the path of a freshly killed deer. He then convinces himself that the sacred rock had nothing to do with his findings. Soon, he became very cold and went to take his blanket back. When he returned to where he left his deer, it had mysteriously disappeared. Iktomi became greedy and wanted both food and warmth.

Instead of being satisfied in receiving what he asked for, he convinced himself it was just a coincidence. Another one, of many shared characteristics by Anansi and Iktomi, is they both obtain supernatural powers. Anansi wanted to learn all the stories of the world, but for them to be handed to him, he had to complete three difficult tasks. Unlike anyone else, Anansi was able to complete all three without money or power. Once completed, Anansi was awarded all the stories of the world. As mentioned earlier, Iktomi told the ducks they would be cursed if they opened their eyes when learning to dance.

As promised, Iktomi forever cursed the duck who opened its eyes to warn the other ducks they were being slaughtered. Instead of remaining a beautiful duck, Iktomi had the power to change it into an ugly mud duck for the rest of its life. Now that the duck is ugly, it is shunned by the rest of the ducks, just as Iktomi wanted. Both folktales of the tricksters are few of many common stories. These folktales passed down orally are very relative to each other, though they may be from different places. Being clever, greedy and having supernatural powers are only a few of the many similarities between these two stories.

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