Jean de La Fontaine’s fables are undeniably one of the greatest and most popular poetic animal folktales. Generations of school goers would fondly recall having to memorise, summarise and interpret the underlying, often moral meaning behind these well-loved poetic masterpieces. Sadly when it comes to animal folklore many have only had one perspective – Aesop Fables. In the beautiful Akan villages in Ghana and in the soil rich Blue Mountaints of Jamaica, a spider, known as Ananse has been entertaining and educating children and adults for centuries, if not more.
A classic Ananse tale, Ananse and the Turtle touches on virtues such as shrewdness and vices such as greed. Jean de la Fontaine also wrote of greed and shrewdness in the well known Fox and the Grapes. Both stories are equally entertaining, rhythmic and simple to follow. If both authors became household names, kids would be privileged with a richer and more diverse perspectives on folklore in continents and cultures which are very different yet similar.
Written publications of Ananse are hard to come by so it may take a lot more effort than Aesop to preserve, tell and pass them down to next generation.
(Photo credit Horizon Church)