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Angry is good. Angry gets shit done. You shed tears for Compé Anansi and here he is telling you you are staring down the barrel of 300 years of subjugation, racist bullshit, and heart disease. He is telling you there isn't one goddamn reason you shouldn't go up there right now and slit the throats of every last one of these Dutch motherfuckers and set fire to this ship! You already dead, asshole. At least die a sacrifice for something worthwhile. Let the motherfucker burn! Let it all burn!

–Mr. Nancy, "The Secret of Spoons"

Mr. Nancy is Anansi, one of the Old Gods, and a central character in American Gods. He is also the titular character of the novel Anansi Boys.

Background Edit

Mr. Nancy tells stories based on West African animism, including such characters as Bird, Tiger, and Monkey. Tiger first owned all the stories; sad stories about the hunt, blood, and death. After some time, however, Anansi stole all of Tiger's stories and was the focal point in funny stories about trickery and being clever. In these stories, Mr. Nancy plays tricks on the other animals, as he is a trickster god.

Significance in narrative Edit

Main article: Mr. Nancy/Novel

Significance in series Edit

"The Secret of Spoons" Edit

Coming to America 1697 C.E.

Mr. Ibis writes a story of a Dutch slave ship and the shackled people within its hold who are being transported to America to be sold. A man, Okoye, prays in desperation to Anansi, pleading for help and telling him he would give him gifts if he had them. Mr. Nancy manifests from a spider and begins to tell them a story. He informs them that they are Black and will be enslaved by white people for centuries, worked to death, murdered, shot in the back by police. Okoye is angered by what he hears and Anansi tells him to use that anger to go upstairs to kill the Dutch slavers and set fire to the ship. Another man says that it will kill them all and Anansi replies that they're already dead and might as well die in sacrifice instead of subjugation. He frees Okoye and leaves. Okoye frees the rest of the the slaves and they set fire to the ship. A plank of the destroyed ship washes ashore and Anansi the Spider arrives in America.

"Lemon Scented You" Edit

Shadow and Wednesday are locked up together in the police station. Agent Buffer lays out the pictures of them from the bank robbery and leaves them to talk with each other. Wednesday explains that the photographs belong to a particular "god's eye view" of the world just as Mr. Nancy disguised as a spider unlocks his handcuffs.

"Come to Jesus" Edit

Shadow and Mr. Wednesday sit in bathrobes while Mr. Nancy sews them suits. Nancy wants to tell them a story but Wednesday doesn't think they have time. Nancy insists and relates the story of Bilquis' journey from queen to destitution to joining forces with the New Gods. He asks Wednesday and Shadow if they understand the moral of the story. Shadow guesses wrong but Wednesday says he needs to get himself a queen because the New Gods now have a queen. Shadow threatens to walk because Wednesday killed Vulcan and he still doesn't even know who Wednesday really is. Wednesday disagrees and explains that Shadow is not pissed-off enough to leave; he's just confused and intrigued.

Physical appearance Edit

  • Mr. Nancy's suit in "The Secret of Spoons" is the colors of the Ashanti people with purple being a royal color.
  • His patois drifts to incorporate the many different people who have come to worship him. [1]

Powers & Abilities Edit

  • Stories: As the God of all stories Anansi knows every story and tale ever told and written.
  • Spider Transmogrification: As a spider God Anansi is able to transform himself into a colorful spider whenever he likes.
  • Trickster: As a trickster God Anansi likes to plays tricks, disobeys normal rules and conventional behaviors. Anansi openly questions and mocks authority, encourages impulse and enthusiasm, seeking out new ideas and experiences, destroys convention and complacency, and promotes chaos and unrest where he feels it's needed, causing him to be very outspoken. At the same time, he brings new knowledge and wisdom in his wake. 
    • Enhanced Charisma: As a trickster God Anansi is extremely charismatic and charming, enabling him to gain the trust and loyalty of others. This uncanny ability of his to lead, charm, persuade, inspire, and even influence other people to his will has gotten him far over his long life.

Cultural background Edit

Anansi is a popular folktale character and cultural hero. He is from Ghana, originating from the tales of the Akan people. He quickly got a good place in the Ashanti mythology and his legends spread across all of West Africa, and then into the Caribbean folklore.

Sometimes called Kwaku Anansi, Kompa Nanzi or Nancy, Anansi is described as both a spider (Anansi meaning “spider” in the Akan language) and a humanoid being – his depictions ranging from fully human-looking or completely spider-like, to hybrids such as a spider with human face and clothes or a man with eight limbs. He is often described as having a family: he has a wife, that bears different names according to the sources, and several sons (Ntikuma, his first-born son, Tikelenkelen, his big-headed son, Nankonhwea, his son with spindly necks and legs, and Afudohwedohwe, his big bellied son). Some story also tells of Anansewa, the beautiful daughter of Anansi that he tries to wed to the most profitable parties.

Anansi is a famous trickster, renowned for his ruses, his cunning, his talent at making speeches and his skills as an orator. The Akan consider him an Abosom (an equivalent to the Yoruba orishas and Vodun loas). The Abosoms are in the Akan spirituality powerful spirits, akin to lesser gods, that helped shape the world and are a link between the mortal, earthly beings and the supreme entity that is Nyame, the Sky Father. Anansi is said to be either the son of Nyame and Asase Ya, the Earth Mother, or merely their servant and messengers. However, Anansi never received any intense worship and his divine nature was never put forward by the Akan, who felt that his role as a cultural figure and folklore hero was much more useful than his religious aspect.

Among the many legends about Anansi, two stick out the most because they each explain one of Anansi’s role in the world.

The first story explains that in the beginning, the world was story-less, for all of them were kept in a box by Nyame, the Sky Father. Anansi thought the world was boring, and thus went up at the top of the universe to meet with Nyame and ask from him the box of stories. Nyame, impressed that Anansi managed to reach him with his silk strings, agreed to give him the stories in exchange for the capture of extremely dangerous creatures, such as the Python, the Leopard and the Hornets. Anansi managed to capture all these deadly beings through ruses and tricks, and Nyame gave him the box. That is why today Anansi is considered the master of all stories in the world and the patron of storytellers.

The second story says that a long time ago, the clever Anansi craved for more intelligence, and set on a quest to collect all of the knowledge in the world. Then, he put all of this wisdom into a jar (or a calabash) and decided to keep it all for himself. Searching a safe place to hide his treasure, he chose to put it on top of a high tree. He tried several times to climb the tree while holding the jar, or tying it to his belly, to no use. Anansi hadn’t noticed that his son, Ntikuma, had secretly followed him, curious about what his father may be doing. When Ntikuma suddenly shouted at Anansi that to carry the pot all up to the tree, he had to carry it on his back, Anansi got a shock due to the surprise.

Here the story splits in two popular versions. In the first one, Anansi, surprised, let the jar out of his hand, and it crashed on the ground. Immediately, a storm came and its rain washed all of the world’s wisdom away in the river. Anansi, angry at his son, chased him under the rain until he realized that having all the world’s wisdom was not useful if you still needed the help of a child to do things right, and forgave his son. The other version rather has Anansi following his son’s advice, and climbing on the top of the tree with the jar, only to conclude the same thing as in the other version. He then threw the jar himself onto the ground, so that the wisdom would be free to spread in the world. This story explains why Anansi isn’t merely considered as a clever and cunning trickster, but also as a “wise” figure, and the one who offered knowledge and wisdom to the world. (Some like to claim that the box of stories of Nyame and the jar of wisdom of Anansi are one and the same [2])).

But these are just two of Anansi’s many stories. One tells of how he created the first inanimate human body, other speaks of him as the one who brings rain in the mortal world and causes the floods. He is also considered the one who taught human how to plow and sow. A legend says he created the sun, the moon and the stars and thus was responsible for days and nights[3], and another explains that he helped Owia the Sun, youngest son of Nyame, to gain his father’s role as the chief of the world, against his two older brothers Esum the Night and Osrane the Moon, and that for his services Anansi became Nyame’s personal messenger. A last tale explains that when all of the animals in the world fought over who was the oldest, Anansi won the argument because he explained that, when his father died, he had to bury him in his own head, for the earth didn’t exist back then.

Fittingly for Anansi, master of storytelling, his survival and the spread of his popularity across the globe was due to him being part of an oral culture – unwritten traditions and stories that spread from mouth to ear in all of the western African continent before going over to the Caribbean Islands, and then the New World. Indeed, when slaves were brought over from the Caribbean and the African continent to the Americas, they told each other the stories of Anansi – the “anansesem” or “spider tales” in the Ashanti language, a specific genre of tales for children centered around the Spider adventures. Since most of these stories told of a little, weak spider turning the table on powerful oppressors through his cunning and his tricks, Anansi quickly became a symbol of resistance and survival during the slavery era – and telling his tales was a way for the slaves to keep their original identity and culture alive.

However, this transition from the Old World to the New World modified Anansi’s characterization. While in America he became a classical hero to admire, imitate and follow, originally Anansi wasn’t a paragon of moral virtues. He was a flawed character, and while his stories often showed him as indeed the winner or the survivor of a world turned against him, sometimes Anansi brought unfortunate events upon himself or the world due to his own vices – the “anansesem” were entertaining and instructive, yes, but also a warning against how avarice and selfishness could be our own undoing.  

For example, a story explains how Anansi, supposed to find Nyame a wife among a village of beautiful maidens, decided to take all of them as his own wives without any of them for Nyame, and when the Sky Father “stole back” all of Anansi’s wives for his personal harem, the Spider unleashed all of the sicknesses possible upon the world as a way to get his revenge. Another explains that Anansi one day received meat from Death itself to feed his family. However, upon seeing that Death had endless supplies of meat (for everything living in this world belongs to Death), Anansi became greedy and stole from Death. Death, angry, followed Anansi back to punish him, and while the Spider evaded it, he still brought mortality into the world of the living. A last story explains how Anansi announced to all the animals that Gun, the personified firearm, their deadly archenemy, was dead and invited them to his funeral. What the animals didn’t know is that in fact, Gun wasn’t dead, and Anansi had borrowed him from the Hunter – thus, once all the animals were reunited, Anansi killed them all and then took their bodies to his home so that he may feast on them.

Anansi was included into the Haitan Vodou as a Gede Lwa. The Lwa or Loa, falsely called “gods” of vodou, are powerful spirits forming an in-between stage between the mortal creatures and the supreme being, while the Gede were a specific family of Loa associated with death, the afterlife and funerals. As a Loa Gede, Anansi was supposed to establish or facilitate the link between the living and their deceased ancestors. [4]

Gallery Edit

To edit the Gallery page, go to Mr. Nancy/Gallery.


Note: The pictures are shown in episodic order. To see the order of the episodes, please visit the Episode guide.

  • God AnansiGo to Anansi
  • God Anansi 2Go to Anansi

  • Orlando Jones (Mr. Nancy) and Ricky Whittle (Shadow Moon)
  • Orlando Jones (Mr. Nancy), Omid Abtahi (Salim), Yetide Badaki (Bilquis), and Kahyun Kim (Media)
  • Season Two BTS - Bilquis, Shadow, Ibis, Mr. Nancy, Mouna Traoré, and Glynn Tuman with writer Rodney Barnes and director Salli Richardson
  • The scars on Anansi's back

American Gods - Mr

American Gods - Mr. Nancy - Season 2

American Gods - Mr Nancy - Season 1

American Gods - Mr Nancy - Season 1. Nancy - STARZ

Notes and trivia Edit

  • Anansi originated in Ashanti tales, in what is now Ghana, Africa.
    • Anansi is both a man and a spider who is a successful trickster, going so far as to steal stories from the sky god. From this point on, he owns all the stories.
    • He shows up as a character and god in folk tales of the West African diaspora, especially in the Caribbean and the Southern United States. His stories have become those associated with Br'er Rabbit and Aunt Nancy.
  • Mr. Nancy originated from Anansi Boys, which started out as an idea Neil Gaiman came up with prior to writing American Gods [5]

References Edit

  3. Dictionary of rain, by Patrick Boman
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