|“||He was looking at Mr. Nancy, an old black man with a pencil moustache, in his check sports jacket and his lemon-yellow gloves, riding a carousel lion as it rose and lowered, high in the air; and, at the same time, in the same place, he saw a jeweled spider as high as a horse, its eyes an emerald nebula, strutting, staring down at him; and simultaneously he was looking at an extraordinarily tall man with teak-colored skin and three sets of arms, wearing a flowing ostrich-feather headdress, his face painted with red stripes, riding an irritated golden lion, two of his six hands holding on tightly to the beast's mane; and he was also seeing a young black boy, dressed in rags, his left foot all swollen and crawling with black flies; and last of all, and behind all these things, Shadow was looking at a tiny brown spider, hiding under a withered ochre leaf.||”|
Mr. Nancy is one of the first gods Shadow meets after Mr. Wednesday and Czernobog. Shadow meets him in the cafeteria at the House on the Rock. He is a cynical, snarky, wily trickster god who lives in Florida. He often makes fun of Shadow, despite being helpful to him and being mostly loyal to Mr. Wednesday's cause. Nancy has extensive interchange with the more intense Czernobog. The two of them later travel with Shadow to the Center of America and the World Tree. After the main events of the story, Mr. Nancy helps Shadow by taking him to Florida, where he replenishes his strength by singing karaoke.
Mr. Nancy mentions at one point that he gains worship by having stories told about him. He 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
Anansi Boys is centered on the children of Mr. Nancy, who dies at the beginning of the story. Mr. Nancy's son, Fat Charlie, moved from Florida to London to escape his humiliating father and when his father dies, he learns of his long-estranged brother, named Spider.
Mr. Nancy is described as a small, elderly black man with "a hint of patois that might have been West Indian" in his voice and his eyes are described as the "color of mahogany." He has a pencil mustache and wears a lime-green fedora and lemon-yellow gloves with a checkered suit.
Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab
Mr. Nancy is the American Gods version of Anansi, 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 (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 out 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 Ntikuma. 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 ).
But these are just two of Anansi’s many stories. Another one tells of how he created the first inanimate human body, another 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, 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 existing 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 personification of firearms, their deadly archenemy, was dead and invited them to his funeral. What the animals didn’t know was 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. 
Notes and trivia
- Mr. Nancy originated from Anansi Boys, which started out as an idea Neil Gaiman came up with prior to writing American Gods. 
- Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab produced a perfume oil based on Anansi, for their "American Gods II" line of products. It is named "The Jeweled Spider" and described as : Cigarillo smoke, spatters of ice cream sundae, a supersized mug of coffee, a pile of fruit, and a little bit of curried goat. They also created a home-and-linen spray based on Mr. Nancy's house, described as: The ghosts of long-dead cookies, whirring palmetto bugs, cigarillo smoke, and crawling things that scuttle and click.
- Dictionary of rain, by Patrick Boman