Fashion a Patchwork Cape

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Aluku Maroon Storytelling Tradition


        To introduce students to the Aluku Maroon storytelling tradition used by community members to teach Aluku Maroon children about their history, culture, and moral and spiritual values.

Activity 1- An Aluku folktale and interpretive questions

"Jaguar and Anansi" is an Aluku folktale as told by Adolphe Anelli, and translated into French by Serge Anelli. English translation by Diana Baird N'Diaye.


        Anansi is a folktale character that Africans brought with them from West Africa to the Americas. Although he is a strong and a good worker, Anansi is also lazy and selfish. He has an insatiable appetite and fills the bag he carries with food by means of fraud and thievery. Anansi is sometimes a man, sometimes a spider. Many Anansi stories have songs in them. Aluku Maroon children learn Anansi stories from their family and friends.

Jaguar and Anansi

        There once was a jaguar who had planted and harvested lots of sugar cane. One day, Anansi, a spider, went hunting. He walked a long time and arrived at a village. He called out, "Anybody there?"

        And Jaguar replied, "Yes, I'm here."

        Jaguar was working under the rain. Anansi asked him, "All this sugar cane belongs to you and you still continue to work?"

        Jaguar said, "Yes, I don't know what else to do so I keep on working. I keep on planting."

        Anansi said, "Jaguar, how about if we make some sugar?"

        Jaguar asked, "You know how to do it?"

        "Sure!" said Anansi.

        "Alright then," said Jaguar.

        They cut lots of cane and made sugar with it. They made a whole barrelful of sugar. And they continued to make sugar until they had filled a second barrel, and then a third. Then Anansi said, "Do you know what we're going to do now? We are going to clean the field and plant more cane."

        They went to work. But, before long, Anansi began to look for a way to eat all of Jaguar's barrels of sugar by himself. Anansi told himself that if he didn't find a scheme, he would never succeed. He excused himself from Jaguar for a while, giving himself enough time to think up something. Then he came back and said to Jaguar, "I have to warn you that some people have asked me to be the godfather of their child."

        They went on clearing the field and planting cane. In a few minutes, Anansi, who already had alerted Jaguar to his departure, said, "They are calling me! I should go, but it bothers me to leave you here all alone."

        Jaguar said, "I can go in your place, if you'd like."

        "No, no!" said Anansi. "Thank you for your offer, but this time, I'm going to go by myself."

        Jaguar said, "Okay."

        Anansi made his way to the place where the three barrels of sugar had been stored. His wife and his children were waiting for him there. Together they carried the first barrel home and ate all of the sugar that it contained. Then Anansi returned to work. He said to Jaguar, "Excuse me, I'm late."

        Jaguar said "That's alright. That's alright. . . . Tell me, what's the name of your new goddaughter?"

        Anansi said, "She's been named First-eaten. The christening was grand. In fact, I've been invited to a second christening. I don't know if I'm going to go."

        Jaguar said, "If you don't want to go, I can go in your place."

        "Thank you, that's kind of you. But, all the same, I'll go." Jaguar said, "Okay."

        A few moments later, Anansi said, "Oh, I think that they're calling me! I'm coming, I'm coming! Jaguar, I'm leaving, see you later!"

        Jaguar said, "Okay."

        Anansi hurried to the same spot as before. With the help of his family, he carried the second barrel home, and they had a feast. Then he returned to work, and said, "That christening, it was really something! The one yesterday was nothing in comparison! An incredible party!"

        Jaguar said, "And what did they name your new goddaughter?"

        Anansi replied, "They named her Second Meal."

        And Jaguar said, "Very good."

        Then, Anansi let Jaguar know that he had been invited to a third christening, but that this time he wasn't going.

        Jaguar said, "If you don't want to go, stay here. I'll go in your place."

        Anansi said, "Oh no, Jaguar, don't bother yourself! I'll go! In fact, people say that I dress very well for christenings."

        Jaguar said, "Alright."

        A few moments later, Anansi cried out, "Yes! I'll be right there! These folks get on my nerves, calling me like that!"

        He made his way once more to the place where the sugar barrels were stored, carried the third barrel home with the help of his family, and ate all of the contents. Then, Anansi returned to work and said, "Here I am, Jaguar! Yesterday's christening was nothing compared to the one today. But I'm not going to any more. I won't go even if I'm invited again!"

        Jaguar said, "And what's your godchild's name?"

        Anansi said, "He's called Last Meal."

        Jaguar said, "Very good."

        Jaguar and Anansi continued to plant cane until the rains came. Jaguar couldn't stand rain. He got soaked and went home all feverish. He said to Anansi, "Oh, my brother, I'm going to die. . . . I got myself wet, I caught a cold. . . . Do you know what you can do for me? Go and open a barrel of sugar and make me a little sugar water."

        Anansi said to himself, "This is going to go badly for me."

        He gathered all of his things and put them next to the window. Then he tried to open the first sugar barrel with a hammer. But he wasn't able to get it open. So, Jaguar said, "Go open the second barrel."

        But Anansi couldn't open the second barrel either.

        Jaguar said, "Try the third."

        Anansi tried and tried, but he just couldn't get the third barrel open. So Jaguar lamented, "Lord, I'm going to have to get up now, with my fever and all."

        So, Jaguar got up. Licking his chops, he approached the barrels. Anansi, on his side, got near to the window. Jaguar gave a big hit to the first barrel, and then to the second, and finally to the third barrel, and realized that they were empty. He shouted, "Anansi, you did this to me!" Anansi got away as fast as he could.

        Jaguar said, "I'll get you, I'll get you sooner or later! You made up godchildren and you went to eat my sugar!"

        Anansi had already gone to hide. Jaguar ran as fast as he could, but he was not able to catch Anansi. He said to himself, "I'm going to find a way to get him, this bad-news Anansi."

        So, Jaguar made an agreement with all of the other animals to play a trick on Anansi. He spread a rumor that he himself was dead, and had gunshots fired into the air to announce the sad news.

        The animals gathered at his house crying. They said, "Jaguar is dead, he's dead from his illness. What's going to happen to us?"

        Anansi also came to cry for his friend. He isolated himself from the crowd and lamented, "Jaguar is dead, Jaguar is dead." And in front of everyone, he said, "Jaguar was a hard worker and I am very sad that he is dead. But I would like, with your permission, to ask something."

        The people replied, "Go on, Sir, speak! What do you have to say?"

        Anansi said, "Did Jaguar fart? If he is dead, he must have farted!"

        So, Jaguar farted, "Broooom!"

        Then, Anansi said, "Run, Everyone! If he was really dead, he wouldn't have farted!"

        Everyone ran. Jaguar got up as fast as he could, but too late! Clever Anansi was already gone. Since that time, whenever Jaguar walks in the forest he keeps his snout to the ground, because he's still looking for Anansi.



  • List some of the character traits of Jaguar and of Anansi.

  • Thinking about what you have learned about Maroons, whom do the characters remind you of?

  • Why do you think the spider was given his particular traits?

  • Why was the Jaguar chosen for his traits?

  • What are the lessons taught or conclusions reached about relations between the characters in the story?

  • What might the story say about the relationship between creativity, resistance, and survival?

Activity 2- Creative writing

Write a short story using animal characters to explain and solve a human problem.

  • How would Anansi deal with a problem posed to the main character in your story, your favorite TV show, or book?