African Folktale: Two Popular Characters That Are Very Similar

African Folktale

Original Graphic by Phillip Martin (C)

African folktale is an African story of culture and values that have been passed down to generations, orally.

The 90s generation may have missed the African folktale experience but written literature has tried to fill the gap as much as it can.

 African folktales portray African values using exaggerated human-like animal characters and of these, Ijapa and Anansi are unarguably the most popular. Coincidentally, they are quite similar.

Ijapa (Yoruba title for male Tortoise)

The Greedy Tortoise and Other Stories - Lantern Books

He is a popular African folktale character despite originating from Nigeria. Sometimes, he’s wise, sometimes, he’s just straightforward cunning. Lol. Some plots feature his wife, Yannibo. Some plots feature him in the midst humans; sometimes in the midst of animals; and other times, in the midst of both.

Sometimes, he’s Tortoise, as in Tortoise and the Ram. Some other times, he’s just Ijapa, as in Ijapa Tiroko.

From how he tricks the King, slies the birds, cheats his friends, betrays his town – Ijapa is all shades of smart. He sometimes uses “his skills” to save his village but most of the time, he uses them for selfish reasons.

Anansi (Akan title for Spider)

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Anansi originated from the Akan tribe in Ghana. He is a witty and cunning character. Anansi is usually a spider with an human face.

He sometimes appears in African folktales with his family: Okonore Yaa, his wife; Ntikuma, his first born son; Tikelenkelen, his big headed son; Nankonhwea, his son with spindly neck and legs; Afudohwedohwe, his pot-bellied son and Anansewa, his only daughter.

Some of the most popular Anansi stories are : How The Sky God’s Stories Came To Be Anansi’s Stories, How Diseases Were Brought To The Tribe and How Anansi Got A Bald Head. etc

Ijapa and Anansi have not only been tanslated into Literature-in-English but they’ve also been made into animations which are available online.

Video from August House
Video from Yoruba Cartoon TV

Ijapa and Anansi have a lot in common. Asides originating from two Jollof-competitive countries, the characters have so much in common. Despite originating from only a region of their country, they have been adapted by other regions.

They are both creative and devise witty means to solve or create problems. These characters often display greed and selfishness and are always rewarded accordingly. The plots are used to discourage negative values.

Despite being consistently portrayed as greedy, cunning individuals, they’re still very lovable.

You may want to look closely at the next Ijapa or Anansi you come across ; who knows, he may just be cooking another prank in his head.

Authored by Jimoh Isiat Ayobami

Jimoh Asiat Ayobami- African Folktale

Jimoh Asiat Ayobami, also known as Bámi is a creative writer and storyteller. She freelances as a copywriter and tutor.
She currently serves as Chief Content Writer with Thrillz Nigeria, a communication brand in Nigeria.
Her short story, Grandpa’s Burial won her the second runner-up prize at the Panacea Short Story and Essay Contest 2020. Her works have featured in various publications including LightIn, Spaces.
When Bámi isn’t stir-frying words, or giving sneak-peaks into her recipe, in the name of tutorials, she’s consuming nature in all its beautiful forms or relishing art, usually in the company of something sweet.

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