This exploration is for all ages, as the colored smilies show. You can learn about African Folk Tales with your whole family together!
The Anansi and Turtle craft is an arts exploration from the Layers of Learning Ancient Art Around the World unit. Layers of Learning has hands-on explorations, experiments, and fun art projects in every unit of this family-friendly curriculum. Learn more about Layers of Learning.
African folktales, like the one about Anansi and Turtle, help kids learn about other parts of the world. In Nigeria, folktales are very popular and perhaps the most popular are tales about Anansi. Anansi is a West African god who often takes the form of a spider. He is the son of the sky god, Nayame, and the earth goddess, Asase Ya. One of our favorite tales is called Anansi and Turtle. It’s a moral tale somewhat like Aesop’s Fables. We’ll read the tale and then make a craft about Anansi and Turtle, the two characters.
Step 1: Library Research
Before you begin exploring, read some other African Tales. Here are some suggestions, but if you can’t find these, look for books at your library about African stories, African folk tales, or African literature. The colored smilies above each book tell you what age level they’re recommended for.
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Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock
by Eric A. Kimmel
The Name of the Tree
by Celia Barker Lottridge
The Pot of Wisdom
by Adwoa Badoe
Step 2: Anansi and Turtle African Folk Tale Craft
You’ll need an egg carton, scissors, paints, paint brushes, pipe cleaners, wiggly eyes, and craft glue to make the Anansi and Turtle craft.
First, look up Nigeria on a globe and then read this Nigerian folk tale about Anansi, the trickster.
Now, make some spiders and turtles using egg cartons.
- Cut apart an egg carton, so each egg cup is separate (you only have to cut as many as you intend to make spiders for).
- Paint the egg cup black or any other color you wish your spider to be.
- Poke eight holes around the rim of the egg cup, four on each side, using a sharp pencil or wooden skewer.
- Thread four pipe cleaners through the holes so you end up with eight legs. Trim the pipe cleaners to the length you desire.
- Glue on wiggly eyes.
- Use egg cups again, but this time paint the egg cup green.
- Make four legs using pipe cleaners, poked through holes on the egg cup.
- Add wiggly eyes.
- What was the very first thing that happened in the story?
- Who was the host at the first dinner party? Was he a good host? Why?
- Who was the host at the second dinner party? Was he a good host? Why?
- Does it make a difference that Turtle came very hungry and tired to ask Anansi for help? What if he had just been greedy and wanted to take food from Anansi? Does the attitude and condition of Turtle at the first dinner party make any difference in how you perceive Anansi’s behavior?
- What was Anansi’s major fault in this story? Do you think this is a common human fault and why is it a problem?
- Were you glad that Turtle got back at Anansi and taught him a lesson? Why? Would you behave that way if someone treated you badly or tricked you? Why? Do you think Anasi learned because of what Turtle did?
- In African tales often cleverness is the most important trait for a character. The stories are often solved with the brain. What do you think this says about what West African cultures value?
- What lesson is this tale trying to teach?
- Do you agree with the message? Why or why not?
Step 3: Show What You Know
Use the figures to retell the story of Anansi and the Turtle in your own words.
Additional Layers are extra activities you can do or tangents you can take off on. You will find them in the sidebars of each Layers of Learning unit. They are optional, so just choose what interests you.
Write your own animal folk tale with a moral. Hundreds of tales feature Anansi. He can be your main character or you can create an original character for your tale.
Learn more about spiders.
Read some books from the library. Find some around your house or in your garden. Examine them and their webs.
Learn more about turtles. Read books. Look up which types of turtles live in Nigeria. Which type do you think Turtle was?