Or was it a rabbit?
Whenever I teach people about narrative and storytelling, as I did last Saturday, I talk about the importance of the storyteller as a key curator of culture. Often the storyteller is the person who enshrines and passes on the values of a culture from one generation to the next. In this regard we often look at a Native American storyteller doll, but then turn to some examples of leading through storytelling in corporate business culture.
After I had got home on Saturday, a young man from Ghana, who had been at the seminar, wrote to me all about Ananse the spider, and a story of a story began to unfold. The stories of Ananse the wise (and mischievous) spider were originally told in Ghana and other West African countries. Those who were taken as slaves to the Americas continued to tell the same stories, but told them about Brother (or Brer) Rabbit. When some of the descendants of those same slaves then returned to Sierra Leone, they once again brought the stories with them. By now, though, they had become the stories of Brer Spider. My Ghanaian student then told me about them, and another person who had split his childhood between Birmingham and Sierra Leone filled in the blanks!
This is remarkable evidence of how stories leap across oceans and cultures, accquiring local colour as they go. In essence it is no different to the little Italian boy who painted a picture of David which hangs in our church hall. In the picture a victorious David is presented with a ham in honour of his slaying the giant. It may not be very Jewish, but it is an authentically Italian way of saying thank you. How well do Bible stories travel, in your experience?