Tag Archives: myth

Myth: Anansi Story from a Coworker


Informant S is a 25 year old graduate student in the film production department of USC SCA and is the collector’s coworker. S is from New Jersey, and their family is from the Virgin Islands. S has “heard various Anansi stories within [their] family. This one [they] remember partially reading it for a project [they] were doing in a class but it also was within the realm of the ones [they] heard growing up [they] just couldn’t fully remember it so [they] just found one.” The informant has studied folklore for their own personal interest in it and employed it in their own filmmaking.


Informant: “Anansi is essentially like an African diaspora. It’s a spider, like a trickster-spider, and it’s everywhere in the Caribbean, it’s in the whole diaspora. And there’s one Anansi story I sort of remember where he’s hungry and he wants dinner. So he keeps getting himself invited to, like, dinner parties and pretending there’s a bunch of people and then he steals the host’s dinner and just, like, leaves. I think he killed one of them at one point. But it’s all these different like creatures of the forest I think, there’s a fox, a wolf, and a crow I believe? And then eventually he keeps coming home, eating all the food he stole, and not bringing any back for his wife and kids. So, I think his wife rats him out and then there’s like a fake dinner party made to get him and he eats so much food he can’t move anymore. And then all the people he stole the food from capture him and basically tie him up and leave him tied against a tree. And then he eats the rope and escapes. That’s not… that’s the gist of it, I can remember.”

Collector: “Like that’s how it ends?”

Informant: “Something like that. They usually have kind of dark endings but the… essentially Anansi is supposed to teach you […] lessons about why not to trick people and be greedy and selfish and a bunch of stuff. […] Anansi itself is like a… almost universal… one of the few universal diasporic concepts. There’s a whole bunch of them, that’s just one I remember.”


I was lucky enough to find an informant for this collection entry that was familiar with concepts of folklore itself. S mentioned that their interest in the African diaspora is rooted in their own personal background, connecting them to heritage or family as we’ve discussed in class. It seems like this kind of interest in cultural folklore is common among the children and grandchildren of immigrants in America. S’ story reminds me of the concept of “universal archetype” – though that theory has been disproved, I can see why some folklorists have considered it. The concept of a trickster god, while not archetypal, appears in a number of folklores – notably in Indigenous American folklore, according to Lévi-Strauss’ work in structuralism. Anansi, like Lévi-Strauss’ examples, acts on instincts that are pretty reminiscent of human flaws, and is connected with a specific type of animal – a spider. Though S believes the story is to teach people not to mess with trickster gods, I believe it has to do with human flaw such as greed and gluttony as well. What’s more, I think it’s interesting that the informant specifically mentioned what they believe the story is supposed to teach, and has a pretty clear understanding of this story as a myth.

The Lost Dutchman

‘ This story is a true folklore story, at least for Arizona, and like all folklore, at least I believe, it has molded and changed over generations. This is the permutation that I learned and now recall… which is certainly probably not even close to the original form of this tale. In Arizona, back in the mid-1800s, there was a miner, a gold miner. This takes place in an area called the Superstition Mountains, directly east of Phoenix. Beautiful red rocks with huge buttress cliffs. On the north side, there is a place called Weaver’s needle which is a huge spike of sandstone sticking out of the desert. When the Apache’s lived in this area, there was a Dutchman and his partner… he was German and not Dutch, but back then everyone referred to Germans as Dutchmen. The Dutchman was portrayed as being an old, grizzled man with a long beard and a mule or donkey with saddle bags and a pickaxe. They were out prospecting for gold, and the Apache were living in this area. The Dutchman and his partner had gone into this area that the Apache considered sacred… a sacred burial and hunting ground. No one was supposed to go in there, but the Dutchman and his partner did. They found gold and created a gold mine. At one point, he and his partner brought out a few of the gold nuggets to have them assayed and confirmed that it was real gold, not fool’s gold. It turned out to be 100% 24 carat gold… so they went back to the mine and began mining out all of the gold. They buried the treasure nearby and took as much as they could. The legend has it that the Apache found out about this and killed the Dutchman and his partner for invading their sacred lands. The Dutchman and his partner never told anyone where this mine was, and awhile later, the remains of the Dutchman was found, but never of his partner… The idea was where was the mine? So, legend has it that the mine was found within the shadows of weaver’s needle. We don’t know if its morning shadows, evening, afternoon… For many years, people would go searching for the gold mine and treasure, and often when the prospectors got close to finding this mine, they mysteriously disappeared. The Apache would tell no one what truly happened… that they know nothing about this… but hundreds of people went missing. The legend goes that the ghosts of the Dutchman and his partner would kill and hide the prospectors when they got close to the gold.’ – PB

When PB was growing up, him, his brother, and his dad would go hiking and camping all around the Superstition Mountains in Arizona. His dad would tell them stories about the lost Dutchman… PB recalls that he cannot remember if they were the stories his dad learned growing up, or perhaps they got mixed up with stories he had mixed ups from the tales told during campfire nights with the scouts. PB’s dad would tell him this story whenever they would go camping in the shadows of Weaver’s Needle, and of course PB would get up to go look around for the gold mine. He grew up learning about this legend, and everyone in his scout group did too. He would often tell and recount these tales on hikes and around the campfires with his friends while being at the Superstition mountains.

While I have been to the Superstition Mountains many time growing up, I had never heard this legend before, but I knew of many ghost stories surrounding the history of the Native American peoples who lived in this area of Arizona. This piece of folklore fits well into the oral tradition that much of folklore embodies. This tale has been passed down throughout diverse communities for over a century. It combines cultural beliefs and important historical characteristics allowing for the imagination of story tellers to further spread and most definitely adapt this tale, as PB recalled his version is most likely very different from the one he heard decades ago, and especially from the original narrative. This legend also uses the supernatural to provide moral understandings for the disappearances of many and the cultural significance of the land. This piece of folklore has been an integral part of the folklore surrounding this part of Arizona, and the seemingly well-named Superstition Mountains. It is a tale I will now pass through to my peers and family when going back to visit this beautiful desert.

Apache Tear Mountain

‘ In Arizona, there is a mountain called Apache Tear Mountain. Back in the mid and late 1800s, the Apache people lived around this mountain. They were peace-loving and wonderful people. They raised their families in this area, but at one point, the Apache that lived around there went to war with another Native American tribe. The tale goes that the warriors of the Apache tribe met and fought the other tribe on top of the mountain. They fought and fought and fought… Many warriors of the Apache tribe were killed. At the end of the battle, the wives and daughters went to the top of the mountain and saw their family members… grandfathers, fathers, uncles, and brothers… dead from battle. The women wept and cried, and as they cried their tears fell down the mountain and turned to beautiful black glassy stone which then turned into obsidian… the Apache tears.’ – PB

Growing up, PB and his dad would travel to Pima, a town in central Arizona. It was on this drive his dad would always remind him of this legend that many people in Arizona know and share with others. His dad learned this from his father, who was actually a miner in central Arizona, mining silver, copper, tin, and manganese. PB remembers when he would travel to Apache Tear Mountain, he would ask for Apache Tears and would be brought beautiful black stones, stones of obsidian. He even went into the mountain on hikes and trips, and recalls that when he would dig in the soil, it would unearth even more beautiful obsidian. While he learned this from his father, PB has also shared this tale with his own family and children, taking them to the exact spot he grew up going.

This legend was told to me as a child, and has been a story I share with friends on road trips throughout the Arizona deserts. This piece of folklore follows many of the trends that lore is known for. It latches on to the cultural beliefs of the Native American peoples in Arizona and combines it with the legends that were told among these communities. While it can be assumed that these legends were adapted as they flowed through the many diverse communities who told them, this is still a key aspect of folklore; the adaptation of the tradition as it follows through many cultures. Furthermore, this legend combines the tradition and cultural beliefs with an origin for a mineral formed among a mountain, allowing the imagination to give reason as to why and how obsidian was created there in the first place. This tale also allows these communities to uphold the sacred connection to the land in central Arizona. History and legends are combined into one, giving a unique oral tradition to a tale told thousands of times.

The Story of the Prague Golem


AG: The story goes that a rabbi in Prague was fed up with the pogroms and violence against the Jews in their ghetto. He created a man out of clay and imbued him with the word “emet” to describe god and it became a fierce protector of the ghetto. It successfully fought off violent goyim for some time, but eventually turned on its creators, and went on a violent rampage against the ghetto. It was destroyed by scratching off the ‘e’ in “emet” changing god to “death”. The ghetto in Prague was a real place that existed for hundreds of years. The Jews there had once been slaughtered by the local population


AG: I’d definitely heard the word and the general concepts all over the media since I was a kid. “Golem” is a common association for any sort of creature made out of inorganic materials. I didn’t become more familiar with the specific legend until I played the video game “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream”, which includes a scenario where the Jews of a Nazi concentration camp have built a golem, and you have to help them complete it. I studied it in more detail when I took an ancient to late middle ages Jewish history class in undergrad.


The story of the golem is prevalent throughout Jewish culture as a protector. While some Jewish people genuinely believe in the creation of the golem, the story more serves as a lesson of how only God can create life. This belief is reflected in other Abrahamic religions as well. In Islam, it is forbidden to draw faces due to a similar belief.


My informant for this collection talked about the famous lost city of Atlantis. Said to be a fabled island city which vanished beneath the waves in a catastrophic event, Atlantis is a myth which has been told and retold for centuries. Its exact location remains unknown and has remained a topic of speculation for some time. Atlantis was a civilization which was known for its advanced technology. Despite its achievements as a progressive civilization, Atlantis eventually fell and its downfall remains one of the greatest mysteries in history. Atlantis still impacts our world today as an inspiration for numerous filmmakers, novelists, and video game creators. 

Although the abstract my informant recounted was brief, the connection they have with Atlantis stems from a deep appreciation of the myth. To my informant, the story of Atlantis has captured the imagination of people around the world, including Americans, who continue to speculate about its existence and significance.

The lost city of Atlantis has its fair share of cultural symbolism, captivating the imagination of countless works in literature, art, and pop culture. This myth originated from the ancient Greek philosopher Plato, who mentioned it in his dialogues “Timaeus” and “Critias” in the year 360 BCE. The recounts of the city were that of a powerful advanced civilization which met its demise in a single day of cataclysmic destruction. The story of Atlantis acts as a symbol for humanity balancing greatness with the consequences of moral decay. I believe that this story serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of excessiveness on the fragile human experience.