Folktales are like the mirrors of a culture, reflecting back a light-hearted, colorful vision of the human condition of which it is part. As a culture changes, so too does its stories, especially in West Africa where they are transmitted orally, only to be realigned with each new generation that tells them. So while versions may vary, their cultural importance remains.

3 Tales from the Ivory Coast

Korhogo cloth of the Senufo people, depicting characters from tales of the Ivory Coast.

Like most tales indigenous to West Africa, the allegories and traditional narratives passed down through generations of Ivorians enthrall and edify, startle and steer, recreate and reinforce the social values of their listeners. Through a panoply of characters — fantastical monsters, rebellious protagonists — ethical dichotomies unfold: the role of the individual, the stranger, the …

Kwaku Anansi and the Pot of Wisdom

Illustration of Anansi the trickster spider of the Ashanti and Akan people of West Africa by lfinrod.

The traditional web of legend and lore that allegorizes human nature — particularly its propensity for wisdom, ingenuity, resourcefulness, yet also for the shrewdness and duplicity that often goes hand-in-hand — spans across world cultures. As it stretches from one corner of the globe to another, from Japan to India to the Lakota region of the …