How Anansi Brought Stories to the Earth from Africa Chanticleer the Roosterfrom The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer from England How Beetle Got Her Coatfrom Brazil How Kangaroo Got Her Pouchfrom Australia The Brahmin, the Tiger, and the Six Judges from India Turtle Makes War from Native American Legends The Monkeys and the Moonfrom China, Japan, and Korea
Track 1. How Anansi Brought Stories to the Earth This story comes from the Ashanti people of Ghana, on western Africa’s Gold Coast along the Gulf of Guinea. Anansi is the trickster of the Ashanti. He is the first spider, who gets into and out of predicaments by using his quick wits and playing pranks. Anansi doesn’t always come out the winner, but always has fun.
Anansi made his way to Jamaica, where they still tell his tales. He even made it to the United States. Some of his tales changed here, however. For example, at least one of the stories of Brer Rabbit were originally Anansi’s tales. But, as our story at the start of the CD explains, all stories are really Anansi’s, so he doesn’t mind.
Track 2. Chanticleer the Rooster Our tale of Chanticleer the Rooster is adapted from "The Nun’s Priest’s Tale," from the Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. Written in the 14th century, the Canterbury Tales are a collection of stories told by a group of pilgrims on pilgrimage from Southwark to Canterbury to visit the shrine of St. Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. The group of pilgrims ranged from a monk to a carpenter to a knight, among others. The host of the pilgrimage suggested a contest where each of the pilgrims would tell tales while on the pilgrimage. The host would judge the tales, and would pay the expenses of the pilgrim who told the best tale.
Geoffrey Chaucer wrote 24 of the 120 tales he collected, all but two of which are in verse. Unfortunately, he died before he could finish the rest of the tales.
Incidently, Chaucer died without revealing who the winner of the contest was….
Track 3. How Beetle Got Her Coat Beetle’s story comes from a folk tale from Brazil. Brazil contains about a third of the world’s remaining rainforest, including a majority of the Amazon Rainforest. The Amazon Rainforest has been described as the lungs of the planet, because it is constantly recycling carbon dioxide into oxygen.
In presenting "Beetle," Mark chose a rather grating voice for the character. This was intentional, as he wanted to show that you don’t have to be dashing to be a hero, just have a pure heart.
It is interesting to note that, like Beetle, the people of Brazil chose yellow and green for the main colors of their flag.
Track 4. How Kangaroo Got Her Pouch This story comes from the Australian Aboriginal people. Since there are approximately 700 Aboriginal tribal groups, there is no one set and determined version of this story, and many variations exist. Some versions go into detail of how the other animals would treat Wombat. Mark decided against going into that aspect of the tale,as he felt it deflected from the main message of the story. The tale is set in the period known to the Aboriginals as "the Dreamtime," the time during which the world and all of the animals were formed. Paradoxically, "the Dreamtime" is still happening and will happen in the future. Stories of these types cover a variety of themes, from how animals got to look the way to do, to how laws and customs came to be.
The kangaroo is a very important part of Australia, both to the Aboriginals and non-Natives alike. She is the national symbol of Australia, used on the Australian coat of arms, currency, and numerous Australian organizations.
Track 5. The Brahmin, the Tiger, and the Six Judges This is the only story in which Man interacts with animals, and in fact with nature itself. There are more than a hundred different versions of this tale, some of which are believed to be almost 2,500 years old. In these variations, there are different types of beast captured (some variations have a snake or crocodile), as well as number of judges (from one to three to six).
The story introduces the audience to the idea of class in India. In our story, the Brahmin is introduced as a holy man. The Brahmin are a class of educators, scholars and preachers in Hinduism. They are the first four of the Hindu castes, and considered the highest. As such, they are respected by all people, from king to peasant. The Brahmin conducted rites, purification ceremonies, and educated people. Today the Brahmin still exist and can be found in a variety of professions, from political leaders to scientists to sports champions to spiritual leaders.
Track 6. Turtle Makes War There are several different versions of this tale among various Native American tribes. We tried to meld these versions into one version that would be true to the main feeling of the story. The story explains why several animals are the way they are -- specifically, why Rattlesnake’s head is flat and why Turtle has a cracked shell.
In this tale, Mark brings different American dialects into play, with the idea that these dialects actually came from the animals. He also tries to play against type by having little Turtle speak with a big, deep voice.
Track 7. The Monkeys and the Moon The final story has been adopted by generations of storytellers in China, Japan and Korea. In some versions, all of the monkeys fall into the water and drown. In these countries, there are references to fools who blindly follow foolish leaders and come to a bad end. They refer to this story as an example. Like many of our tales, this one is over two thousand years old.
See if you can recognize the leader Mark chose to use as the model for the leader’s voice.
We hope you have as much fun listening to this collection as we had making it. We hope it will inspire the imagination and creative spark in all listeners, young and old alike.