The Griots, African Storytellers Illustration


The griots were the storytellers in the ancient kingdom of Ghana. After dinner, villagers might hear the sound of a drum or a rattle announcing a story was soon to be told. They collected around a central fire and settled down to listen.

The storytellers told many stories - stories about the many gods and goddesses worshiped by these early people. They told tales of war and battle and heroes and leaders and kings. Stories were often accompanied with music and dancing and song. There was no written language. Stories kept their history alive. Stories were also entirely fictional.

Everyone loved the stories of Anansi, the little spider! Anansi had a good wife. He had strong sons and beautiful daughters. He had many friends. He was almost always in trouble. Anansi used his wits and humor to get himself out of trouble.

Anyone could tell a story, but there was only one official Griot per village. If a village tried to steal or entice away a griot from another village, war could break out. The griots were very important. The griots did not work in the fields. Their job was to tell stories.

Even today, there are griots in African villages, still telling tales of Anansi the Spider, and creating new stories about the marvelous people of Africa.

Anansi the Spider (retold by Lin Donn)

African Fables

Stories from Africa