When telling this story, I ask, “Do rabbits have long or short tails?” This draws listeners in and sparks their interest. They respond, “Short!” so I say, “Well, now they do, but long ago rabbits had very long tales and the rabbit was best friends with the dog. Then Ananzi the trickster spider happened.”
Parents, grandparents, and teachers have been sharing stories about Ananzi with children for more generations that we can count. I came across stories about Ananzi in the early seventies. While working at a daycare center, I found that Ananzi stories engaged children aged 3 to 8.
This Haitian version of the traditional story explains why the rabbit has a short tail—a metaphor for changes children see in animals and themselves. The drama of this story teaches children that jealousy is self-defeating. We adults know young listeners are learning a valuable lesson while enjoying a story about animals.
Len Cabral is an internationally acclaimed, award-winning storyteller and author who has been performing stories in schools, libraries, and festivals for over 40 years. A descendant of Cape Verde Islanders, Len is the recipient of the National Storytelling Network Circle of Excellence Oracle Award, the 2017 Rhode Island Humanities Award, and the 2016 Pell Award. He lives in Cranston, Rhode Island, with his wife Judy.
Illustrator Kate DeCarvalho earned a BA in Literature (UMass at Amherst) and a BFA in Graphic Design (Rhode Island School of Design). As a Peace Corps Volunteer in Papua New Guinea, Kate saw the connections that stories and humor forged among diverse peoples, shaping her interest in illustrating stories as a means to positively effect youth. A freelance illustrator and designer, Kate lives with her husband, two children and two rabbit-chasing dogs in coastal RI.