Tiger Soup: An Anansi Story From Jamaica, retold and illustrated by Frances Temple
Although this book is retold and illustrated by the same person, the illustrations of this book are very rudimentary, almost at my own modest artistic level, to the point where sometimes the drawings and their primitive and even sloppy nature hindered the understanding of the tale. It should be noted, for those who are unaware, that there is a large collection of Anansi stories in Jamaica, as the character is viewed as a “trickster” figure who is able to succeed through manipulating bigger but far less clever creatures for his own benefit. The trickster character is one that is familiar in many mythological or folk traditions, and those who are familiar with the similar Brer Rabbit stories from the American tradition will find much to celebrate and enjoy here as well. There clearly are some lessons that are intended here for the reader about the way that the clever little being can overcome stronger beings through being more clever, which obviously serves deeper cultural and political goals for the culture that has encouraged and fostered such stories, and the re-telling here was probably done to make it a little less bloody and more suitable for the intended audience.
This book is a short one that tells a rather simple tale, and that is how the clever Anansi managed to eat a tiger’s soup and live to tell the tale. The story begins with a tiger who has made a tasty soup and is bragging about it somewhat to the spider, who interrupts his rhapsodizing to invite the tiger to take a swim, something he is unwilling to do at first but then warms to eventually. Of course, the spider’s initial claims not to want the soup are mistaken as he eats the soup quickly as soon as the tiger’s attention has been turned to a moment towards the swimming. Naturally, of course, the tiger is upset to have had his soup stolen, and the spider then seeks to cast blame on someone else by telling some monkeys a song that incriminates themselves as the thieves of the tiger’s soup even though they had nothing to do with the theft. The tiger, of course, is mad at the monkeys and drives them into the trees, which the author views as a just so story that explains how it is that monkeys live in trees, and the spider apparently escapes scot free without any repercussions for his various acts of deception and manipulation.