full_metal_ox (full_metal_ox) wrote in little_details,
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What's a Tiger doing in the Jamaican Anansi stories?


(There will be a brief pause to allow the wiseacres in the audience to reply, "Getting pwned by Anansi.")

What I'm wondering is how this memetic mutation, which seems to be peculiar to Jamaica, came about--more precisely, how an animal native to neither Ghana nor the New World came to replace the original lion or leopard antagonist. (Not having read Anansi Boys, I don't know whether Neil Gaiman  [who has a track record of doing his cultural homework] addresses this issue.)

Here are my Google-fu attempts:
Anansi AND/OR Anancy+Jamaica AND/OR Jamaican+tiger
Anansi AND/OR Anancy+Jamaica AND/OR Jamaican+diaspora+tiger
"Jamaican folklore"+diaspora+Anansi AND/OR Anancy+tiger

These are a couple of the sites I found:
http://www.jamaicans.com/culture/anansi/anancy_intro.shtml
http://www.sacred-texts.com/afr/jas/


I also checked the Static Shock entry on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Static_Shock  (The question arose owing to an episode of that show guest-starring a superheroic version of Anansi; a running gag therein has to do with the fact that one of his enemies, Osebo the Leopard, is inexplicably sporting tiger stripes; this would seem to be an in-joking nod to the Jamaican tradition.)

ETA: Apparently at least some Latin American Spanish-speakers use the word tigre to denote jaguars as well--possibly owing to the same Continent Confusion that led to the people of the New World being called "Indians."  Thanks for the etymological tip!  The presence of Chinese and Indian indentured servants under British rule--something else I'd not known about--might also conceivably have helped reinforce the Tiger association.
Tags: caribbean: folklore, ~religion: african diasporic
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