Blog Schedule

I post on Monday with an occasional random blog thrown in for good measure. I do my best to answer all comments via email and visit around on the days I post.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

M is for...

Click HERE for a list of all
the participants!
Sorry I wasn't around yesterday, byt we had a wonderful thunderstorm which knocked out my connection. The nice thing is we got 2 inches of much needed rain.

For this, my 5th year doing the Challenge, it's the
A to Z of Anansi the spider.

M is for Martha Warren Beckwith

Martha Beckwith, Folklore Foundation

Were it not for Martha I would not have the Anansi stories to retell and the world would be an emptier place had she not gathered the stories together.

Martha was "the first person to hold a chair in Folklore at any college or university in the country." (You can read her bio in the Vassar Encyclopedia HERE.)

In the summer 1919 and again in the winter of 1921 she went to Jamaica and recorded storytellers and their music, then faithfully transcribed the stories, "without polish or adornment, as nearly as possible as they were told to me...." She published her collection in 1924, under the title, Jamaica Anansi Stories. 

I have an original first addition copy. It has since been republished and can even be gotten for Kindle!

The stories, written in the original Jamaican dialect, can be difficult to read and understand. Many of the stories are more like fragments than stories with a true beginning, middle and end.

What I have tried to do is not only translate them, but to retell the stories in a way that readers can easily understand.

Here's to Martha Warren Beckwith, the Joel Chandler Harris of the Caribbean. If you don't know who Joel was, he gathered and compiled the Uncle Remus stories.


  1. Before all the electronic devices (and books) I suppose oral storytelling was the only way of passing down stories from generation to generatin. Now the stories live on because of your writing talent and ambition.

  2. And that book was almost lost as well.
    I wonder how well the stories have survived over the years in Jamaican culture?

  3. I think I'm living in the wrong part of the world! How fun to be a writer in a unique, exotic location. Her life sounds so intriguing. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Hi Bish, coming over from Alex's site today! It's great to 'meet' you! I love Anansi - and I had no idea that the stories came over like this. How cool!

  5. That's so cool! I've read a few of those stories, but didn't think about who might have collected them.

  6. How super! I loved your entry, and I love dedicated people!

    xox jean

  7. Building on what another person has researched and written is true connectivity. What you've done is to continue another's work, making it accessible to new readers. Well done, Bish.

  8. Very cool. I wasn't aware of where your stories came from, but that's amazing--and way to bring them to light. Wow. How many of us would get any enjoyment out of the original versions? I think it would be painstaking for most.

    True Heroes from A to Z

  9. That's not a call to writing - that's a mission of love in the name of history! Just beautiful!


  10. Martha was quite an adventurous woman. I have so much respect for the women who defied social protocols of the time and followed their interests. Nice tribute to you over on Alex Cavanaugh's blog.

  11. Cool. You're doing great work, Bish. :)

  12. Hey Bish,

    I'm grateful to Martha. She was indeed a catalyst in your Anansi stories.

    A positive result, all round. And it was lovely to see you noted on the ninja dude's site :)


  13. She sounds like an absolutely incredible woman.

  14. What a nice post, by a really great gal. giving credit where credit is due. I really like that about you.

  15. Martha Warren Beckwith rescued generations of stories. I wonder if she ever knew how that would affect the modern age. So glad she did!

  16. Cheers to Martha! She sounds amazing, and handsome as well!

  17. That first edition book sounds like a treasure! I am not familiar with them but since you mentioned Uncle Remus stories, I wonder if they were politically correct by today's standards and if not, did you "sanitize" them or did you keep as true to the times as possible?

  18. Argh...I meant I am not familiar with the Anansi stories but I am somewhat familiar with Uncle Remus stories. Sorry i wasn't clear above.

  19. Oral narratives were quite popular before the written form and I think this book bears testimony to it.

  20. It's so interesting to see the origins of these tales, from the oral storytellers to the person who decided to write them down.

  21. Hi Bish - so pleased that original copy arrived safely and before a stormy disaster could strike it in Jamaica.

    I love these stories of people who had a passion ... in this instance Mary Warren Beckwith ... who searched and wrote all these stories down ..

    The recognition of language, dialect and sound is all coming together in the 21st century - I know we're losing some ... but the British Library has been recording 'Sounds' from around the world - so far in 9 separate sections ..

    So pleased you've saved and published your Anansi stories ... perhaps to record them now?

    Cheers Hilary


Your Random Thoughts are most welcome!