Searching for Anansi: From Orature to Literature in the West Indian Children’s Folk Tradition--Jamaican and Trinidadian Trends
There is a lot of sentimentalism and ambivalence surrounding the importance of the folk tradition for children in the English-speaking Caribbean. On one hand, adults, especially older adults (over 40) give the impression that the folk tradition was central to their childhood and they consider that the children of today are growing up deprived of important indigenous moral, cultural and spiritual values in the absence not only of the stories that they were told, but also the way in which these stories were told.
On the other hand, all evidence indicates that even in the old days this treasured folk tradition was a hidden curriculum, saddled with the stigma of inferiority to a British literary tradition considered superior. For, at some point formal schooling took over, migration to urban centers for social mobility became the goal, overnight what was rural became urban, and grandparents died off. To be honest, most West Indian adults do not seriously want their children exposed to these moments that they extol with such nostalgia. In the vision they have for their children, the tales they grew up on would smack of illiteracy and time wasting.
All the same, in 2004 the reality is that in Caribbean daily life, folk mores exist side by side with globalized Western norms. West Indian society is a young society in which foundational ancestral Old World cultures with strong primary oral bases — mainly African, Amerindian, Asian-- are just getting to know each other, although they have long lived side by side. New hybrid oral forms keep evolving in cross-cultural fusions. These hybrid folk forms with their base in primary ancestral orality exist side by side and compete with the secondary fast-paced electronic and print orality of modern Western culture. Standard English and Creole jostle with each...