Short stories are usually important knowledge building tools in any culture throughout the world. The importance of short stories has usually been highlighted by the basic elements from which they tend to originate from. These elements which range from setting, conflict, character, themes, plot, climax to dialogue normally illustrate whether a particular short story conform or veer from the aspects of fairytale forms. In this regard, analyzing through comparing and contrasting three short stories from different cultures would best help in depicting this formality.
Kwaku Anansi is one of the best known short stories in Africa especially in West Africa. This short story depicts one of the most important characters of West African lore, Anansi. It is therefore a story of a culture hero, Anansi, who wanted to act on behalf of the Nyame, the Sky God of whom all tales and stories belonged to. Anansi, whose name translates to mean the spider, wanted the authority from Nyame to be the owner of all stories known in the world. In order to achieve this, Nyame stipulates various demands which must be fulfilled by Anansi in order to become the legend or king of all stories. Nyame feels that his demands had never been met by many people who came to buy tales and stories from him.
The introductory aspect of the fairytale tends to initiate a Jungian archetype of ego which tends to bring out the sense of understanding as well as for the state of treatment within the story. This is well captured when the story introduces Anansi; a hero also known as warrior, the winner, and superhero whose talents denotes competency and courage. The story begins that, ‘Once upon a time, all tales and stories belonged to Nyame, the Sky God. But Kwaku Anansi, yearned to be the owner of all stories known in the world.” By this, the story initiate a core desire action of improving one’s worth through courageous acts as depicted in Anansi character. For instance, the story states, “The chiefs, great warriors, Rich and powerful families had not been able to pay Nyame or meet his demands,” (p.1). Therefore, Nyame asked Anansi, “What makes you think you can do it? Do you think you can do it?” then he answers, “I can do it. What is the price?”
Additionally, Kwaku Anansi story conforms to the Campbellian monomythic format. This is well captured when Anansi, a hero starts from an ordinary world thereby venturing into strange world that are marked with a road of trials as stipulated by Nyame’s demands. For instance, Nyame only assures Anansi the title, if he “could catch Osebo, the Jaguar with teeth like daggers, Mmmoboro, the Hornets whose sting is like fire, and Onini, the great python,” (p.1). At the end of Kwaku Anansi story, Anansi seems to have met the demands of Nyame and is given ownership over all tales and stories. Nyame exclaims at the end, “Kwaku Anansi, great warriors and chiefs have tried, but they have been unable to do it. You have done it. Therefore, I will give you the stories. From this day onward, all stories belong to you and whenever, a man tells a story, he must acknowledge that it is Anansi’s tale.” This concurs with Campbellian monomythic format that depicts the hero as being given a great gift if he achieves the goal. It is to enhance self development.
The development of self is another archetype that brings with it Bastian’s concept. In the story, it is noted, “And that is why in parts of Africa, the people love to tell, and love to hear, the stories they call ‘spider stories.’ And now you have heard one too.” This on its part is an ethnography which tries to initiate unique cultural and ethnic ideas within a universal setting. By this, it means that psychic unity of mankind towards stales as ‘spider stories’ especially in Africa is based on inherited species-specific characteristics that make all people to operate in same way regardless of culture or race.
On the other hand, the story of Guru Gobind Singh and the Donkey is one of the fairytale short stories from the Sikh religion. The story is a parable with strong morals or key messages that are intended to enhance human understanding and development. In a nut shell, this story is about Guru, a Sikhism word which can be translated as GU meaning darkness, and RU meaning the light. Guru Gobin Singh is depicted in the story as bringing the light that dispel darkness among the people by instituting a group of men who are not only willing to dedicate themselves to God, but to defend their faith and most importantly care for the poor and the helpless.
Similarly, the Guru Gobind Singh story presents Jungian archetype of shadow in denoting the traits which lies deeply within the Sikh community and mask them from truly understanding themselves. In the story, donkey is depicted as burdened down “by its heavy load, thirsting for water in the mid-day heat, and wailing at its hardship.” Unfortunately, locals were not only used to it, but rather mocked and laughed at it. The character of Guru is then brought out to unmask the shadow trait that had repressed the good qualities of these locals. Through Guru’s actions, a Campbellian monomythic format is illustrated. His heroic journey of making the donkey to well respected and catered for depicts this pattern.
Being pitiful towards the donkey, Guru not only led the animal home, fed and watered it, but he also gently laid tiger’s skin on its back thereby leading it back to the village. It is stated in the story, “The donkey was amazed. Everywhere he went, a path was cleared for him. Women and children rushed from him, screaming: the men cowered in corners,” (p.1). Amazingly, the manner in which the story ends brings out the Bastian’s concept of individual’s mind which is influenced by social background. When the donkey now, ‘tiger’ was driven out of the village to the forest, unfortunately it loses its tiger skin. Guru slowly soothes it as tell to the people, “Remember, the vegetable donkey. He wore the skin of a tiger, but it had only the spirit and actions of a donkey.” By this, it means that individual’s faith and mind are the same regardless of the social background.
Finally, Zora Hurston’s short story, “How the Snake Got Poison,” can be translated as having or not Jungian individuation, Campbellian monomythic, and Bastian’s concepts. Unlike other outlined short stories, this story does not conform to Jungian archetype. This is due to the fact that from its introduction through its development, the image of the snake is not strikingly talking of an archetype. The idea of ego-conscious that Campbellian monomyth subscribes to that must die in order for the snake to adopt a repressed characteristic as represented by the animal in order to live truer to one’s self in not captured. The snake only wants the poison from the God to protect itself and offspring. It state, “Here, take dis poison and put it in yo’ mouf and when they tromps on you, protect yo’ self,” (Huston, p.1).
Therefore, the ubiquitous existence of an innate “snake archetype” gives out the universal image of the snake which depicts how people prepare to encounter and respond to such creatures. It is in this regard that Bastian’s concept of collective unconscious comes from as this ambiguity instills self-archetype that regulates and facilitate center of psyche of an individual towards snakes. In so doing, it has led to the snake phobia especially among people who live in urban environments of which they are unable to encounter such a creature.
In conclusion, short stories have been highlighted as essential in enhancing self-development in understanding the real world. It is imperative to incorporate both the archetypes and concepts that helps in developing the story in a manner that it envelopes universal, cultural, and pedagogical perspective. This would ensure that the stories or characters deployed into them form the shadow that truly enables an individual to lead a life that truer to one’s self.