Anansi Boys
Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman

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Anansi Boys



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Anansi Boys

Copyright © 2005 by Neil Gaiman


Songs remain. They last. The right song can turn an emperor into a laughingstock, can bring down dynasties. A song can last long after the events and the people in it are dust and dreams and gone. That’s the power of songs.

Of course, everyone’s parents are embarrassing. It goes with the territory. The nature of parents is to embarrass merely by existing, just as it is the nature of children of a certain age to cringe with embarrassment, shame, and mortification should their parents so much as speak to them on the street.



“In the afternoon you may find him fishing off a bridge. In the evening he’ll be in a bar.”

“Such a charming man,” she said, wistfully. “What does he do?”

“I told you. He says it’s the miracle of the loafs and the fishes.”

Rosie was a good person. There was in Rosie a little of the essence of Francis of Assisi, of Robin Hood, of Buddha and of Glinda the Good: the knowledge that she was about to bring together her true love and his estranged father gave her forthcoming wedding an extra dimension, she decided. It was no longer simply a wedding: it was now practically a humanitarian mission, and Fat Charlie had known Rosie long enough to know never to stand between his fiancée and her need to Do Good.




Stories are like spiders, with all they long legs, and stories are like spiderwebs, which man gets himself all tangled up in but which look so pretty when you see them under a leaf in the morning dew, and in the elegant way that they connect to one another, each to each.

What’s that? You want to know if Anansi looked like a spider? Sure he did, except when he looked like a man.

No, he never changed his shape. It’s just a matter of how you tell the story. That’s all.



In Fat Charlie’s usual dreams he was probably just sitting down for an exam on double-entry bookkeeping that he had forgotten to study for in circumstances which made it a certainty that when he finally stood up he would discover that he had somehow neglected to put anything on below the waist when he got dressed that morning. In his dreams, Fat Charlie was himself, only clumsier.



Impossible things happen. When they do happen, most people just deal with it. Today, like every day, roughly five thousand people on the face of the planet will experience one-chance-in-a-million things, and not one of them will refuse to believe the evidence of their senses. Most of them will say the equivalent, in their own language, of “Funny old world, isn’t it?” and just keep going.


“There are three things, and three things only, that can lift the pain of mortality and ease the ravages of life,” said Spider. “These things are wine, women and song.”

“Curry’s nice, too,” pointed out Fat Charlie, but nobody was listening to him.

“In any particular order?” asked the cabbie.

“Wine first,” Spider announced. “Rivers and lakes and vast oceans of wine.”

“Right you are,” said the cabbie, and he pulled out into the traffic.

“I have a particularly bad feeling about all this,” said Fat Charlie, helpfully.

Spider nodded. “A bad feeling,” he said. “Yes. We both have a bad feeling. Tonight we shall take our bad feelings and share them, and face them. We shall mourn. We shall drain the bitter dregs of mortality. Pain shared, my brother, is pain not doubled, but halved. No man is an island.”

“Funeral wine, the kind you drink for gods. They haven’t made it in a long time. It’s seasoned with bitter aloes and rosemary, and with the tears of brokenhearted virgins.”

“And they sell it in a Fleet Street wine bar?” Fat Charlie picked up the bottle, but the label was too faded and dusty to read. “Never heard of it.”

“These old places have the good stuff, if you ask for it,” said Spider. “Or maybe I just think they do.”



“I knew that the meeting of two brothers, well, it’s the subject of epics, isn’t it? I decided that the only way to treat it with the appropriate gravity would be to do it in verse. But what kind of verse? Am I going to rap it? Declaim it? I mean, I’m not going to greet you with a limerick. So. It had to be something dark, something powerful, rhythmic, epic. And then I had it. The perfect first line: Blood calls to blood like sirens in the night. It says so much. I knew I’d be able to get everything in there—people dying in alleys, sweat and nightmares, the power of free spirits uncrushable. Everything was going to be there. And then I had to come up with a second line, and the whole thing completely fell apart. The best I could come up with was Tum-tumpty-tumpty-tumpty got a fright.

Fat Charlie blinked. “Who exactly is Tum-tumpty-tumpty-tumpty?”

“It’s not anybody. It’s just there to show you where the words ought to be. But I never really got any further on it than that, and I couldn’t turn up with just a first line, some tumpties and three words of an epic poem, could I? That would have been disrespecting you.”

“Well. . . .”

“Exactly. So I went to Hawaii for the week instead.”


Spider was used to being able to push reality around a little, just a little but that was always enough. You just had to show reality who was boss, that was all. Having said that, he had never met anyone who inhabited her own reality quite so firmly as Rosie’s mother.

Spider was not terribly good at telling the truth. He regarded truth as fundamentally malleable, more or less a matter of opinion, and Spider was able to muster some pretty impressive opinions when he had to.

Being an impostor was not the problem. He liked being an impostor. He was good at it. It fitted in with his plans, which were fairly simple and could until now have been summarized more or less as: (a) go somewhere; (b) enjoy yourself; and (c) leave before you get bored.




Human beings do not like being pushed around by gods. They may seem to, on the surface, but somewhere on the inside, underneath it all, they sense it, and they resent it. They know.



“Drugs?” said the policeman.

“No, thank you,” said Fat Charlie.

“Is that what you’re in for?”

“I don’t know what I’m in for,” said Fat Charlie. “I’m innocent.”

“White-collar crime, eh?” said the policeman, and he shook his head. “I’ll tell you something the blue-collar boys know without being told. The easier you make it on us, the easier we make it on you. You white-collar people. Always standing up for your rights. You just make it harder on yourselves.”




“Fat Charlie, if someone ever ask if you want to live to be hunnert and four, say no. Everything hurt. Everything. I hurt in places nobody ain’t discovered yet.”

“I’ll bear that in mind.”

“None of your back talk.”



It is a small world. You do not have to live in it particularly long to learn that for yourself. There is a theory that, in the whole world, there are only five hundred real people (the cast, as it were; all the rest of the people in the world, the theory suggests, are extras) and what is more, they all know each other. And it’s true, or true as far as it goes. In reality the world is made of thousands upon thousands of groups of about five hundred people, all of whom will spend their lives bumping into each other, trying to avoid each other, and discovering each other in the same unlikely teashop in Vancouver. There is an unavoidability to this process. It’s not even coincidence. It’s just the way the world works, with no regard for individuals or for propriety.


Five hundred real people


If he had not been perfectly certain of his own sanity, certain to a degree that normally is only found in people who have concluded that they’re definitely Julius Caesar and have been sent to save the world, he might have thought that he was going mad.



text checked (see note) Jul 2012

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