Review: Jim Henson’s The Storyteller: Tricksters #1
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Story: Jonathan Rivera
Artist: Jade Zhang
Letters: Jim Campbell
Spot Illustration: Sonny Liew
Reviewed by: Seth Singleton
Jim Henson’s The Storyteller: Tricksters #1 introduces the story of Anansi the Trickster God and the reason that human beings have stores. It starts in a place of desire and ends in a desire to share wisdom.
Positives — A familiar format
To begin with, Jim Henson’s The Storyteller: Tricksters returns to a familiar format last seen in Jim Henson’s The Storyteller: Ghosts. Like the series that preceded it, each story opens with our storyteller and his faithful companion i.e. man’s best friend. The dog discovers an intruder. In this case, it’s an unwelcome guest in the eyes of the dog but an opportunity to tell a story about the origin of stories.
This story begins with something that needs to be established in a tale as old as this one. For instance, humans are less-developed or something more familiar to a stubborn creature. The condition persists because people do not share stories. In this case, humans have not developed the communication skills that allow them to share their thoughts.
Positives — Anansi’s desire
Instead, thoughts drifted away up into the sky. There, Anansi the trickster son of the sky god Nyame sits waiting. He uses his spider-like body to weave a web. He collects the thoughts of people and turns them into stories. His father Nyame has a great pot and every time Anansi returns the newly collected stories are added to the pot.
This experience gives Anansi a taste of the amazing fulfillment that comes from knowledge. Anansi’s abilities as a trickster god are shown at the beginning and throughout the story. It begins with an initial plan to gain the stories that his father holds in the pot. Anansi claims the world has become lifeless.
He’s worried this will make his father’s family house look slow or just as dull as the people living below. Knowing that his father does not want to give away something so valuable, Anansi offers to buy them. Nyame agrees and offers to provide stories if his son can accomplish three impossible tasks. These tasks are more valuable than any of the many treasures that have been offered to Nyame in the past.
To accomplish the impossible goals set by his father Anansi must find a way to capture three impossible figures. The first is on Onini, a giant python who lives in the jungle. A second creature is a hornet named Mmoboro. The third is a forest being named Mmotia. In every situation, the success of Anansi depends on his eldest son Ntikuma. The scenarios Anansi creates to capture each mythical creature should not be spoiled here. Instead, the reader should take to heart the joyful explanations and descriptions. In addition, there are wonderful lessons that provide insight into the knowledge that Anansi so greatly craves.
One example is when Anansi talks to his son. “It is good to be fierce my son. And it is good to have pride but great care should be taken when the two are mixed,” he says.
A great deal of joy is given when Anansi for all of his pride and ability to trick others finds himself so overwhelmed with arrogance now that he has the power of what he has purchased from his father. When he finally takes a sip of this potion he becomes drunk.
Anansi could have died there. But Ntikuma comes to his rescue and together they unlock greater treasures besides the stories. The Moon is one. Anansi makes a choice. The stories of the world are wasted on one person. Instead, he comes up with an ingenious way to share them. And this method of delivery guarantees everyone receives pieces of wisdom but no one can ever hold it all.
None found. But readers are welcome to look.
Juan Rivera and Jade Zhang combine thoughtful narration and brilliant artistic choices. Together, these two forces pull bright new possibilities out of a story as old as time. Also, Jim Campbell’s letters bring the voices of the Storyteller, Anansi, Ntikume, and Nyameinto focus.
The stories of more tricksters wait to be told. Their legacy and importance are entrusted to the knowing talents of a Storyteller, his dog, and a team of conscientious innovators. Read these stories again for the first time.