Anansi is an African folktale character. He often takes the shape of a spider and is considered to be the spirit of all knowledge of stories. He is also one of the most important characters of West African and Caribbean folklore.
He is also known as Ananse, Kwaku Ananse, and Anancy; and in the southern United States he has evolved into Aunt Nancy. He is a spider, but often acts and appears as a man.
The Anansi tales originated from the Ashanti people of present-day Ghana. The word Ananse is Akan and means “spider”. They later spread to other Akan groups and then to the West Indies, Suriname, Sierra Leone (where they were introduced by Jamaican Maroons) and the Netherlands Antilles. On Curaçao, Aruba, and Bonaire, he is known as Kompa Nanzi, and his wife as Shi Maria.
Anansi is depicted in many different ways. Sometimes he looks like an ordinary spider, sometimes he is a spider wearing clothes or with a human face and sometimes he looks much more like a human with spider elements, such as eight legs.
(Excerpts above from the Wikipedia article.)