Sundiata

Sundiata/Maghan Mari Djata Character Analysis

Son of Sogolon and Maghan Kon Fatta; brother of Manding Bory, Djamarou, and Kolonkon. Sundiata is a famous thirteenth-century West African conqueror, the Mansa (king of kings) who united Mali and built the enormous, powerful, and enduring Mali empire. Even before his birth, Sundiata’s destiny to be a great ruler was prophesied, but he proves to be a disappointing child. While he's very smart and appears often to be lost in thought, he doesn't walk until the age of seven. Immediately after he begins walking, though, he becomes a fantastic hunter and earns the title of Simbon (master hunter). Sundiata is exceptionally generous and fair, and he never doubts his destiny. He's very popular wherever he goes and he’s loyal to the friends he makes throughout his journey. This loyalty means that when he finally returns to take Mali back from Soumaoro, he possesses a great and skilled army. After he unites Mali, he is a just and fair Mansa.

Sundiata/Maghan Mari Djata Quotes in Sundiata

The Sundiata quotes below are all either spoken by Sundiata/Maghan Mari Djata or refer to Sundiata/Maghan Mari Djata. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Pearson Longman edition of Sundiata published in 2006.
The Buffalo Woman Quotes

The silk-cotton tree springs from a tiny seed—that which defies the tempest weighs in its germ no more than a grain of rice. Kingdoms are like trees; some will be silk-cotton trees, others will remain dwarf palms and the powerful silk-cotton tree will cover them with its shade.

Related Characters: The Hunter (speaker), Sundiata/Maghan Mari Djata, Gnankouman Doua, Maghan Kon Fatta
Related Symbols: Trees, Seeds, and Growing
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:

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The child will be the seventh star, the seventh conqueror of the earth. He will be more mighty than Alexander.

Related Characters: The Hunter (speaker), Sundiata/Maghan Mari Djata, Sogolon Kedjou, Gnankouman Doua, Maghan Kon Fatta
Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:

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Soothsayers see far ahead, their words are not always for the immediate present; man is in a hurry but time is tardy and everything has its season.

Related Characters: Mamoudou Kouyaté (speaker), Sundiata/Maghan Mari Djata, Gnankouman Doua, The Hunter, Maghan Kon Fatta
Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:

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Childhood Quotes

God has his mysteries which none can fathom. You, perhaps, will be a king. You can do nothing about it. You, on the other hand, will be unlucky, but you can do nothing about that either. Each man finds his way already marked out for him and he can change nothing of it.

Related Characters: Mamoudou Kouyaté (speaker), Sundiata/Maghan Mari Djata
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:

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The child, as if he had understood the whole meaning of the king's words, beckoned Balla Fasséké to approach. He made room for him on the hide he was sitting on and then said, “Balla, you will be my griot.”

Related Characters: Sundiata/Maghan Mari Djata (speaker), Balla Fasséké, Gnankouman Doua, Maghan Kon Fatta
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:

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The Lion's Awakening Quotes

He had already that authoritative way of speaking which belongs to those who are destined to command.

Related Characters: Mamoudou Kouyaté (speaker), Sundiata/Maghan Mari Djata
Page Number: 23
Explanation and Analysis:

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“Listen, Djata,” said Soumosso Konkomba, “we had come here to test you. We have no need of condiments but your generosity disarms us. We were sent here by the queen mother to provoke you and draw the anger of the nocturnal powers upon you. But nothing can be done against a heart full of kindness.”

Related Characters: Soumosso Konkomba (speaker), Sundiata/Maghan Mari Djata, Sassouma Bérété
Page Number: 26
Explanation and Analysis:

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Exile Quotes

You will return to reign when you are a man, for it is in Mali that your destiny must be fulfilled.

Related Characters: Sogolon Kedjou (speaker), Sundiata/Maghan Mari Djata
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:

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Fear enters the heart of him who does not know his destiny, whereas Sundiata knew that he was striding towards a great destiny. He did not know what fear was.

Related Characters: Mamoudou Kouyaté (speaker), Sundiata/Maghan Mari Djata, Mansa Konkon
Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:

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There's one that will make a great king. He forgets nobody.

Related Characters: King Soumaba Cissé of Ghana (speaker), Sundiata/Maghan Mari Djata
Page Number: 34
Explanation and Analysis:

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They were showered with so many attentions that Manding Bory was embarrassed by them, but Sundiata found it quite natural to be treated like this. Modesty is the portion of the average man, but superior men are ignorant of humility.

Related Characters: Mamoudou Kouyaté (speaker), Sundiata/Maghan Mari Djata, Manding Bory/Manding Boukari
Page Number: 34
Explanation and Analysis:

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“Do not deceive yourself. Your destiny lies not here but in Mali. The moment has come. I have finished my task and it is yours that is going to begin, my son. But you must be able to wait. Everything in its own good time.”

Related Characters: Sogolon Kedjou (speaker), Sundiata/Maghan Mari Djata
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:

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The Baobab Leaves Quotes

Sundiata got up and all the envoys stood up while Djata went out. He was already king.

Related Characters: Mamoudou Kouyaté (speaker), Sundiata/Maghan Mari Djata
Page Number: 46
Explanation and Analysis:

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The Return Quotes

It was a forced march and during the halts the divines, Singbin Mara Cissé and Mandjan Bérété, related to Sundiata the history of Alexander the Great and several other heroes, but of all of them Sundiata preferred Alexander, the king of gold and silver, who crossed the world from west to east. He wanted to outdo his prototype both in the extent of his territory and the wealth of his treasury.

Related Characters: Mamoudou Kouyaté (speaker), Sundiata/Maghan Mari Djata, Mandjan Bérété, Singbin Mara Cissé
Page Number: 48
Explanation and Analysis:

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The Names of the Heroes Quotes

In the same way as light precedes the sun, so the glory of Sundiata, overleaping the mountains, shed itself on all the Niger plain.

Related Characters: Mamoudou Kouyaté (speaker), Sundiata/Maghan Mari Djata
Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:

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There they were, the valorous sons of Mali, awaiting what destiny had promised them. Pennants of all colours fluttered above the sofas divided up by tribes.
With whom should I begin; with whom end?

Related Characters: Mamoudou Kouyaté (speaker), Sundiata/Maghan Mari Djata, Fran Kamara/Tabon Wana, Kamandjan, Siara Kouman Konaté, Faony Diarra
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:

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Krina Quotes

You are the outgrowth of Mali just as the silk-cotton tree is the growth of the earth, born of deep and mighty roots. To face the tempest the tree must have long roots and gnarled branches. Maghan Sundiata, has not the tree grown?

Related Characters: Balla Fasséké (speaker), Sundiata/Maghan Mari Djata
Related Symbols: Trees, Seeds, and Growing
Page Number: 62
Explanation and Analysis:

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Niani Quotes

There are some kings who are powerful through their military strength. Everybody trembles before them, but when they die nothing but ill is spoken of them. Others do neither good nor ill and when they die they are forgotten. Others are feared because they have power, but they know how to use it and they are loved because they love justice. Sundiata belonged to this group. He was feared, but loved as well. He was the father of Mali and gave the world peace. After him the world has not seen a greater conqueror, for he was the seventh and last conqueror.

Related Characters: Mamoudou Kouyaté (speaker), Sundiata/Maghan Mari Djata
Page Number: 82
Explanation and Analysis:

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How many heaped-up ruins, how many vanished cities! How many wildernesses peopled by the spirits of great kings! The silk-cotton trees and baobabs that you see in Mali are the only traces of extinct cities.

Related Characters: Mamoudou Kouyaté (speaker), Sundiata/Maghan Mari Djata
Related Symbols: Trees, Seeds, and Growing
Page Number: 83
Explanation and Analysis:

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Sundiata/Maghan Mari Djata Character Timeline in Sundiata

The timeline below shows where the character Sundiata/Maghan Mari Djata appears in Sundiata. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Words of the Griot Mamadou Kouyaté
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Fate and Destiny Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
Family, Community, and the Mali Empire Theme Icon
...Kouyaté implores the reader to listen to the history of Mali and the story of Sundiata, the "man of many names," who surpassed even Alexander the Great in his greatness. (full context)
The First Kings of Mali
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
Family, Community, and the Mali Empire Theme Icon
Magic and Religion Theme Icon
Mamoudou Kouyaté again implores the "sons of Mali" to listen to the story of Sundiata, the last of the great conquerors, whose triumphs and exploits are still astonishing today. At... (full context)
Family, Community, and the Mali Empire Theme Icon
Magic and Religion Theme Icon
...He conquered a great amount of land. This family line resulted in Maghan Kon Fatta, Sundiata's father. Maghan Kon Fatta had three wives: Sassouma Bérété, Sogolon Kedjou, and Namandjé. (full context)
The Lion Child
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
...rests inside while Maghan addresses a crowd. He says that the boy will be named Maghan Mari Djata . Griots shout the name, and the king's aunt whispers the name into the infant's... (full context)
Childhood
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Fate and Destiny Theme Icon
...unlucky, and he can do nothing about that. He resumes the story and says that Mari Djata had a difficult childhood. He wasn't beautiful and by the age of three he still... (full context)
Fate and Destiny Theme Icon
Family, Community, and the Mali Empire Theme Icon
Sassouma is thrilled at Mari Djata 's misfortune. Dankaran Touman, her 11-year-old son, already runs and practices archery. Whenever Sogolon passes... (full context)
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
Family, Community, and the Mali Empire Theme Icon
The town, however, continues to gossip about Mari Djata . He's now seven years old and still crawls. Maghan is quite old and feels... (full context)
The Lion's Awakening
Fate and Destiny Theme Icon
Family, Community, and the Mali Empire Theme Icon
Maghan Kon Fatta dies soon after giving Balla Fasséké to Mari Djata . The council of elders refuses to follow the dead king's wishes to reserve the... (full context)
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
People speak of Mari Djata with scorn, which the narrator attributes to man's short memory. People say that nobody can... (full context)
Fate and Destiny Theme Icon
Family, Community, and the Mali Empire Theme Icon
...could walk by seven, he consistently fetches her baobab leaf, and he is better than Mari Djata . Sogolon can barely comprehend Sassouma's hatred. (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
Family, Community, and the Mali Empire Theme Icon
Magic and Religion Theme Icon
At her hut, Sogolon sees Mari Djata sitting outside eating. Sogolon begins sobbing and she hits Mari Djata with a piece of... (full context)
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Balla Fasséké goes to the master smith and orders an iron rod. Sogolon cries while Mari Djata keeps eating as though nothing happened. Suddenly, they hear laughter behind the hut—Sassouma is telling... (full context)
Fate and Destiny Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
Magic and Religion Theme Icon
...the bar in front of Sogolon's house and the noise frightens Sogolon. Balla Fasséké addresses Mari Djata and instructs the "young lion" to roar. (full context)
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Fate and Destiny Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
Everyone watches Mari Djata crawl towards the bar. He effortlessly lifts the bar, holds it vertically, and rises to... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
Family, Community, and the Mali Empire Theme Icon
After he catches his breath, Mari Djata drops his iron bar and takes giant steps. He walks to a young baobab tree,... (full context)
Fate and Destiny Theme Icon
Family, Community, and the Mali Empire Theme Icon
...peace of mind, but man can do nothing against destiny and her efforts to thwart Mari Djata were futile. He becomes immediately popular and the town speaks of nothing but Mari Djata.... (full context)
Fate and Destiny Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
Mari Djata spends his time with princes whose fathers sent them to Niani's court. Among them are... (full context)
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
Family, Community, and the Mali Empire Theme Icon
Sogolon makes a habit of telling stories to Mari Djata and his friends every evening. She tells them about the animals and family history. She... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
Family, Community, and the Mali Empire Theme Icon
Magic and Religion Theme Icon
By the age of ten, Mari Djata is known by the name Sundiata. He already possesses commanding authority. Manding Bory is his best friend, along with Fran Kamara... (full context)
Family, Community, and the Mali Empire Theme Icon
Magic and Religion Theme Icon
Soumosso Konkomba, the oldest and most dangerous witch, explains that the witches can't justify killing Sundiata, as he's done nothing bad to them. Sassouma instructs them to go to Sogolon's garden... (full context)
Fate and Destiny Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
Family, Community, and the Mali Empire Theme Icon
Magic and Religion Theme Icon
The next day, Sundiata and his friends decide to spend the day hunting elephants. They return home late and... (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
Family, Community, and the Mali Empire Theme Icon
Magic and Religion Theme Icon
The witches are shocked. Soumosso Konkomba tells Sundiata that they came to the garden to test him, as they were sent by Sassouma... (full context)
Fate and Destiny Theme Icon
Family, Community, and the Mali Empire Theme Icon
Magic and Religion Theme Icon
After Sundiata returns home, Kolonkan asks Sundiata if he was scared of the witches. Sundiata is shocked... (full context)
Exile
Fate and Destiny Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
Family, Community, and the Mali Empire Theme Icon
Magic and Religion Theme Icon
Sogolon is wise, and one evening she calls her children together. She suggests to Sundiata that they leave Niani, as she knows that Sassouma will try to harm Manding Bory... (full context)
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Fate and Destiny Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
Family, Community, and the Mali Empire Theme Icon
...he wants Balla Fasséké to lead an embassy to the king of Sosso, Soumaoro Kanté. Sundiata is out hunting and doesn't find out that his griot is gone until he returns... (full context)
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Fate and Destiny Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
Family, Community, and the Mali Empire Theme Icon
...enters and finds Dankaran Touman collapsed. The young king says that he doesn't understand why Sundiata is leaving, and he adds that he fully intends to give Balla Fasséké back to... (full context)
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Fate and Destiny Theme Icon
...the miseries that Sogolon and her family experience on the road are simply part of Sundiata's destiny. Over the next seven years Sundiata grows up and becomes strong, sturdy, and wise,... (full context)
Magic and Religion Theme Icon
Sogolon, Sundiata, Manding Bory, and their sisters find refuge first in Djeba with Mansa Konkon. One night,... (full context)
Fate and Destiny Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
Sundiata teases Manding Bory about liking Mansa Konkon's daughter, and the two swap proverbs. The narrator... (full context)
Fate and Destiny Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
Magic and Religion Theme Icon
Mansa Konkon is shocked. Sundiata puts the sword back and asks why he's been summoned. The king says that they're... (full context)
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Fate and Destiny Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
Mansa Konkon is angry that someone betrayed him, but Sundiata explains that he speaks the truth because he's a guest. The narrator explains what's actually... (full context)
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
Family, Community, and the Mali Empire Theme Icon
Sogolon, Sundiata, Manding Bory, and their sisters head for Tabon, where Sundiata's friend Fran Kamara lives. The... (full context)
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...to make the long journey to Ghana as comfortable for Sogolon as possible. They tell Sundiata and Manding Bory stories about the past. They also tell them about Soumaoro Kanté of... (full context)
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Finally, the caravan reaches Wagadou, Ghana's capital city. Nobody here speaks Mandingo, Sundiata's language, and the architecture is very different. Sundiata also notices many mosques. The king's brother... (full context)
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The king of Ghana asks Sundiata to approach. Sundiata introduces himself and all his siblings. The king says that Sundiata will... (full context)
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...treated like a queen. The children receive clothes in Wagadou fashion and Manding Bory and Sundiata especially are showered with attention. Manding Bory is embarrassed, but Sundiata acts as though the... (full context)
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...help Sogolon's health. The king sends Sogolon and her family with another group of merchants. Sundiata again peppers the merchants with questions. (full context)
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...his own. She continues that the king is currently on a campaign against mountain tribes. Sundiata and Manding Bory keep busy hunting with their new friends, who are the sons of... (full context)
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...and welcomes them formally to his court. Moussa Tounkara is a great warrior and takes Sundiata and Manding Bory on their first campaign. Sundiata performs magnificently for only being 15. The... (full context)
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Sundiata doesn't leave Moussa Tounkara's side. People in Mema begin to suggest that Sundiata was sent... (full context)
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Now that he's a man, though, Sundiata knows that it's time to fulfill his destiny. Sogolon knows that she has performed her... (full context)
Soumaoro Kanté: The Sorcerer King
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...claims him as his own griot. The narrator states that this act makes war between Sundiata and Soumaoro inevitable. (full context)
History
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...reader directly, Mamoudou Kouyaté says that the story is coming to the great moments of Sundiata's life. He states that griots know the histories of kings, which makes them great counselors.... (full context)
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As Sundiata prepares for his return to Mali, Soumaoro stands as the king of kings. Sosso is... (full context)
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...organizes a resistance. Soothsayers indicate that the "rightful heir" will save Mali, and they remember Sundiata. They set up a search party to look for the heir. The party is composed... (full context)
The Baobab Leaves
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Sundiata learns that Soumaoro has invaded Mali and that Fakoli is putting up a good fight... (full context)
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Manding Bory and Sundiata return from a hunt and Sogolon shows them the condiments from the market. Kolonkan returns... (full context)
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Silence follows this speech. Sundiata breaks it and decides to speak with Moussa Tounkara about leaving the court of Mema... (full context)
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Moussa Tounkara returns at nightfall, but Sundiata doesn't attend his reception. Sundiata visits Sogolon before going to bed and finds her sick... (full context)
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Moussa Tounkara thinks that Sundiata is being ungrateful and tries to make Sundiata either take Sogolon's body with him to... (full context)
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...Tounkara brushes the basket away, but one of his advisors implores the king to give Sundiata the land for burial. He says that the contents of the basket indicate that Sundiata... (full context)
The Return
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...Kouyaté exclaims "every man to his own land!" He explains that Moussa Tounkara couldn't keep Sundiata in Mema because it was destined for Sundiata to return to Mali. Sundiata is now... (full context)
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Sundiata and his army continue south towards Tabon. The soothsayers who accompany him, Singbin Mara Cissé... (full context)
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When Sundiata arrives at the valley that leads to Tabon, he sees that Sosso Balla, Soumaoro's son,... (full context)
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Tabon Wana arrives as the battle ends, and the armies of Sundiata and Tabon celebrate all night. News that Soumaoro's forces ran from Sundiata spreads throughout Mali.... (full context)
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Soumaoro and Sundiata's forces meet at Neguéboria. Sundiata's innovative style of deployment destroys the Sosso forces as Soumaoro... (full context)
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Soumaoro joins the fray. Sundiata throws a spear at Soumaoro, but it simply bounces off his chest. An arrow has... (full context)
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While Sundiata is victorious, he spends the night brooding and wondering how to beat Soumaoro. He realizes... (full context)
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Sundiata and his men suddenly hear war horns, and the Sosso army launches a surprise attack.... (full context)
The Names of the Heroes
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Soumaoro and his forces return to Sosso, while Sundiata recruits soldiers from every village he passes. Rebellious kings gather at Sibi with Kamandjan, who... (full context)
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Sundiata's cousin, Siara Kouman Konaté, is there, along with Faony Diarra, the king of Do and... (full context)
Nana Triban and Balla Fasséké
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Both Sundiata and Soumaoro prepare their armies. Sundiata knows that he must figure out how to destroy... (full context)
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Sundiata goes to greet Nana Triban and Balla Fasséké. He asks them to describe how they... (full context)
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...the favorite among his wives. He began confiding in her, and she pretended to hate Sundiata to earn his trust. One night, Nana Triban asked Soumaoro to share the name of... (full context)
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Sundiata is thrilled to have Balla Fasséké back, as now he has the person who will... (full context)
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Before Sundiata moves his troops to meet Soumaoro, he assembles them in front of Balla Fasséké so... (full context)
Krina
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...properly make war, the fighters must state their grievances and officially declare war. Because both Sundiata and Soumaoro are sorcerers, they send each other owls to carry their words. Sundiata states... (full context)
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Sundiata's army assembles and Fakoli Karoma arrives. He tells Sundiata what Soumaoro has done to him... (full context)
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Sundiata moves his army to the site of the battle at Krina and sets out a... (full context)
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Early in the morning, Fakoli tells Sundiata that Soumaoro is moving his sofas onto the plain. Sundiata orders his troops to move... (full context)
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On the battlefield, Sundiata can spot Soumaoro by his tall headdress. Sundiata sends his men towards Soumaoro, and his... (full context)
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Sundiata draws his bow and shoots the special arrow at Soumaoro. It barely grazes his shoulder,... (full context)
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Sundiata and Fakoli continue to track Soumaoro and Sosso Balla. After taking a shortcut, they climb... (full context)
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...explains that the victory was "dazzling." Kings sent their submission, and later their daughters, to Sundiata. Sundiata's army marched on Sosso, which is now headed by Noumounkeba, a tribal chief. The... (full context)
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The next morning, Sundiata's army attacks the town and shoots flaming arrows over the ramparts. The city opens its... (full context)
The Empire
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After destroying Sosso, Sundiata marches to Diaghan, whose king had been a strong ally to Soumaoro. Sundiata takes the... (full context)
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Sundiata demands that Kita submit. Soothsayers advise Sundiata to make sacrifices, so he sacrifices 100 white... (full context)
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The next morning, Sundiata decides to go to the mountain to make sacrifices to the jinn and thank the... (full context)
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Sundiata and his army travel through several cities, and Sundiata hunts on the mountain with Manding... (full context)
Kouroukan Fougan or The Division of the World
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Sundiata, Fakoli, and Tabon Wana lead their armies to Ka-ba, a small town in Sibi. Sundiata... (full context)
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...dances to “Hymn to the Bow,” and the war chiefs show off their horses' maneuvers. Sundiata smiles happily at the sight. In the afternoon, the assembled watch a procession of prisoners... (full context)
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Sundiata rises and the crowd falls silent. Sundiata speaks "as Mansa" (quietly). He greets the assembled... (full context)
Niani
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Sundiata remains at Ka-ba for several days and oversees the festivities. When Sundiata and his army... (full context)
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When the caravan reaches Niani, Sundiata looks down from a hill at the burnt city. The residents of Niani are silent... (full context)
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Sundiata left Manding Bory at Bagadou-Djeliba as a viceroy. After Niani was rebuilt, Manding Bory went... (full context)
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The narrator says that Sundiata's justice reached everyone in the empire, and with the peace, the villages became prosperous. Thieves... (full context)
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...to say that you could find anything you desired in Mali, including a great king (Sundiata). He continues and lists the great cities of the Mali Empire, many of which have... (full context)
Eternal Mali
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...and griots won't betray these secrets. He says that many kings and Mansas ruled after Sundiata, but none were greater than Sundiata. (full context)
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...Kouyaté says that men today are small in mind and body compared to their ancestors. Sundiata lies near Niani but remains immortal in Mali. Finally, Mamoudou Kouyaté explains how he acquired... (full context)