Sundiata

Sundiata Childhood Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Addressing his listeners, Mamoudou Kouyaté says that God is mysterious, and that a man may be a king or he may be 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 couldn't walk. He was very greedy. People gossiped about how unusual the child was. Sogolon tried to make other three-year-olds come to play with her son, but Mari Djata hit them and the children wanted nothing to do with him after that.
Beginning the chapter by mentioning that man cannot escape destiny provides the reader a sense of comfort, since it implies that despite Mari Djata's misfortune now as a young child, he's still going to fulfill his destiny. Further, the reader begins to see how others think of Mari Djata, since he doesn't look like they think he should. It's implied that these people will be proven wrong.
Themes
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Fate and Destiny 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 Sassouma's house, Sassouma underhandedly insults Mari Djata. Maghan begins to lose hope, despite Doua's constant reminder of the prophecy. Sogolon soon gives birth to a girl (Kolonkan), which dashes Maghan's hope for another boy, and Sogolon is disgraced for a time. Maghan marries a third wife, Namandjé, who soon gives birth to a boy. Soothsayers say that the boy, Manding Boukari (Manding Bory), will be the right hand man of a powerful king.
Sassouma caries herself as though she's above the rules of destiny, though the narrator’s tone implies that this is a grave oversight on her part. However, next to Mari Djata, her own son looks far more like a king should look, which only supports her belief that Dankaran Touman is the rightful heir to Maghan's throne. This begins to develop the idea that people are impatient when it comes to destiny, and unwilling to accept that destiny doesn't always look like one expects.
Themes
Fate and Destiny Theme Icon
Family, Community, and the Mali Empire Theme Icon
Maghan is perplexed, but Doua continues to remind Maghan of the prophecy. He says that the silk-cotton tree comes from a tiny seed. One day, Maghan visits a seer. The seer tells Maghan that trees grow slowly, but their roots go deep into the ground. He says that the "seed" has germinated, albeit slowly, but man is impatient. Maghan restores Sogolon to favor and she soon gives birth to another daughter, whom they name Djamarou.
After the birth of two daughters and the seer's reminder, it becomes even more obvious to the reader that Mari Djata is the foretold king of Mali. The seer's words remind Maghan that while his son may be destined for heroics, it will take time for the boy to fulfill his destiny. He's still a child; he must grow up first.
Themes
Fate and Destiny 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 close to death, so one day he calls Mari Djata to him. He tells the boy that he's going to give him the gift that every king gives to his successor: a griot. The boy's griot will be Balla Fasséké, son of his own griot Doua. He tells Mari Djata to accomplish his destiny and never forget that Niani is the capital, while Mali is the "cradle of your ancestors." Mari Djata calls Balla Fasséké to him and states that Balla Fasséké will be his griot. Balla Fasséké affirms this, and Maghan and Doua exchange a happy look.
Maghan evidently took the seer's words to heart, as gifting Mari Djata a griot is an act that indicates the belief that Mari Djata will have stories written about him. Further, notice Mari Djata's reaction to receiving a griot. Whether he truly understands the gravity of the situation or not, he behaves in an extremely mature way for a child of seven. This maturity is an early clue that he's a born leader.
Themes
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
Family, Community, and the Mali Empire Theme Icon
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