Sundiata

Summary
Analysis
Addressing the 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. Further, kings want singers to write songs that will perpetuate their memories. He continues that seers see the future of kings, while griots know the past, but by knowing the past one can predict the future. Finally, he says that writing has killed memory, as cultures that write don't feel the past without the "warmth of the human voice."
This passage is somewhat uncomfortable to read, as the reader is specifically made aware that the narrator doesn't believe that someone can understand the story by reading it. A reader doesn't get to experience the sense of community that comes from listening to someone else recite the tale, so a reader’s experience of Sundiata is necessarily incomplete.
Themes
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
Family, Community, and the Mali Empire Theme Icon
Magic and Religion Theme Icon
Related Quotes
As Sundiata prepares for his return to Mali, Soumaoro stands as the king of kings. Sosso is the "bulwark of fetishism against the world of Allah." Soumaoro wears shoes made from human skin, and possesses power from several jinn. He's an evil demon and observes no taboos—he enjoys flogging important elders, and habitually abducts young girls but doesn't marry them.
Sundiata has lived in places that observe both Islam and local religion, while Soumaoro appears to reject Islam entirely in favor of worshipping particularly evil jinn. This is linked to Soumaoro's sense of evil, and it explains his enjoyment of destroying families.
Themes
Heroism Theme Icon
Family, Community, and the Mali Empire Theme Icon
Magic and Religion Theme Icon
Soumaoro despises all people and eventually, his power makes it so there's nothing he won't do. Soumaoro abducts Keleya, the wife of his nephew and chief general, Fakoli Koroma. Fakoli accuses his uncle of incest and vows to gather other tribes to defeat Soumaoro.
The narrator suggests that Soumaoro's absolute power from the evil jinn has corrupted him. Because he has no regard for the individuals he rules, he cannot conceive of respecting the laws and rules they've enacted.
Themes
Family, Community, and the Mali Empire Theme Icon
Many men, including Dankaran Touman, answer Fakoli's call. Soumaoro, however, attacks Dankaran Touman. Dankaran Touman flees to forested regions and Soumaoro burns Niani. After this, Soumaoro crowns himself king of Mali. The general populace refuses to recognize him and 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 of a number of soothsayers and diviners.
Dankaran Touman gets the opportunity to potentially end his story on the side of good, but instead he retreats when faced with conflict. This is the last time Dankaran Touman is mentioned, and he fades out of the story because he has no griot to perpetuate his memory. Sundiata now has no family members to fight against; his only adversary is Soumaoro and his evil.
Themes
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Fate and Destiny Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
Family, Community, and the Mali Empire Theme Icon
Magic and Religion Theme Icon
Get the entire Sundiata LitChart as a printable PDF.
Sundiata.pdf.medium