Sundiata

Summary
Analysis
The narrator says that in order to 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 that it's his destiny to take Mali. Soumaoro refuses to give up his throne, and war is officially declared.
The reader is again asked to consider Soumaoro foolish for attempting to overpower Sundiata's destiny with military strength. However, all this opposition is certainly a part of Sundiata's destiny. Soumaoro's resistance provides Sundiata a story of overcoming tremendous obstacles worthy of a true hero.
Themes
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Fate and Destiny Theme Icon
Family, Community, and the Mali Empire Theme Icon
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Sundiata's army assembles and Fakoli Karoma arrives. He tells Sundiata what Soumaoro has done to him and offers his men to Sundiata's cause. Balla Fasséké invites Fakoli to join the cause, and Sundiata states that he defends the weak and innocent. He promises to right the injustice and Sundiata's war chiefs accept Fakoli as one of them.
We begin to understand that Sundiata isn't just fighting because his destiny tells him to, he's fighting because it's the right thing to do. Sundiata seeks to correct the injustices Soumaoro has carried out on the people of Mali (abducting girls, burning Niani, etc.).
Themes
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Heroism Theme Icon
Family, Community, and the Mali Empire Theme Icon
Sundiata moves his army to the site of the battle at Krina and sets out a great feast for the soldiers. Balla Fasséké describes the history of Mali. Addressing Sundiata directly, he tells Sundiata that he is Mali, as both have suffered a "long and difficult childhood." He continues and likens Sundiata to a tree with long roots and tells Sundiata to assert himself against Soumaoro, but to listen to the past so he knows how to do so. Balla reminds Sundiata of his exceptional parentage. Finally, Balla asks what griots will tell future generations about Sundiata, and reminds the assembled that words are only words; men must perform powerful deeds in order to warrant remembrance and stories.
Balla Fasséké's speech continues to develop the relationship between heroes and stories. This passage also specifically asserts the superiority of stories that arise from actual historical events. This adds more weight to Sundiata's story, as the general plot is considered to be factual. Balla's reminder to "listen to the past" reinforces this further, as the narrator has asserted several times already that the past can be used to tell the future.
Themes
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Fate and Destiny Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
Family, Community, and the Mali Empire Theme Icon
Early in the morning, Fakoli tells Sundiata that Soumaoro is moving his sofas onto the plain. Sundiata orders his troops to move out. Manding Bory and Nana Triban enter Sundiata's tent and ask if Sundiata has "the bow" ready. The bow is prepared to shoot an arrow made of wood, with a point made out of a white cock's spur. This spur is the great secret that Nana Triban extracted from Soumaoro. She counsels her brother that Soumaoro won't let Sundiata get close to him, but Balla Fasséké says that a soothsayer saw the end of Soumaoro in a dream.
The symbol of "Hymn to the Bow" will come full circle now as Sundiata prepares to use his great skill with the bow to triumph over Soumaoro. Again, the power of destiny is reinforced. Despite Nana Triban's worries, soothsayers have seen Soumaoro's defeat and Sundiata believes the soothsayer's dream. This will allow Sundiata to go forward confident in his own victory.
Themes
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Get the entire Sundiata LitChart as a printable PDF.
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On the battlefield, Sundiata can spot Soumaoro by his tall headdress. Sundiata sends his men towards Soumaoro, and his forces quickly break through the center of Soumaoro's army. Manding Bory gallops to Sundiata to tell him that Soumaoro himself is attacking Fakoli, and Fakoli's men are faltering. Sundiata angrily gallops to help Fakoli and begins to fight his way towards Soumaoro.
Sundiata continues to show off his great military skill. He's even elevated further above those on his own side as the narrator admits that Fakoli struggled. This works to humanize Sundiata's army, while turning Sundiata himself into even more of an exceptional and heroic figure.
Themes
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Sundiata draws his bow and shoots the special arrow at Soumaoro. It barely grazes his shoulder, but Soumaoro feels his powers leave him. He looks up and sees a black bird flying, which he knows is a bird of misfortune. Soumaoro turns and retreats, and his army follows. Sundiata pursues Soumaoro all day, accompanied by Fakoli. They stop at a small village for food and then continue galloping through the night. At dawn, Sundiata learns that Soumaoro is avoiding populated areas and travels with only his son Sosso Balla.
Sundiata's willingness to look outside of his own military strength pays off. Victory now seems imminent, even though the chase isn't over yet. The intelligence that Sundiata and Fakoli obtain from these villages indicates that the villages support Sundiata rather than Soumaoro, which further extends the reader's mental map of Mali.
Themes
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Sundiata and Fakoli continue to track Soumaoro and Sosso Balla. After taking a shortcut, they climb a hill and see two horsemen riding along the bottom of the valley. Sundiata and Fakoli chase them. Fakoli manages to capture Sosso Balla. Sundiata wounds Soumaoro's horse, but Soumaoro keeps running on foot and runs into a cave. Sundiata stops outside the cave and Fakoli explains that the cave leads to the river. Mema horsemen arrive and Sundiata commands them to guard the river and the mountain. Sundiata waits in the nearby village for his army.
The chase scene is one in which the reader is reminded that this story is traditionally told orally. This scene would be drawn out and made even more intense by the storyteller's inflection and musical accompaniment. Even in written form, however, it becomes obvious that Sundiata has triumphed. He's well on his way to completing his destiny.
Themes
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Mamoudou Kouyaté 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 narrator explains that the city planned to resist Sundiata for a year. Sundiata vows to take the city the next morning.
As kings submit to him, it becomes even more apparent that Sundiata's destiny was entirely true. Thanks to the evidence left by the narrator, the reader can almost laugh at Sosso's plan to resist a hero such as Sundiata for a full year.
Themes
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Heroism Theme Icon
Family, Community, and the Mali Empire Theme Icon
The next morning, Sundiata's army attacks the town and shoots flaming arrows over the ramparts. The city opens its gates to Sundiata. Noumounkeba tries to fight, but is taken alive by Sundiata and Manding Bory. Balla Fasséké leads Sundiata into Soumaoro's tower. Soumaoro's magic chamber is different now that Soumaoro has lost his powers; the fetishes seem to be dying. Sundiata seizes the fetishes and assembles prisoners and Soumaoro's many stolen wives outside the tower. After evacuating everything, Sundiata orders the final destruction of Sosso.
Sundiata once again makes good on his promise. The fetishes that Sundiata seizes from Soumaoro will function as symbols of dark magic gone very wrong. Notice too that Sundiata makes sure to evacuate all the residents of Sosso. Even as he enjoys these military successes, Sundiata is obviously not cruel; his sense of justice ensures that the residents are imprisoned, but not killed.
Themes
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Mamoudou Kouyaté explains that Sosso disappeared, and now a "ghastly wilderness" exists in its place. Birds take dust baths at the site, and bourein trees grow there. Sosso is only a memory, and Sundiata made it so.
Sundiata erased Sosso from existence. Now, it's marked by specific landmark trees and it exists only as a memory in stories perpetuated by griots. It resembles Sassouma’s fate, in that punishment is a combination of infamy and erasure.
Themes
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