Sundiata

Trees, Seeds, and Growing Symbol Analysis

Trees, Seeds, and Growing Symbol Icon

Trees, particularly the silk-cotton tree, are employed throughout the story as a symbol for the strength and power of the Mali Empire. The silk-cotton tree is covered in defensive thorns and is one of the largest trees in the world; likewise, the Mali empire was enormous and, because of its broad alliances, it was well-defended. In addition, throughout the story, soothsayers often use the growth process of seeds and trees as a metaphor for destiny. In particular, their invocation of a seed’s destiny to become a powerful tree refers to Sundiata—who is, himself, also a symbol of Mali. Thus, Sundiata’s being and destiny are associated with trees. Notably, Maghan Kon Fatta often sits with his court under the silk-cotton trees in Niani, suggesting early on that his empire, and his son, will become like the great tree if allowed to grow and flourish. The implication of the necessity of time for a great tree to grow serves as a reminder to impatient characters that fate and destiny happen slowly and on a predestined timeline. There's nothing one can do to speed up the growth of a great tree, or the destiny of a great empire. Throughout the novel, Mamoudou Kouyaté also notes where specific trees are planted in relation to landmarks of the past. These trees of today serve as reminders of the empires, cities, and great rulers of the past.

Trees, Seeds, and Growing Quotes in Sundiata

The Sundiata quotes below all refer to the symbol of Trees, Seeds, and Growing. 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 Symbols: Trees, Seeds, and Growing
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation long mobile

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other Sundiata quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!
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:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Niani Quotes

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:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Get the entire Sundiata LitChart as a printable PDF.
Sundiata.pdf.medium

Trees, Seeds, and Growing Symbol Timeline in Sundiata

The timeline below shows where the symbol Trees, Seeds, and Growing appears in Sundiata. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Buffalo Woman
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Family, Community, and the Mali Empire Theme Icon
...king. In his capital city, Nianiba, he often sits at the foot of a silk-cotton tree. His first son, Dankaran Touman, regularly joins him. One day, Maghan Kon Fatta sees a... (full context)
Fate and Destiny Theme Icon
Family, Community, and the Mali Empire Theme Icon
...suddenly addresses Maghan Kon Fatta and says that the world is mysterious, and the silk-cotton tree grows from a tiny seed. He continues that kingdoms are like trees; some grow large... (full context)
Fate and Destiny Theme Icon
Family, Community, and the Mali Empire Theme Icon
...future. One day, as the king and his court are again seated under the silk-cotton tree, they see two handsome hunters coming towards them with a young girl between them. The... (full context)
Childhood
Fate and Destiny Theme Icon
Family, Community, and the Mali Empire Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
The Lion's Awakening
Heroism Theme Icon
Family, Community, and the Mali Empire Theme Icon
Magic and Religion Theme Icon
...heavy iron rod and asks Sogolon if she wants just baobab leaves or the entire tree. Sogolon says she wants the tree, roots and all. (full context)
Heroism Theme Icon
Family, Community, and the Mali Empire Theme Icon
...Djata drops his iron bar and takes giant steps. He walks to a young baobab tree, rips it out of the ground, and carries it back to Sogolon. He tosses it... (full context)
The Names of the Heroes
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
Family, Community, and the Mali Empire Theme Icon
...of Sibi. Fakoli also continues to gather troops. As they travel, Sundiata begins to recognize trees as being native to Mali. The armies gather on the savanna, and Mamoudou Kouyaté lists... (full context)
Krina
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Fate and Destiny Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
Family, Community, and the Mali Empire Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
..."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. (full context)
Kouroukan Fougan or The Division of the World
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
Family, Community, and the Mali Empire Theme Icon
...Sundiata's word became law, and Mamoudou Kouyaté says that today in Ka-ba, there's a linké tree that commemorates the "division of the world." (full context)
Niani
Storytelling and Memory Theme Icon
Family, Community, and the Mali Empire Theme Icon
...cities of the Mali Empire, many of which have since disappeared. The silk-cotton and baobab trees exist as reminders of these dead cities. (full context)