Sundiata

Sundiata The Baobab Leaves Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Sundiata learns that Soumaoro has invaded Mali and that Fakoli is putting up a good fight against him. Sogolon is still sick, Manding Bory is a lively 15-year-old, and Kolonkan is of marriageable age and takes care of cooking now that Sogolon is ill. At the market one day, Kolonkan notices a woman selling condiments and vegetables—ones that she recognizes from Niani, but are foreign to Mema. Kolonkan shares with the vendor that she's from Mali and her brother used to pick baobab leaves.
Here, the baobab leaves, and the baobab tree by extension, act as a symbol for the Mali kingdom. In Mema, far from Mali, the baobab leaves act as a reminder of home and a call to Sundiata to return.
Themes
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Family, Community, and the Mali Empire Theme Icon
The vendor asks Kolonkan her brother's name, and Kolonkan gives it. A man joins the vendor and asks Kolonkan if Sogolon would receive the vendors. Kolonkan rushes to her mother, gives her the Malian condiments, and says the merchants would like to speak with her. Sogolon asks Kolonkan to fetch the merchants.
Sogolon is certainly aware that the baobab leaves are Sundiata's call to return to Mali. This means that she's truly coming to the end of her role in Sundiata's prophecy.
Themes
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Heroism Theme Icon
Family, Community, and the Mali Empire Theme Icon
Manding Bory and Sundiata return from a hunt and Sogolon shows them the condiments from the market. Kolonkan returns with the merchants and Sogolon recognizes them as members of Maghan Kon Fatta's court. Mandjan Bérété, Sassouma's brother, explains that they left Mali two months ago to search for Sundiata. He says that Soumaoro has razed Mali and that Dankaran Touman fled Niani, leaving it without a leader. He continues that jinn have told soothsayers that only Sundiata can save Mali, and he implores Sundiata to return to Mali and fulfill his destiny.
The "merchants" are proof that Sundiata's community is widespread and supportive. Sundiata is reminded again of his destiny, and this marks the point at which enough time has passed for him to return to Mali. Sundiata, the proverbial tree, has grown and flourished in his seven years of exile. Soothsayers continue to repeat Sundiata's destiny, which reinforces its importance.
Themes
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Family, Community, and the Mali Empire Theme Icon
Magic and Religion Theme Icon
Silence follows this speech. Sundiata breaks it and decides to speak with Moussa Tounkara about leaving the court of Mema as soon as the king returns from a visit to a neighboring village. The narrator says that Sundiata "was already king."
By accepting his destiny, and going about it in this particular way, Sundiata exhibits all the hallmarks of a great king. He must first acknowledge Moussa Tounkara, just as he once acknowledged his family.
Themes
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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 and feverish. In his own room, Sundiata asks God to allow him to bury his mother in Mema if he's going to succeed in retaking Mali. Sogolon dies the next morning, and Sundiata explains to the king that he must return to Mali after burying Sogolon.
The fact that Sundiata is calling on God illustrates his flexibility with religion; he can call upon God or jinn as the situation dictates. Further, higher powers obviously listen to Sundiata, as evidenced by Sogolon's timely death following Sundiata's call for divine help.
Themes
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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 Mali or pay for the gravesite land. Sundiata offers to pay when he reaches Mali, but the king refuses. Sundiata leaves the king and returns a while later with a basket filled with pottery shards, feathers of birds, and straw. He offers it to the king and says that it's the price of the land.
Moussa Tounkara is now attempting to stand in the way of Sundiata's destiny, and Sundiata, having faith in his destiny, remains unbothered. His basket of seemingly random things functions as a riddle. Perhaps the land is not worth much to him, since it is fated to be his regardless, and perhaps the gesture is something more mysterious.
Themes
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Moussa 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 will declare war on Mema if he's not granted the land, and the town site will be recognizable only by shards of pottery. Moussa Tounkara grants Sundiata the land, and Sundiata buries Sogolon.
Sundiata's insistence on burying Sogolon before he leaves stands as a final recognition of his mother, which is absolutely necessary before he can truly move on to the rest of his destiny. This continues to assert that honoring his relationships is extremely important.
Themes
Fate and Destiny Theme Icon
Heroism Theme Icon
Family, Community, and the Mali Empire Theme Icon