The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind


William Kamkwamba

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The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind Characters

William Kamkwamba

The protagonist and narrator of the book, a young Malawian man who grew up in the rural village of Wimbe during the 2000 famines in Malawi. William has an incredible aptitude for science and engineering… read analysis of William Kamkwamba

Trywell Kamkwamba

William’s father. A large, powerful man, Trywell had a reputation for drinking and fighting that got him in trouble until he decided to turn his life over to God and the Christian faith. William… read analysis of Trywell Kamkwamba

Agnes Kamkwamba

William’s mother. A Yao (Muslim cultural group) Malawian, Agnes supports her children, stretching the food as much as possible through the famine and opening a small food stand to keep food on the table… read analysis of Agnes Kamkwamba


William’s good friend and Chief Wimbe’s son. Gilbert has the money to stay in school even during the famine, representing the importance of education in William’s life. Gilbert also helps out William with… read analysis of Gilbert


William’s cousin, the son of Uncle John, and one of William’s best friends. William and Geoffrey work in the fields together and share many games and jokes as they grow. Geoffrey’s family is… read analysis of Geoffrey
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Albert Mofat (Chief Wimbe)

The leader of the community in Wimbe, and Gilbert’s father. The Chief is supposed to ensure the well-being of his people, often picking up the slack when the Malawian government seems not to care… read analysis of Albert Mofat (Chief Wimbe)


William’s dog. Khamba originally belonged to William’s Uncle Socrates, but came to live in Wimbe before the famine. Khamba becomes William’s companion and loves to hunt, but grows old and weak during the… read analysis of Khamba
Minor Characters
Mister Ngwata
Chief Wimbe’s second in command and bodyguard.
Uncle John
Trywell’s brother who established a farm in Malawi and convinced Trywell to join him in the countryside. John has two sons, Jeremiah and Geoffrey.
Uncle John’s oldest son and Geoffrey’s older brother. Jeremiah inherits John’s farms, but is too irresponsible to correctly manage them and loses much of his family’s wealth. Jeremiah provides a vision of the type of life that William would like to avoid.
Uncle Musaiwale
Trywell’s brother and William’s uncle.
Uncle Socrates
Trywell’s brother and William’s uncle, as well as the original owner of Khamba.
William’s oldest sister, who eloped with a teacher named Mike during the famine.
William’s sister.
William’s sister.
William’s sister.
William’s sister.
William’s youngest sister and the baby of the Kamkwamba family.
William’s grandfather and Trywell’s father. Grandpa lived in a time when Malawi was still wild and the influence of magic was far more pronounced.
William’s older cousin who lives in Mzuzu town and has a cell phone.
William’s older cousin who lives at the Mphala, a home for unmarried boys.
One of Charity’s friends, a fellow boy at the Mphala (home for unmarried boys).
Agnes’ older brother, who helps arrange the marriage between Trywell and Agnes though he is not in favor of the match.
A teacher in Mtunthama who falls in love with Annie and convinces her to elope during the 2000-2002 famine.
President Banda
The president of Malawi from 1971 to 1994, who freed Malawi from British rule but turned the government into a dictatorship. Banda put harsh restrictions on everyday life in Malawi, but did try to support Malawian farmers like Trywell.
President Bakili Muluzi
The president of Malawi from 1994 to 2004. Muluzi is a businessman who attempts to revitalize the Malawian economy but puts harsh burdens on the rural Malawian farmers. Muluzi sells off the surplus of maize and ignores the Malawian famine, causing huge devastation to many Malawian communities.
Bingu wa Mutharika
The president of Malawi from 2004 to 2012. William admires Mutharika for the subsidies he offered to Malawian farmers and the aid he gave to rural communities in times of hardship. William met Mutharika in 2007.
Robert Fumulani
One of the most famous Malawian Reggae singers, and Trywell’s favorite musician.
Mwase Chiphaudzu
A legendary chief of the Chewa people in Malawi, the focal point of one of William’s favorite stories.
Mister Kabisa
the head prosecutor in Dowa who convinces Trywell to stop living a life of drinking and fighting and rededicate himself to the Christian faith.
Mister Phiri
A worker on Uncle John’s farm who supposedly has super strength through a magical ritual called mangolomera.
Phiri’s nephew who tricks William into going through a magic mangolomera ritual to give him super strength.
Mister Mwale
William’s neighbor who has many mango trees.
Mister Mangochi
A trader in Malawi who sells maize.
Mister Tembo
William’s teacher at Kachokolo Secondary School until William no longer has the money for the school fees.
Headmaster W. M. Phiri
The Headmaster at Kachokolo Secondary School where William attends for a few weeks.
Mrs. Edith Sikelo
The librarian at the small library in the Wimbe Primary School.
Mister Godsten
A welder who helps William weld together the parts for his windmill.
Mister Daud
The owner of a hardware shop in the trader center where William wants to buy parts for his windmill.
The owner of a barber shop in Wimbe.
Mister Banda
The owner of a convenience store in Wimbe.
Dr. Hartford Mchazime
A professor with the Malawi Teacher Training Activity who took interest in William and his windmill, and helped spread William’s windmill story to innovators around the world.
Soyapi Mumba
A software engineer and coder at Baobab Health who works to computerize Malawi’s health care system and brings William’s story to Mike McKay.
Mike McKay
An American engineer and coder who works at Baobab Health with Soyapi Mumba and wrote about William’s story on his blog Hacktivate.
Emeka Okafor
A Nigerian blogger and entrepreneur, as well as the program director of TEDGlobal 2007. Okafor invited William to apply to be a fellow at TEDGlobal.
Tom Rielly
A fellow at TEDGlobal who helps William start raising money to improve conditions in Wimbe.
Chris Anderson
The TED curator at TEDGlobal 2007 who interviews William about his windmill.
Gerry Douglas
A British-Canadian computer scientist who lives in Lilongwe and offers William a place to stay while William attends the African Bible College Christian Academy.
Blessings Chikakula
William’s tutor at the African Bible College Christian Academy, who himself overcame poverty and famine to gain an education.