The epic of Sunjata is known not only in Mali, but in Guinea Senegal, the Ivory coast, the Upper Volta, Ghana and the Gambia. D.t. Niane2s version, published first in French in 1960, is considered to be the classic rendition of the epic. Niane translated the work as he heard it from Djeli mamudu kuyate, a griot from the village of Djeli Koro in Guinea.
The epic probably includes earlier hunter epics. Sunjata is called “the son of the lion and the buffalo.” The lion was the ancestor and emblem of his father and all other members of the Keita nation, where as the buffalo was the ancestor and emblem of his mother, the buffalo Woman, and her family.
The historical Sunjata lived in the early part of the 18th century and ruled the empire of Mali a century before it reached the height of its power. The action of the epic occurs between 1217 and 1237.
The principal appeal of the epic of Sunjata is its ability to entertain the reader. Sunjata lives in an exciting world that contains complex family relationships, unstable political conditions, magic and prophecy.
The epic of Sunjata contains many themes that are found in other epics from around the world. Like many other heroes. Sunjata has an unusual youth, is able to perform magical feats, endures a period of exile, kills a monster, does his best to protect his community from destructive forces, is a fierce warrior, and becomes a great ruler of an enlarged kingdom. His life and the lives of other characters in the epic are governed by prophecies.
Sundiata’s Early Life
Sundiata, the first known king of Mali, was born the youngest of eleven brothers, according to one legend. Yet another says he was the second son of a Mandingo king named Nare Fa Maghan. Sundiata was born to Nare and his second wife Sogolan Conde as a crippled and weak child. For this, she was mocked by the other wives, but when Sundiata began to walk, he became leader of his age- group. Eventually, Jealousies of the deep love Nare had shown to Sogolan and Sundiata in conjunction with Nare Fa Maghan’s death forced Sundiata and his mother and her other son to flee. Since no Malinke chief would offer them refuge, all being afraid of the wrath of dankaron Tuman, the then King of Sundiata was forced to Mema . It was there that Mansa Tunkara king of Mema , offered them refuge. He even saw and appreciated young Sundiata’s courage and gave him same important responsibilities.
The Return Of Sundiata
In the oft-cited legend, Sundiata grew stranger and began to rule the Mali kingdom while steadily gaining power and trop strength. It came to pass that in 1235, at the battle of Kirina, Sundiata and Sumanguru met in the battle. According to the legend, both were sorcerers, and their magic would determine the outcome. Sundiata roared at the troops of King Sumanguru, who were terrified and ran for cover. Sumanguru retaliated, and the heads of eight spirits magically appeared above his own. Unfortunately, for Sumanguru, Sundiata had the stranger magic, and the spirits were defeated. Sundiata then aimed an arrow at Sumanguru and although it only grazed Sumanguru’s shoulder, it