The Coming-Of-Age Story Of Sundiata

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The story of Sundiata begins with the introduction of the griot, Mamadou Kouyaté. He announces himself as a vessel of speech, the holder of a collective, societal memory. The griot insists that his words are the truth, that his kind “do not know what lying is.” The traditional stories such as this one of Sundiata are taught precisely from father to son. However, they are undoubtedly influenced by changing values and current events. An oral tradition exists as a living history that is more greatly affected by the evolution of cultural values over time. As a result, while the specific dates and details may be altered, it gives a better sense of the cultural ideals to the retelling of the past. From the origin of the epic to the present day,…show more content…
Sundiata shows through his coming-of-age story that he is wise and fair. When Sassouma Bérété sends witches to try to invoke young Sundiata’s rage, he offers the garden to them immediately. The old women acknowledge his kindness and sense of justice and vow to look after him. These actions are valued in a king because no group of people can feel safe with a vindictive person in power. While it is certainly possible Sundiata was indeed of this manner, the inclusion of this specific story in the epic is purposeful and meant to speak to the character of the ideal king. Sundiata was also known to be wise beyond his years. The griot drops in various comments that imply an unusual perception that persisted as Sundiata grew up. When he was only three, the griot says, “You would have thought that he was already thinking, and what amused children of his age bored him….” When he was older, Sundiata was said to amaze others with his intelligence. Multiple times the griot describes Sundiata as speaking like an adult rather than a child, undeterred by others’ wealth of experience as if he was certain in his destiny to become a leader. “Any other child of eleven would have been disconcerted by the eyes of adults, but Sundiata kept cool and calmly looked at the rich decorations of the king’s reception hall….” Additionally, Sundiata’s voice is referred to as authoritative. “Everyone bowed before him and he was greatly loved. Those who did not love him feared him, and his voice carried authority.” This innate sense and ability of command is a way to tie in the fact that Sundiata was destined to become a great

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