Epic of Sundiata

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In the Epic of Sundiata (also spelled Son-Jara or Sundjata): Naré Maghann Konaté (also called Maghan Kon Fatta or Maghan the Handsome) was a Mandinka king who one day received a divine hunter at his court. The hunter predicted that if Konaté married an ugly woman, she would give him a son who would one day be a mighty king. Naré Maghann Konaté was already married to Sassouma Bereté and had a son by her, Dankaran Toumani Keïta. However, when two Traoré hunters from the Do kingdom presented him an ugly, hunchbacked woman named Sogolon, he remembered the prophecy and married her. She soon gave birth to a son, Sundiata Keita, who was unable to walk throughout his childhood. Despite his physical weakness, the king still granted Sundiata his own griot at young age; this was in order to have them grow together and provide constant consultation as was custom.[1] With the death of Naré Maghann Konaté (c. 1224), his first son, Dankaran Tuman, assumed the throne despite Konaté's wishes that the prophecy be respected. Sundiata and his mother, who now had given birth to two daughters and adopted a second son from Konaté's third wife Namandjé, suffered the scorn of the new king and his mother. After an insult against Sogolon, Sundiata requested an iron rod from the blacksmith Nounfari, which he used to pull himself upright and walk. Nonetheless, the hatred of Sassouma Bereté and Dankaran Toumani Keita soon drove Sundiata, his mother, and his two sisters into exile in the Mema kingdom. Meanwhile, Soumaoro Kanté, cruel sorcerer king of Sosso, attacked the Mandinka kingdom, causing Dankaran Toumani Keita to take flight in fear. The oppressed Mandinka people then sent for the exiled Sundiata. Forging a coalition of neighboring small kingdoms, Sundiata waged a war against the Sosso, finally defeating Soumaoro Kanté at the Battle of Kirina (c. 1235). Soumaoro Kanté disappeared in the Koulikoro mountains. Sundiata was later crowned with the title "Mansa," or "king of kings," as the first ruler of the Mali Empire. He soon set about organizing the nucleus of the empire, presenting the Gbara of nobles and notables at his coronation with an oral constitution known as the Kouroukan Fouga. His model for government would guide the empire into greatness and beyond its zenith toward its eventual dissolution in 1645. His exploits have even been compared to those of Alexander the Great by some griots. Part I: An Extraordinary Childhood

Naré Fa Maghan ruled over the small kingdom of Mali, beginning in the year 1200. King Maghan was the son of a long lineage of distinguished hunters, known for their bravery, skill and their ability to communicate with jinns, spirits that hold influence over human lives. At this time, Manding rulers likeMaghan had adapted the religion of Islam, but the new faith from the north had not altered their belief in the world of spirits. So when a hunter from the north came to Maghan and made a prophecy, the king and his griot took it very seriously. The prophecy said that two hunters would come to the king with a very ugly woman. Despite her ugliness, the hunter said, the king must marry this woman, for she would bear him Mali's greatest king ever.

Sure enough, two hunters later appeared with a hunchbacked woman. They explained to the king that this woman, Sogolon Kedju, was in fact the human double of a buffalo that had ravaged the land of Do, killing hunters and citizens alike. Armed with secret knowledge, these two hunters had felled the buffalo and brought the woman to Mali. Hideous and wild, Sogolon was also endowed with extraordinary powers. She had been the hunter's prize, and now they were offering her to the king of Mali. Honoring the prophecy, Maghan quickly married Sogolon, and they conceived a child.

King Maghan's first wife, Sassouma, was jealous. She has always assumed that her son, Dankaran Touman, would claim the crown of Mali. Now this interloper stood to threaten what she felt was her son's destiny. Sassouma...
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