Sundiata is an epic story of 13th century Western Africa written by D.T.Niane. G.D.Pickett translates the epic in English. It is written partly from historical and partly from oral tradition, legends, and myths. The historical data is mainly from Arabian documents and oral tradition is from griots, guardians of culture of Africa of Mali since ancient time. Masked artists of Mali are still enacting oral tradition of legend of Sundiata. Sundiata is a legendary historical figure, a prophesied figure that liberated Mali from foreign leadership and made it a prosperous country. The epic develops the story of legendary African hero as dictated by history and oral traditions depicting fall and rise of a kingdom, development of a society in multi religion and cultural environments, intra rivalry among the royal families, transformation of prophesied king from severe handicaps. Like Mahabharata, Iliad and other epic literatures Sandiata is a story that includes all the characteristics of an epic literature. The Sundiata has the characteristics to become an outstanding world literature of 13th century ancient Africa.
Sandiata, the epic story of Africa, is a living myth for the people of Mali. The main prophesied hero and his story is folklore to the modern people of Mali. Niani, the author of the epic, has created a Mali national literature equivalent to Mahabharata, Ramayana of Indian subcontinent, Lord of Rings of United Kingdom, Lion King of Unites States of America. Like Mahabharata there are conflicts of royal brothers, the presence of god figure divine hunter visitor to royal king of Mali, the father of Sandiata. “A hunter visiting Maghan’s court prophesied. saying, “This is the woman you must marry, sire, for she will be the mother of him who will make the name of Mali immortal forever” (Divine hunter 1). One of the royal mothers wants her son to be the king and takes vengeance to other queen. Like Ramayana the King has the soft heart to his prophesied son to be the king. Sandiata gets the help of divine hands to overcome his physical disability and to become a true victorious king. He defeats and drives the foreign force from homeland and has established a prosperous kingdom of Mali.
In order to nominate Sandiata as one of the most fascinating and profound literary achievement of ancient Africa it is common sense that the plot should be summarized and then verified the qualities it should have with respect to current recognized word literatures (Epic Literature). Comparison of the African epic story with other world-class literature shall be of help in this regard. In a world class literature the story is created by author or is told by a narrator with a strong main character, historical or fiction. The story unfolds the past actual and legendary events smoothly using rich literary style and contents. The top world literary works are The Lords of The Ring, Mahabharata, Iliad, Upanishad, and Bible.
Sandiata and The Lord of Rings
One is the 13th century African epic and the other is the 20th century fantasy epic of United Kingdom in European tone (Parallels between). Each is created and written independently with no bearing to each other. Lord of Rings has created a sensation not only in the European continent but also in the whole world. This is due to both for strength of story and strong marketing media from renowned country like UK. Sandiata has all literary characteristics like the Lord of Rings. The author of Sandiata, the old epic of ancient Africa has presented the oral tradition and history majestically in style. “He translated Sandiata as told by the griot Djeli Mamadou Kouyate …. Into French in 1960 ” (Sandiata 1 ).
From the above analysis and comparison it is evident that The Sandiata has the content, form, meaning and style of the famous world literatures. There are no comparable literary compositions of ancient Africa like Sandiata. The main hero Sandiata is strong and benevolent shaped by the divine hands. The character is so adorable and legendary that he is still in the hearts of Mali people and remembered in the yearly festivals. The character blends with natural beauty of Mali, history of Mali, and legends of Mali (Background). The Sandiata is the Mahabharata and The Lord of Rings of Africa.
- Sandiata the old Epic
- Divine Hunter
- Parallels between The Sundiata Epic and The Lord of The Rings
- What is An Epic in Literature?