Son Jara also referred to as the Sundiata Epic is an epic poem from the Malinke people of Mali. It tells the story of Sundiata Keita. He was the founder of the Mali Empire. “He is to rule over all the bards, smiths and the three and thirty warrior clans.”(Line 2425) It is an oral tradition narrative. Sundiata Keita was the product of a prophecy by a divine hunter who prophesied to the Mandika King NareMaghannKonate. The divine hunter prophesied that when Maghann ties the knot with an ugly woman, she would give her a son who would grow up to the King, a mighty King. Maghann was,however; already married to Sassouma and together they had a son named DankaranToumani Keita who later on became the king after his father had died. This was against Maghann wishes and will for the prophecy to take its course. Dankaran disliked Sundiata and his mother (line 1051). This forced Sundiata, his mother and his two sisters to flee to theMema Kingdom. Dankaran’s reign,however, did not last long as his kingdom, the Madinka kingdom, was attacked by king Soumaoro the king of Sosso. This forced Dankaran Keita to flee in fear. This prepared the way for Sundiata to become the king as the Madinka people having suffered hostility from the Sosso’s requested the exiled Sundiata to return home.
His return led to the Madinka Kingdom led to his kingdom joining with other bordering small kingdoms. This coalition of kingdoms led by Sundiata managed to overpower Sosso. Sundiata later on then became the king of Mansa which means the king of kings. He thus became the first person to rule the Mali Empire. This is a heroic story that features in history and literature lessons in West African countries such as Mali, Guinea and Senegale.t.c. It is also part of the culture of Mali since performed in ritual performances (Johnson 43).
There are various natural phenomena’s, supernatural occurrences and individual objects that appear in the epic story of Son Jara. One of the supernatural occurrences in the epic story is the fulfillment of the prophecy by the two hunters. The prophecy came to pass after some time. This is supernatural in that it was like a message from the gods to the people, and for the prophecy to take place was not just by fate, it took some natural powers that influenced the fulfillment of the prophecy. Another supernatural occurrence is the inheritance of occult power. Son Jara inherited occult power from his mother Sogolon. He is thus able to exercise occult powers without yielding to evil. His inheritance of grace and knowledge from his father is also another supernatural occurrence (line 1516). Another supernatural occurrence is the curse on Son Jara. The curse made him crippled. This comes to pass and even when he tries to use an iron rod to walk, it crumbles to his weight, and he has to use a rod, which is an agile branch of the sun tree (Johnson 90).
There are also individual objects attributed to the characters in the epic story. An example is with SusuSumamuru the king of Sosso. He wears pants, and a coat of human skin to symbolize fierceness. A minor character, Sadagalo a boatman is also another character that had silver bracelet with given to him by SonJara’s mother. He was given the bracelet in exchange for a future favour. Son Jara also has a rod with which he used to walk with, he at first had used an iron rod which broke,and he had to use a rod made from a branch from a tree. This symbolized that he would acquire natural powers (Johnson 121).
The epic story of Son Jara has been characterized by myths. One myth is that of Son Jara turning himself into a lion and capturing nine water buffalos that he presents to the nine witches. Another myth in the epic story is that of Sumamuru. The myth goes that, after defeat, he dried up on the spot. There is also another myth attributed to SugulunJara’s mother. The myth was that she could control all baobab leaves and hence she was the guardian of the baobab trees.The epic story of Son Jarahas been told orally to help the people of Mali to know where their origin. It shows the Mali people that they share a common origin. It depicts Son Jara as a hero and Sumamuru as a villain and symbol of evilness (Johnson 130).
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