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The Epic of Son-Jara. Late 13th-Early 14th Centuries. Background. Epic of the Manding people. Empires rose when Muslims invaded, bringing literacy/trade. Wealthy trade in gold and salt. Funded armies, cities, universities. Empires-- Ghana (700-1000) [Soninke culture].

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the epic of son jara

The Epic of Son-Jara

Late 13th-Early 14th Centuries

background
Background
  • Epic of the Manding people.
  • Empires rose when Muslims invaded, bringing literacy/trade.
    • Wealthy trade in gold and salt.
    • Funded armies, cities, universities.
  • Empires--
    • Ghana (700-1000) [Soninke culture].
    • Mali (1000-1450) [Malinke culture].
    • Songhai (1450-1590).
even more background
Even More Background
  • This epic still performed all over Sudan.
    • Part of Africa’s oral tradition of folk tales, legends, myths, and poetry.
    • Probably began with “praise songs” addressed to Son-Jara
  • Considered record of great, historical events that led to formation of Mali Empire under Son-Jara Keita.
  • Considered expression of Manding societal values.
  • So operates on a par with Iliad, Ramayana, or Aeneid.
the prologue in paradise
The Prologue in Paradise
  • Note the constant interchange between the Messenger and the rest of the people.
  • Prologue establishes worthy heritage of Son-Jara.
    • By tracing lineage to Bilal, Muhammed’s friend.
    • By tracing Africa’s heritage from creation of Adam and the world to the present.
    • By addressing him with 8 praise names.
episoides 2 3
Episoides 2 & 3
  • Episodes 2 and 3 primarily serve as preservation of the genealogy of most of the people involved in this story [religious & magical].
  • Episode 3 shows two brothers – the younger is the greater.
    • Destruction of the Bull
    • Claiming Konde to beget a son who will rule
episode 4
Episode 4
  • Episode 4 develops common theme of man with 2 wives, one loved and one not loved (or one beautiful and one ugly).
    • Saman Berete, “the pure.”
    • Sugulun Konde, “the ugly.”
    • Female rivalry [power and prestige of children]
    • Curses vs religious praying
    • Sorcery & djinns
    • Fate of a cripple and mother
    • Sacrificial dogs
    • Banishment
good rulers vs bad
Good Rulers vs. Bad
  • Contrast Sumamuru to Son-Jara’s willingness to sacrifice himself for others
    • The four times Son-Jara gives Sumamuru extra time to get ready for battle.
    • Son-Jara’s willingness to believe the information his sister gives him, whereas Sumamuru cuts off his own mother’s breast.
    • Sumamuru’s desire for follower’s wife
themes
Themes
  • Son-Jara wins because he is GOOD.
  • Son-Jara wins because the gods (African and Islamic) want him to.
  • Son-Jara wins because he is both strong and merciful [best combination of traits in a ruler]
  • Bad things usually work themselves out if given enough time.
  • Travel may be the answer