Prophecy has a central role in Sundiata. How does the prophecy about Sundiata affect how other characters treat him? 

Sundiata’s status is in question from the beginning of the text. His mother is thought to be a shape shifter and a buffalo, making his true father unclear. His mother gives him away, leaving him for dead after he falls out of a tree as an infant. Sundiata spends his childhood being bullied by his half-brothers, part of Sassouma's plot to usurp the throne from King Maghan Kon Fatta, Sundiata's father.

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The prophecy given before Sundiata ’s birth indicated that the future heir to the throne would come from a hideous woman that two strangers would bring. This woman proves to be Sogolon, the shape-shifting buffalo woman, who becomes the wife of King Maghan Kon Fatta. Their child is Sundiata. The...

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The prophecy given before Sundiata’s birth indicated that the future heir to the throne would come from a hideous woman that two strangers would bring. This woman proves to be Sogolon, the shape-shifting buffalo woman, who becomes the wife of King Maghan Kon Fatta. Their child is Sundiata. The king’s first wife, mother of another potential heir to the throne, worries that Sundiata will ascend to the throne. Noting the boy’s apparent inability to walk, this mother, Sassouma, encourages her son and other children to bully the child.

When his father dies, her son Dankaran becomes king, and Sassouma generates numerous plots against Sundiata, including witches’ evil spells; Sundiata befriends the witches. Fearing for his life, however, Sogolon takes Sundiata and leaves the court. It is through his many adventures in exile, however, that Sundiata gains the strength and knowledge to become a skilled leader. In addition, Dankaran proves an ineffective ruler who leaves his people in danger rather than protect them. The people decide that they want Sundiata, and he is ultimately able to return, protect them from outside threats, and fulfill the prophecy. The implication is that in trying to thwart destiny, Sassouma actually increases the likelihood of its coming true.

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It is clear from Sundiata's childhood that, in spite of the prophecy he received, he was bullied mercilessly and scorned by those around him because of the various difficulties that he had. Note how the text describes these challenges that Sundiata faced, and how different they make him appear from the prophecy that declared him to be the saviour of the land:

Songlon's son had a slow and difficult childhood. At the age of three he still crawled along on all-fours while children of the same age were already walking. He had nothing of the great beauty of his fahter Nare Maghan. He had a head so big that he seemd unable to support it; he also had large eyes which would open wide whenever anyone entered his mother's house.

This beginning seems to be incredibly unpromising; although it was proclaimed at his birth that he would be "the lion child," Sundiata's beginning is very different from how everybody imagined it to be. Yet, in spite of this disappointing beginning, it is clear from early events in his childhood that the prophecy is still valid. In fact, as the blind seer, Nounfairi tells the king, the prophecy has come to fruition in Sundiata, the only problem is that man is too impatient to wait for the full development and growth of that prophecy. What is clear, however, is that these difficulties make Sundiata a target for all sorts of bullying and malicious gossip. This is mostly from other children, but he also attracts the attention of his father's first wife, Sassouma. She revels in the fact that her own child is much stronger and more handsome than Sundiata, and in the way that the king is so disappointed with his first born son. Even Sundiata's father is incredibly disappointed with his son and goes as far as to bar Sundiata's mother from his presence for a while. Sundiata then is treated very differently because of his prophecy; his childhood, because it is so different from what everybody expects, means that he experiences cruelty and disappointment because of the impatience of man.   

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