Sundiata, a great warrior, brave and resolute but humane. Sundiata’s life follows a pattern common to mythic heroes in many cultures, African and otherwise: the auguries at birth (in this case, a violent storm), an inauspicious youth (he is unable to walk until the age of ten), exile from his homeland (to escape jealous relatives), many tests of bravery and manhood, encounters with supernatural persons and events, and an eventual triumphal return to his homeland. In addition to having courage and prowess, Sundiata is clever and resourceful, an able military tactician and leader of men, and lucky. Like all national heroes, despite the formidable odds against him, Sundiata seems destined to triumph from the outset. This “lucky” or “destined” quality imparts to Sundiata an almost supernatural or godlike aura, also characteristic of the mythic hero. At the same time, he is warm, humane, loyal, and loving, and he elicits these qualities from others.
Babu Condé (kohn-DAY), the narrator, a griot (traditional storyteller). Not an active participant in the story that he tells, Babu is nevertheless its most important character, perhaps because his method of telling and attitude toward his materials are crucial to the reader’s apprehension of these materials. Babu narrates from a religious perspective (Islamic) about an ancient people who had not yet embraced that religion, although they were on the verge of doing so. More important, he narrates from a modern perspective, discussing his characters...
(The entire section is 653 words.)