The Guardian of the Word

by Camara Laye

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 230

The characters of Camara Laye's The Guardian of the Word tells the story of the founding of the Empire of Mali in West Africa. Its protagonist is the thirteenth-century founder of this empire, Sundiata.

Sundiata becomes a brave warrior; however, he grows up in exile with his mother and siblings. A prophecy stated that his father must marry the ugliest woman he could find. Sundiata cannot walk until age thirteen. He is exiled because one of his father's subsequent wives doesn't want him to inherit the kingdom.

Sogolon is Sundiata's mother. She is described as hump-backed, and she is the king's second wife. She bears him five sons and a daughter, including Sundiata.

The king is Mandan-Ka, and, while his wife gives birth to Sundiata, there is a prophecy and a storm attending his birth. Nevertheless, the ruler and others are disappointed in Sundiata, who cannot walk until he is much older.

Sumaoro is a usurping tyrant who is punishing innocent inhabitants of his kingdom in west Africa at the time when Sundiata comes of age. Sundiata, therefore, uses the new military prowess he develops as a young adult to avenge Sumaoro's people by killing their ruler. Sundiata kills Sumaoro by chasing him into a cave, after which the people of his kingdom, now governed by Sundiata and those who fought with him, enjoy a period of prosperity and happiness.

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