Chapter 13 Summary
The final day of the harvest festival always dawns with a feeling of terror and sadness. Men dressed in horrific masks and costumes of tree bark scream and terrorize the village. These disguised men yell and scream into each hut, filled with the cries of fearful women and children. The brutes grab every boys only one year older than Kunta. These boys have white hoods forced onto their heads and are tied like slaves to be taken away for an entire year in order to enter their “manhood training.” The village is saddened by their departure.
For days afterwards, the boys discuss the stories they have heard about this mysterious training during “twelve moons.” They talk of beatings and hunting and abandonment. Worst of all is something that the group refuses to talk about at all: the fear that part of their foto will be cut off. This will truly make them men. Kunta and his friends shake in fear. They know that they will be in the next group of boys taken away to become men in the forest. Their fear soon stops this talk cold.
Kunta, Sitafa, and his friends are now expert goatherds. They know that the hardest part of the day is the morning when the bugs are still biting and the goats try to escape the bites by flitting this way and that. However, as the sun climbs higher and the bugs fade away, the goats settle down and graze on the closest grass they can find. This is the time when the boys can have some fun. They kill small animals with their slingshots and roast them in a private feast, play at “war,” soothe their hot feet with the grass and mucus from a rabbit’s belly, and romp with the guardians of the Mandinka cattle: the wuolo dogs.
Tending to his own herd, Kunta sometimes gets away from the others. This is when Kunta allows his imagination to run wild. One day, he imagines that he is a simbon, a particular warrior hunting the most hideous beast to haunt the savanna: “a maddened buffalo.” Kunta imagines that this buffalo already has killed numerous people and is impossible to catch, let alone kill. But with just his bow and arrow, Kunta takes the animal down. The village rings with shouts of “Simbon Kinte!”—until Kunta realizes that his real goats have gone astray into a neighboring farm! Kunta is so ashamed that he doesn’t allow any more daydreams for at least a month.