Roots: The Saga of an American Family Chapter 18 Summary

Alex Haley

Chapter 18 Summary

The first day of traveling is hard on Kunta Kinte. Omoro walks so fast that it takes two large steps to equal even one of his father’s. What is harder still for Kunta is that Omoro does not acknowledge Kunta’s presence at all. Kunta’s muscles start to hurt, but he vows that he will drop dead before complaining. Soon, they reach the travelers' tree of a nearby village. The naked, young boys run out to greet the travelers just as Kunta did when he was a boy. Kunta feels very important as he follows his father’s ways and ignores the children with their plethora of questions. Omoro and Kunta intend to speed past the village and move on.

Omoro and Kunta travel on with no rest for quite a while. Just as Kunta begins to panic internally, wondering if he can go on, Omoro stops to drink at a clear pool beside the trail. When Kunta begins drinking wildly, Omoro gives Kunta a little wise advice: “Just a little....Swallow a little, wait, then a little more.” This is the first time Omoro has said anything to Kunta. After drinking and resting awhile, Kunta drifts off to sleep.

Upon waking, Kunta looks around for his absent father and finally finds him returning with roasted pigeons to eat. It isn’t long before they set off again and Omoro tells Kunta that the toubob bring their boats within one day’s walk of where they are right now. Sleeping in a village tonight is a necessity.

The landscape changes and Omoro shows Kunta the signs of an elephant stampede before they notice a disturbing sight: a forlorn travelers' tree, half-burned and with only a few prayer strips. No children come to meet the travelers. Only the elderly hang outside their huts. Trash litters the village. Something is dreadfully wrong.

The old men and women in the village try to show as much hospitality as possible. They explain how slave traders stole all of the tribe except the very old and very young. Omoro tries to encourage the lost tribesmen to come to the new village of Omoro’s brothers, but these men and women only extol their own village and refuse to leave it out of love for their way of life.

Lying on a makeshift pallet that night, Kunta thinks about all the things he has learned, especially about the evils of the toubob. Kunta falls asleep listening to the hyena’s howl, a familiar cry that Kunta now considers to be quite comforting.