Roots: The Saga of an American Family Chapter 21 Summary

Alex Haley

Chapter 21 Summary

When Kunta returns to the village of Juffare from the village of Omoro’s brothers, he returns to the news that he has a new baby brother named Suwadu. Kunta can’t wait to tell his friends of his adventures, but they are very jealous of all of the adventures Kunta had. In fact, they vow not to ask any questions of Kunta and to act like he hadn’t been away at all. Kunta is incredibly hurt by this. Finally, Kunta can’t stand it anymore and begins talking about his trip while they are all herding goats one afternoon. The boys are so excited to hear the stories that they forget their jealousy and everyone listens at full attention.

Unfortunately, as Kunta tells his story, a panther creeps into the paddock where the goats are grazing and, before the boys know what is happening, the panther kills Kunta’s mature nanny goat who is about to give birth. Three of the wuolo dogs are wounded as well. Kunta follows his instinct and rushes to the mortally wounded goat, directly toward the panther. Luckily the running boys and all of the commotion scare the panther away. However, nothing can stop the regret and pain and embarrassment of Kunta’s neglect. On the way back to the village, Kunta thinks hard about everyone affected. He thinks of the nanny goat. He thinks of the baby goat, dead in the nanny goat’s belly. He thinks of the panther. He thinks of the wuolo dogs. He thinks of his mother and brothers who would probably never see him again if Kunta is sent away. Most of all, Kunta thinks of his father.

Kunta cannot bear to tell his father, but he must. Kunta approaches the dead goat and skins it in order to bring Omoro the hide. As Kunta approaches the village, his father comes running out to him. Kunta is shocked at how Omoro knows the predicament already. Omoro first inquires whether Kunta is okay. Upon finding that Kunta is not hurt, Omoro surprises Kunta by telling him that all men make mistakes. This is a big mistake, but Omoro admits that he lost a goat to a lion when he was as young as Kunta. In fact, Omoro shows his left hip to Kunta. That hip bears a great scar where the lion mauled Omoro. There is one thing that Omoro insists that Kunta learn today: for his son to never run toward any wild animal in the brush. Omoro then takes the hide and throws it aside, saying that there is nothing else that can be said about the matter.

Kunta is filled with all sorts of emotions at this point: confusion, guilt, relief, shame. However, there is another emotion that Kunta feels toward his father: love.