Roots: The Saga of an American Family Chapter 4 Summary

Alex Haley

Chapter 4 Summary

Kunta and the other little ones of the Mandinka tribe are still happily playing about in the early rains, often claiming the elusive rainbows to be “mine,” that is, until the big rains come. Then the entire tribe huddles inside the huts as the people watch their village turn into a mud pit. It is hard for the young ones to understand the parents’ happiness, but they still ask Allah for even more rain. It is this very rain that will sustain their entire tribe the rest of the year.

Still, the rains persist and the mood gets a bit glum, so Nyo Boto comes to the rescue, this time with a story about a worse situation, one that connects to Kunta Kinte’s lineage. Nyo Boto tells the story of one horrible season when there were only two days of rain. It was then that the savage sun dried up the land and ruined all of the crops. Things got so bad that the animals of the forest began to drink from the village well. Even though the entire tribe sacrificed many animals to Allah, the tribe began to die out. It was then that Kunta Kinte’s ancestor, the marabout Kairaba Kunta Kinte, came to the tribe and prayed to Allah and fasted in sacrifice to save the Mandinka. After praying and fasting for five days, a huge rain came and saved the tribe. This ends Nyo Boto’s story.

The children look a bit differently at Kunta Kinte after this because he is named after such a distinguished ancestor. Kunta Kinte recalls how people look respectfully at his own grandmother, Grandma Yaisa, for the same reason.

The rains continue to fall, and the adults busy themselves with tending to sagging roofs and their families, hoping and praying that their rations last until harvest. The natural world seems to bloom with this great rain. Beautiful flowers grow and luscious fruits, not yet ripe, hang from the trees. Still, the people of the village of Juffure become thin, choosing to feed their precious goats and cattle before themselves (something important for the survival of the tribe). Unfortunately, because of their Muslim beliefs, the Mandinka disregard the plethora of hens' eggs and wild boars that surround them as well as the monkeys of the forest. Still, a random fish or an injured crane becomes a rare meal.

The Mandinka survive by making soups and stews from such items as grubworms and moles or other rodents. The people of the tribe in Juffure are beginning to starve to death.