Roots: The Saga of an American Family Chapter 5 Summary

Alex Haley

Chapter 5 Summary

Illness and starvation are running rampant in the village of Juffure. There are strange moans coming from different huts that confuse Kunta, but the adults know they are the moans of people who have lost loved ones. Men are carried back dead from their fields. There are fevers and rashes and strange pustules that plague the village. Kunta Kinte bears one of these blemishes that turns pink, swells, breaks open, and flows with pus. This wound causes him to fall down one day, and the fall wounds his head as well.

The other children of the village take Kunta, bleeding, to Grandma Yaisa’s hut. She is starving and weak, but she still leaps up to attend to her wounded grandson. She uses the pincers of kelelalu ants to mend the wound. She deftly breaks off each ant’s body so as to keep the head and pincers in place along the wound until it is completely closed. It is here that Grandma Yaisa asks young Kunta to lie with her as she greatly expands on the story about Kunta’s grandfather.

The story, this time, begins in Mauretania, where Kairaba Kunta Kinte was originally from. Kairaba desired to be a holy man above all else (as was family tradition). At fifteen, he begged the current marabout to travel with him as he blessed different tribes with his holy service as he wandered the land. It was not long before Kairabe received his ordination and traveled on his own to many villages, where the inhabitants found his prayers to Allah were answered with swiftness. Suddenly, tribes called to him from all around for his holy services. All were offering cattle, wives, and other wealth of sorts. Still, Kairaba heard of the sad village of Juffure that had only two days of rain to sustain it. As told in Grandma Yaisa’s previous story, Kairaba Kunta Kinte went to Juffure and prayed and fasted for five days. This saved the village.

After the story, Grandma Yaisa proudly proclaims that she is one of the wives of this late Kairaba Kunta Kinte. From that union comes Omoro. From the union of Omoro and Binta comes Kunta Kinte. This is the first time that Kunta Kinte understands how he is truly connected to the family. Kunta Kinte imagines that someday he will have a wonderful wife who will beget sons. So the family goes on. With the grandiose thoughts of this ultimate connection running through his mind, Kunta falls asleep.