Roots: The Saga of an American Family Chapter 9 Summary

Alex Haley

Chapter 9 Summary

Kunta Kinte is now twelve years old. With the bigger rains gone and the harvest about to begin, the Mandinka tribe eagerly anticipates the season for travelers. The children, all Kunta’s age, have the job to keep watch at the “travelers’ tree” and to run and tell the adults in the fields and at home about any travelers who are seen. When a traveler does arrive, the children scamper about him and look for signs of a mission or an occupation. Any time a child finds anything out about the traveler, he immediately runs back to the adults to tell the news. Each family of the tribe has a day when it is an honor to feed and house the traveler for as long as he wishes.

Kunta, Sitafa, and other boys his age are growing up fast and feeling a bit frustrated at having to be naked all of the time. They watch with envy as the boys a bit older get to wear special tunics, called dundikos, to cover themselves. These older boys study verses from the Koran as the arafang teaches them to write. Also, Kunta and friends avoid all small children like the plague, wanting nothing to do with them. Kunta, wanting to feel important, often waits around the adults. He is hoping to be sent on one job or another. Luckily, it isn’t long before Omoro asks Kunta to help guard the crops and gather some of the preharvest goodies.

Finally, the harvest begins. The tobalo drum is beaten so enthusiastically that the men of the Mandinka tribe ceremoniously throw their hoes up together with every beat in their jubilation. Sweat and pride abound in the Mandinka menfolk as they gather up all of the spoils from the harvest. The women happily bring the lunch to serve the men, and everyone tiredly washes off the grime of the day in the river at the end of a hard day of harvesting. At night, the Mandinka arrive home to a great feast of smoked meats.

Although this is all exciting to Kunta, he is more interested in the fact that his mother seems to be sewing something important. The very next day, as Kunta runs out the door, Binta scolds Kunta for not putting on his clothes. Kunta’s mother has made him a brand-new dundiko. He rushes outside to join the other boys his own age, happy to have their nakedness covered for the first time in their lives.