Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 2127
Soumaoro's son, Sosso Balla leads his father's troops. When the sorcerer king flees at the battle of Krina, Sosso Balla is Sundiata's main captive.
Maghan Kon Fatta's first wife, Sassouma Berete expects her son to become the next king of Mali. When prophets foretell the marriage of the king and Sogolon and the birth of Sundiata, Sassouma is consumed with jealousy that haunts her throughout the epic. She taunts Sogolon when her son cannot walk, thus provoking Sundiata to raise himself to his feet to avenge his mother's honor. Plotting his death, she hires witches to kill him, but they are won over to his side because of his inherent goodness.
Knowing that his family is in danger, Sundiata flees from the intrigues of Sassouma, but she continues to plague him. Sending sums of money to his hosts, she convinces them either to turn him away or try to kill him. In the end, however, Sassouma's plotting only serves to fulfill Sundiata's destiny, as the travels and travails she forces upon him cause him to develop into a strong, wise, cautious, and judicious person and mighty warrior.
Manding Bory, son of Namandje, is Sundiata's step- or half-brother and best friend. The two boys grow up together, inseparable, and when Sogolon and her family go into exile, Manding Bory accompanies them. Later in life, when Sundiata becomes the commander of his own troops, he appoints Manding Bory as the head of his rear guard. Manding Bory continues to be Sundiata's most important general under the new Empire of Mali once Sundiata has taken the throne of his homeland, and he receives many honors in return for his services.
See Manding Bory.
Buffalo of Do
When a buffalo terrorizes the countryside of Do, the king puts a bounty on its head. Many hunters try to kill the buffalo, and are killed in the process. Nonetheless, the hunters, Oulamba and Oulani, decide to try their hand at the task. On the trail of the buffalo, Oulamba sees an old woman lamenting her hunger and begging for food, and he responds by sharing his food with her. She is in fact the Buffalo of Do in human form. Touched by his generosity, she tells him the magical method of killing her. In return, the Buffalo of Do asks that the hunter choose Sogolon Kedjou, her wraith, as his reward.
See Sogolon Kedjou.
The king of Ghana welcomes Sundiata and his family into his court for a year after they flee Mali. Hospitable to his guests, he treats the children like princes and princesses of his own country. When Sogolon falls ill in Ghana, the family must leave for the more healthful climate of Mema. The generosity and kindness of Soumaba Cisse ensure goodwill for his people when Sundiata becomes a great ruler.
Do Mansa-Gnemo Diarra
Do Mansa-Gnemo Diarra is the king of the land of Do. When he grants the ugly hunchbacked woman Sogolon Kedjou as the prize to the hunters who kill the buffalo ravaging his lands, he starts the cycle of events that bring Sundiata's parents together. The people of Do join Sundiata in defeating the sorcerer-king Soumaoro.
King Gnemo Diarra
See Do Mansa-Gnemo Diarra.
Sundiata's youngest sister, Sogolon Djamarou goes into exile with her family when her mother, Sogolon Kedjou, fears that Sundiata is in danger from the plotting of the king's first wife.
Nare Maghan Djata
Maghan Kon Fatta
Sundiata's father, Maghan Kon Fatta, is known for his great physical attractiveness and his hunting skills. He is also considered to be a wise and kind ruler. Already married, he expects his first son, Dankaran Touman, to be his heir until the day that a soothsaying hunter tells him that another son, not yet born, had been foreseen to rule Mali. From this point on, Maghan Kon Fatta struggles between following that which was foretold and that which appears on the surface to be the natural way of things.
When he sees the ugly hunchbacked woman Sogolon, he can hardly believe that he is to marry her, yet he fulfills the prophecy by their union. Even when their son, Sundiata, is born lame, Maghan Kon Fatta complies with the soothsayer and declares the child to be his heir. Each decision is difficult for Maghan Kon Fatta, but the fact that he follows the advice of the soothsayers and village wise men, rather than making the choices that his pride dictates, is held to be indicative of his wisdom and goodness as a ruler.
Griot to King Maghan Kon Fatta, Gnankouman Doua often advises the king when he must make important decisions. It is the griot who encourages the Hunter of Sangaran to reveal the prophecy about the king's future bride, Sogolon. Reminding the king of his duty to follow the prophecy of the hunter, Gnankouman Doua helps fulfill Sundiata's destiny. Gnankouman Doua's son, Balla Fasseke, continues his father's line, becoming griot for Sundiata.
Given to Sundiata by his father, Balla Fasseke is Sundiata's griot and the son of King Maghan Kon Fatta's griot Gnankouman Doua. Sundiata's half-brother Dankaran Touman sends Balla Fasseke to the court of the sorcerer-king Soumaoro. Having learned the secrets of Soumaoro's chamber of fetishes, Balla Fasseke, along with Nana Triban, advises Sundiata on the magic required to drain the sorcerer king's powers. Because he is instrumental in Sundiata's victory over Soumaoro, and the praise songs he sings about Sundiata, Balla Fasseke ensures that Sundiata's descendants, the Keita, will always chose their griots from his line, the Kouyate. Djeli Mamoudou Kouyate, who told the version of the epic that was transcribed by D. T. Niane, claims descent from Balla Fasseke.
Hunter from Sangaran
The Hunter from Sangaran shows up at Maghan Kon Fatta's court one day to give the king a portion of his catches, as custom dictates. Sangaran hunters were known to be great soothsayers, so Maghan Kon Fatta and his griot ask him to tell about the future of Mali. Divining with cowry shells, the hunter is the first to tell the king about Sogolon, her destined marriage with the king, and the remarkable destiny in store for the son they will have together.
Son of the King of Tabon, Fran Kamara grows up in the court of King Maghan Kon Fatta together with Sundiata. When Sundiata's family flees Mali, they travel first to Tabon, but Fran Kamara's elderly father fears retribution from Sassouma Berete and her son Dankaran Touman and insists that the family stay only briefly before moving on. Once his father has died, Fran Kamara becomes an ally of Sundiata in his battle with Soumaoro.
The evil sorcerer-king Soumaoro subjugates the surrounding peoples and reigns over them. His strength derives from the powers of darkness. When he appropriates both Sundiata's griot and his nephew's wife, he angers these two warriors enough to encourage them to join forces to defeat him at the battle of Krina.
A hunchback, the ugly Sogolon is an unlikely choice as bride by the successful hunters of the Buffalo of Do. However, they promised the old woman who revealed the secret of hunting the buffalo to select Sogolon. Unable to consummate a sexual relationship with her, because she draws on the strength of the buffalo which she embodies to fight them off, the hunters give Sogolon to the king of Mali, thus fulfilling the destiny prophesied by the hunter/soothsayer of Sangaran. The second wife of the king, Sogolon is mocked by the king's first wife when her son Sundiata turns out to be crippled. When Sogolon finally laments her son's condition in front of him, Sundiata finds within himself the strength and courage to walk. Sogolon flees with her family after the king's death to protect her son and eventually dies in exile.
Frako Maghan Keigu
See Maghan Kon Fatta.
King of Ghana
See Soumaba Cisse.
King of Mali
See Maghan Kon Fatta.
King of Mema
See Mansa Tounkara.
King of Sosso
See Soumaoro Kante.
See Sogolon Kedjou.
The first host of Sogolon and her family, Mansa Konkon welcomes the exiles from Mali at the royal court of Djedba until Sassouma Berete bribes him to kill Sundiata. Mansa Konkon challenges Sundiata to a word game called wori, with the stakes being death to Sundiata if he loses. Sundiata, aware of the bribe, wins the game in revealing the king's treachery. Sundiata's life is spared, but he and his family must once again flee.
Fakoli is Soumaoro's nephew and right-hand man until Soumaoro steals his wife. This so enrages Fakoli that he begins the revolt against the tyrant. Sundiata joins forces with this mighty warrior to defeat Soumaoro at Krina.
Lion of Mali
Maghan the handsome
See Maghan Kon Fatta.
See Maghan Kon Fatta.
Namandje is the third wife of Sundiata's father, King Maghan Kon Fatta. In sharp contrast to Sogolon, Namandje's beauty is legendary. Namandje's son, Manding Bory, becomes Sundiata's best friend.
the old woman
See Buffalo of Do.
Sogolon Kolonkan is Sundiata's oldest sister. While her family is in exile in Mema, it is Kolonkan who recognizes the baobab leaves from Mali in the market. Knowing that they are not locally available, she speaks with the woman selling them and learns that envoys from Mali have come searching for her brother Sundiata.
One of the two brothers who hunt and kill the Buffalo of Do. Their kindness to an old woman unlocks the secret of killing the buffalo. In return for the knowledge she gives them, they agree to select Sogolon as their bounty. Unable to possess Sogolon sexually, Oulamba gives her to the king of Mali, Maghan Kon Fatta, forming the union that will produce the great king Sundiata.
One of the two brothers who hunt and kill the Buffalo of Do and bestow Sogolon on King Maghan kon Fatta.
Sogo Simbon Salaba
Sundiata begins his life as an unlikely hero. Although soothsayers have predicted great things for this child, his body is crippled from birth and by the age of seven he has still not learned to walk. He was conceived in the union of the Buffalo Woman with the Lion King. Fortune tellers say that he will become the greatest ruler Mali has ever known. His mother's rival attempts to change his destiny and keep her son on the throne of Mali, but as the story shows, the rightful ruler of the Malinke eventually triumphs. Despite hardships, misfortune and physical infirmity, Sundiata grows to be the mighty warrior predicted by the prophets, saving his people from a tyrant.
Dankaran Touman, son of Sassouma Berete, is Maghan Kon Fatta's first son and the heir to the throne before the birth of Sundiata. Even though the conflict between Dankaran Touman and Sundiata over the throne causes much hardship for Sundiata and his family, Dankaran Touman never proves himself to be a bad person. He would have been content to let Sundiata take his place as heir, but Dankaran's mother prods and goads him into an antagonistic relationship with his stepbrother. He proves to be a coward rather than a scoundrel, subjugating himself to the evil sorcerer king, Soumaoro, and fleeing from conflict when his attempt to revolt against Soumaoro meets with failure.
The king of Mema hosts Sundiata and his family during their exile from Mali after they have been forced to leave several other courts due to the intrigues of Sassouma Berete. Impressed by Sundiata's courage, he makes Sundiata his heir and main general. When Sundiata decides to return to his people and try to free them from the tyranny of Soumaoro, the king grows angry and even refuses to let Sundiata bury his mother in his land. Tounkara and Sundiata are later reconciled. Tounkara is an ally during the fight with Soumauro, and is rewarded once Sundiata becomes ruler of Mali.
Nana Triban is the daughter of Maghan Kon Fatta's first wife Sassouma Berete and the sister of Dankaran Touman. Because of the enmity between Sogolon and Sassouma, one would expect Nana Triban to join with her family in hating Sundiata. At an important moment, however, Nana Triban sides with Sundiata and is crucial in helping him overcome the sorcerer king, Soumaoro. Nana Triban had been given to Soumaoro as a wife by her brother during his rule of Mali. She helps Sundiata overcome the evil sorcerer king by telling him how to overcome Soumaoro's powers.