Topics for Further Study

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The griot plays an important role in Malinke society and in sustaining and developing the oral texts of such epics as Sundiata. Find one or more passages from the text of Sundiata in which the griot's art is discussed. Contrast that image with the image of the historian in American or European cultures.

Explore expressions of friendship in the epic. Who are the important sets of friends? What traits are admired in friends? How do friends help Sundiata accomplish his destiny?

Animal imagery plays an important role in the epic. What does this imagery add to your reading of the epic? Give examples from both this work and twentieth-century books or movies.

Sundiata divides his empire into parts at the end of the text. Contrast his system of administration and justice with that of present-day Mali or that of your own country.

Most of the women who appear in Sundiata are defined by their relationships to men. Their actions are considered important chiefly for the ways that they impact male characters. Are any of this epic's women characters defined wholly on their own terms? Consider some differences between the status of women in thirteenth-century Mali culture and late twentieth-century American culture. Is it ever appropriate to apply the standards of one culture to the literature of another? Can a modern American or European student find anything to value in a work of art produced by a culture that differs radically from the student's own?

Compare the plot of the full-length animated Disney film The Lion King with that of Sundiata. Discuss what you see as similarities and differences between the thirteenth-century epic and the 1994 cartoon movie.

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