Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali

The Epic of Sundiata: Historical Evidence? College

Upon first inspection, The Epic of Sundiata seems to be a fantastical tale of witches, super human strength, and a man who cannot be deterred from his destiny. While the epic may not contain the classical makings of reliable historical evidence, it is essential to delve deeper into the story so as to explore the many facets of medieval Malian culture that are revealed. Somewhat like the Iliad and the Odyssey, the Epic of Sundiata was passed down as an oral tradition through generations of Malian people. Thus, there has been artistic license taken with the story, as it was passed from one griot (or storyteller) to the next. However, the epic has more to offer than exciting storytelling techniques. The Epic of Sundiata, while not an exact and verifiable history of medieval Mali, holds historical significance because it reveals aspects of Malian religion, moral values, and beliefs on destiny.

By following Sundiata’s life and ascent to power, the epic reveals the various religious beliefs of the time, illustrating how both paganism and Islam existed in unison. In the epic, there are ample references to Allah, for example, when Sundiata finally gains the use of his legs, his mother exclaims,

“‘Oh day, what a beautiful day,

Oh day,...

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