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Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali [Paperback]

D.T. Niane
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

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Paperback, April 4, 1995 --  
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Book Description

April 4, 1995 0582642590 978-0582642591
A traditional oral tale of Mali tells the story of Sundiata, the prince who united the twelve kingdoms of Mali into a powerful empire.

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Born in Guinea, author and playwright Djibril Tamsir Niane is a descendant of griots - African oral historians/storytellers. He translated Sundita, as told by the griot Djeli Mama dou Kouyate, into French under the title Soundjata ou Epoque Mandiginue in 1960. It was later translated into English by G.D. Pickett in 1965. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Longman Pub Group (April 4, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0582642590
  • ISBN-13: 978-0582642591
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 4.9 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,669,533 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
72 of 76 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fine Epic from West African Oral Tradition November 11, 2000
By Zerzura
Read the 84 pages of this text, and you've read a fine piece of West African literature remembered by poets since the 1300's. Read the eleven pages of Niane's insightful notes following this, and you've taken a crash course in the West African tribal/clan system. This epic seeks to explain the creation of the Malian empire of Timbuktu fame. Sundiata's legendary rise to power is presented chapter by chapter, in a fashion that can seem somewhat episodic at times, lending to the book's strong sense of oral tradition. Oral tradition is even defended in this text, with a brief, though thorough lambast of "Other peoples [who] use writing to record the past..." <That is, shoppers like us!>
In addition to its celebration of the adventures and eventual triumph of Sundiata, the book also tracks the adventures of Balla Fasséké, griot (royal poet) to Sundiata. As with many oral traditions from many cultures, a king without a poet to celebrate his triumphs is not much of a king. So their joint adventure, and sharing of duties, is emphasized.
Other side glimpses of West African culture provided (though not emphasized) in the text include: Islamic influences, women's social status, African society before the European invasion, West African sorcery.
In comparison to The Odyssey, this book will fall short for sheer reading pleasure. But it easily outstrips The Song of Roland, Gilgamesh, and The Tale of Kieu, and many another micro-sized epic. Roughly speaking, the epic Sundiata is what Beowulf would be if Beowulf the hero had any kind of human weakness or warmth or personality.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great African Oral History September 30, 2005
By NickyP
This is a great read, and I would encourage anyone who is interested about African oral history, to read Sundiata. It reflects the rich oral tradion that so greatly defines African culture. This is an epic about a cripple who becomes an Emperor (to put very simply). A great Hero Story.
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sundiata: A Story Worth Reading December 3, 2003
Sundiata is an epic of Old Mali. It talks about Sundiata who "was great among kings, he was peerless among men; he was beloved of God because he was the last of the great conquerors" (2). The events of this story seem to be exaggerated because they pictured Sundiata as a supernatural person, with supernatural powers. The writer mixed the true and exaggerated events in a very smart way that made the story seem not fictional but more or less true.
This exaggerated story show that the prophetic words of the hunters were real and that Sundiata is a complete and unique person. He had a unique mother, a strange birth, a weird childhood, a great struggle, a supernatural power, a great mind, an unlimited kindness, and justice. He combined all the characteristics that people wish to have. Not to forget that if the characteristics of Sundiata were not exaggerated, the story would not have lasted over all these years and he would have been forgotten.
This story is a great mean through which you can learn about the traditions and values of Old Mali. Through this story you can learn about the system of Kingship. You can also learn about the family system and the bonds that tie them.
I rarely read; however, I finished reading this story in one setting because it is very interesting and it was able to transfer me to a different world. The details of the settings and events made it so easy for me to picture myself on the battlefields, and among the travelers, etc...
For all the reasons stated above, I really recommend reading Sundiata and enjoying the great suspense and interesting events. I am sure that through this book you will acquire a new valuable experience.
Enjoy it.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From The Publishers: November 9, 2004
I am adding the following in hopes it may be of help to someone:

Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali


Retold by generations of griots-the guardians of African culture-this oral tradition has been handed down from thirteenth century and captures all the mystery and majesty of medieval African kingship. It is an epic tale-part history, part legend-which should rank alongside the 'Iliad' and the 'Odyssey' as one of the world's great adventure stories.
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5.0 out of 5 stars a must read! exciting epic to read. April 7, 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase

great story! great story! great story!

yes I recommend this book to others because it is based on true events.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty good product February 15, 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It was in fairly good condition, however, a section of the pages did fall out.
Although that was semi troublesome, books do fall apart and can happen at any time.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent April 30, 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I love the scenes, color and drama. This is so well written the actions, history, setting, and characters come alive.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book... December 31, 2012
By Jessica
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
For a word-of-mouth story, this one is definitely one of the better stories. It was purchased for a history class of mine, where it was required.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars GREAT AFRICA...
This book is awesome on so many levels that would take too much time to elaborate. But one thing that makes it very special for me is its richness in the African culture of... Read more
Published 9 months ago by B. D Fisher
4.0 out of 5 stars Medieval West African History
Worth reading if you are curious about Africa.

Describes events about A.D. 1217-1237. Mali--under black "Muslim" (but makes sacrifices to jinn) high king & emperor... Read more
Published 19 months ago by MW
5.0 out of 5 stars the story has not lost fat in the re-telling
The author has compiled a wonderful story of middle ages Northern Africa centered around a civilization known as Mali. Read more
Published 19 months ago by T. Stilwell
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting
I read this book for my Humanities class, I did enjoy the magical elements of it and found it to be a very interesting book. Although I did find it good, it's not my favorite.
Published on July 7, 2012 by Anel M
5.0 out of 5 stars A book to read if you love african culture
The book is very well written and gives the reader an insight to one of the greatest empires of Africa. Read more
Published on June 12, 2012 by mariam
5.0 out of 5 stars Great, Accessible Translation
This edition of the Sundiata epic is a prose translation, and as such it reads more like a novel than an epic (personally, I'm not a big fan of poetry and find that quite helpful). Read more
Published on March 9, 2012 by SusieBookworm (Susanna P)
5.0 out of 5 stars Great purchase
I go this book for very cheap. They said that it would come in about 5 or 6 days and I got it in about 2. I was overall pleased with my experience @
Published on August 28, 2009 by Nicole Pannell
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