Characters in The Epic of Son-Jara

Bilal: An Etheopian slave who lived in Mecca at the time of Mohammad.  He became a  friend and companion of the Prophet Mohammed & consequently the patriarch of African Muslims. Son-Jara’s father (and therefore Son-Jara as well) is a descendent of Bilal, suggesting both his authority & perhaps a sense of magic or power.

Dankaran Tuman: Son-Jara’s half brother; the son of Fata Magan and Saman Barete. Dankaran Tuman is actually born before Son-Jara (on the same day), but a mix up in announcements causes him to be declared the younger son. He becomes Son-Jara’s chief rival for control of the Manden, and he participates in Son-Jara’s exile.

Dan Mansa Wulanba & Dan Mansa Wulandin: Two brothers from the Manden who, with the help of a magic weapon, kill Du Kamisa, who has transformed herself into a buffalo to terrorize the people of her ungrateful Nephew, Magan Jata Kòndè of Du.

Du Kamisa: The Aunt of Magan Jata Kòndè who transforms herself into a buffalo after her nephew cuts off her breasts and banishes her from his kingdom.

Doka the Cat: Son-Jara’s bard. Sumamuru wants Doka the Cat as his own bard, but Doka protests that he can only serve one master, Son-Jara. So Sumamuru commits a grave insult to Son-Jara by injuring Doka so that he cannot leave.

Fa-Koli: The nephew of Sumamuru who defects to Son-Jara when his uncle, who has a hundred wives already, steals his only wife.

Fata Magan the Handsome: Son Jara’s father and the first King of the Manden.

Jeli: The Manding name for a bard, or storyteller. The French word, griot, is also used to describe the same thing.

Kala Jula Sangoyi: The first jeli, or griot, to tell the story of Son-Jara.

Magan Jata Kòndè: The ruler of the Twelve Towns. He mistreats his aunt, Du Kamisa, who turns into a buffalo. When his realm is rescued by the bravery of the Dan Mansa brothers, he gives them Sugulun Kòndè to take with them to the Manden.

The Manden: The central kingdom of the epic. Land that Son Jara rules and builds into the capital of the Mali Empire.

Mèma: The land where Son-Jara lives in exile from the Manden. In several particulars, Mèma resembles Medina, where the prophet Mohammed lived in exile while he prepard to overtake Mecca.

Nakana Tiliba: The principal Queen of Darkness.

Saman Berete: The first wife of Fata Magan the Handsome; mother of Dankaran Tuman. Saman Berete is responsible for the curse the prevents Son-Jara from walking for nine years and for his subsequent exile to Mèma.

Son-Jara Keita: The Epic Hero, son of Fata Magan the Handsome and Sugulun Kòndè; the builder and first great king of the Mali Empire. Also called Nare Magen Kònate.

Sugulun Kòndè: Son-Jara’s mother. She is brought to the Manden by Dan Mansa Wulanba and Dan Mansa Wulandin after they kill the Buffalo that has been menacing the Twelve Towns.

Sugulun Kulunkan: Son-Jara’s sister. Sugulun Kulunkan spies on Sumamuru by pretending to come to him as one of his wives.

Sumamuru: The Blacksmith King. Sumamuru is an evil sorcerer-king who conquers the Manden from Dankaran Tuman while Son-Jara is in exile in Mèma. Sumamuru, rather than Dankaran Tuman, becomes Son-Jara’s principal enemy in the latter part of the narrative. In order to gain control of the Manden, Son-Jara must raise an army and lead an assault on the Blacksmith King who has usurped the land. Also called Susu Mountain Sumamuru.

The 9 Queens of Darkness: Surogate mothers to Son-Jara.  Possessing 9 times the power of one mother, they teach him the magic that allows Son-Jara to master his world. "They have slain the 99 Master-of-Shadow" (1918).   I wonder if they look somethng like the beautiful mask below?
Back to English 203 
unit 10: Son-Jara

The mask is from the 
Angola region of Africa.
See it & other great art at:
  The Smithsonian