Monday, June 17, 2019

The epics of the Mande (Following folktales around the world 111. - Guinea)

Today I continue the blog series titled Following folktales around the world! If you would like to know what the series is all about, you can find the introduction post here. You can find all posts here, or you can follow the series on Facebook!

Once again, it was really hard to locate stories from Guinea (at least in the languages I speak), so I went looking for epics, and found some excerpts in this book. The book contains two epics recorded in Guinea, both from the Mande tradition, and while it did not give the whole text in either case, it did have some intriguing scene selections, and background information.

Almami Samori Touré

The eponymous hero of the epic was a 19th century warrior chief who resisted French colonization, and conquered his own empire in the region of modern day Guinea. His epic was narrated by a Mande story-singer named Sory Fina Kamara, who focused on the conquest, rather than the resistance.
Much like in the epic I read for Senegal, the hero here also had an active childhood, leading other children into trouble. Djinn also once again made an appearance - in this case, twin djinn women, who gifted a musket to the hero. They turned into snakes and wrapped themselves around him, extracting a promise that he would not attacked people who were served by their djinn relatives. The epic also featured a female hero: One-breasted Demba. She fell in love with Samori's brother and kept sending him food, which made Samori suspect that his brother was betraying him. To prove his innocence, the brother marched into battle unarmed, and was killed. Demba then put on her brother's clothes, and marched into battle herself, to take revenge for the death of her lover.


Musadu is not a hero, it's a city, founded by a slave named Zo Musa, and later conquered by a Mande hero named Foningama. The founding of the city happened sometime between the 13th and 15th centuries, while the hero lived in the 16th, so it is likely that the two epics were combined into one later on. The epic was recorded from a university professor named Moiké Sidibe, himself a descendant of Foningama.
The epic opens with a familiar trope: Foningama is his father's youngest child, and yet his father selects him to receive his blessing and medicine. This angers his older brother's, who try to get rid of him.

Where to next?
Sierra Leone!


  1. Looking forward to Sierra Leone! That is where my mtdna goes back to.

  2. good post 😊 would you like to follow each other? if the answer is yes, please follow me on my blog & i'll follow you back.