Balladeer’s Blog resumes its blog posts about neglected mythological epics from around the world. This particular epic comes from the Bambara people of the Kingdom of Segu in what is now Mali.
THE BAKARIDJAN KONE EPIC – Djeli, the poet-historians of the Bambara people for over 300 years, would often recite, chant and sing this epic myth while playing their stringed instruments called ngoni.
A. The future father of Bakaridjan Kone is a noble-born farmer in Disoro Nko. He grows tired of his agrarian lifestyle and his wives. (“Segu City’s where he’d rather be/ He gets allergic smelling hay” Had to be said.) Hearing that Da Monzon, the great ruler of the Kingdom of Segu, knows how to create gold, the disenchanted farmer goes to Segu City and becomes part of the court of Da Monzon, only to learn the gold story is not true.
B. Kumba, one of the errant farmer’s wives, gives birth to a boy. His deadbeat dad refuses to be present for the naming ceremony but hints around to Da Monzon that maybe he should provide him with a gift to celebrate the birth. Da Monzon is disgusted with the man for abandoning his wives and not being present for said naming ceremony.
Instead, the king sends cowries to the wives so they can perform a proper ceremony, at which he wants the baby to be named Bakaridjan Kone. As the provider of the boy’s name, Da Monzon has made himself the child’s adopted father.
C. Years go by, and, royal politics being what they are no matter the culture or time period, Da Monzon begins to worry that he may get killed and/or overthrown before any of his sons are old enough to take over as king. His morike (oracle or diviner) tells him that no full-grown man poses a threat, but there is a boy-child who would one day be able to seize the throne. The morike advises Da Monzon to find a boy who is tough enough to not cry out when his foot is pierced by the king’s spear. THAT is the boy who might overthrow the king. Continue reading