Sundiata is described as one with a difficult childhood, as he could not walk on his legs until seven and did not possess the beauty of his father. Sundiata, however, was unlike his peers in other ways as well: his intelligence surpassed his age and his father was able to speak to him like an adult, he found things that a child would be amused with boring and did not lash out against the ridicule towards himself or his mother. 3.
Sundiata is much different than the current antagonist of the story, Sassouma Berete, the first wife of the king and the queen-wife after he dies. Sassouma shows incredible jealousy and malice towards Sundiata and Sologon with her “fierce laughter which cut through your flesh and penetrates right to the bone” (p19) and with her desire to “put an end to this popularity (Sundiata’s) by killing Sundiata. ” (p24) 4. Sundiata is clearly portrayed as a hero even this early in the book and his life. When he was born “Thunder began to rumble and swift lightning rent the clouds …
A flash of lightning accompanied by a dull rattle of thunder burst out… ” (p13), which is indicative of someone of great importance being born. Sundiata possesses both physical strength, “his arms had the strength of ten” (p23) and also a sound grasp of moral justice, which is evident in his response to the test of the old witches, “Each time that you run short of condiments come to stock up here without fear. ” (p25) Thus far, Sundiata is portrayed as an incredibly gifted child in many ways.
An example of Sundiata’s heroic capabilities would be the instance when he allowed the witches to hoard the herbs in the garden. He was compassionate and friendly to the witches, who were going to use his supposed anger against him. Instead, the compassionate Sundiata allowed the witches their fill in herbs (and allowed them to return whenever they wanted). The witches were thankful and left in kindness. This change in identity by the witches shows just how much power Sundiata has on the population, even though he is not the king.