Mwindo: Rank’s Hero
Child of distinguished parents: His distinguished
parents are the chief Shemwindo and his
seventh and favorite wife.
Origin preceded by difficulties: Mwindo's
origin is preceded by the difficulty that his
father is going to kill all of his sons and by the
difficulty that he wouldn't be born until he
Prophecy warning against his birth or
threatening the death of his father:
Shemwindo promises that he will kill any sons.
The prophecy comes also from Mwindo
himself; after he is born when he promises to
kill his father.
Surrender to the water in a box/basket: He is
surrendered to the river in a drum made out
of a tree.
Saved by animals and lowly people: When
he is first buried, he is saved by maidens
hearing his singing.
He finds his distinguished parents: He goes to
find his father in the village after he visits his
aunt. (he doesn't need to grow up because
he is already grown: "just born he walked"
He takes revenge: He burns down his
father's village (revenge)
Achieves rank and honors: He becomes a
great chief in villages all over.
Campbell’s Departure for Mwindo
The call to adventure is the awakening of self:
Mwindo's birth. (He is awakened to his role as
the leader who will end his father’s reign)
Refusal of the call may be seen as Mwindo's refusal
to be born in a customary way, as children are
born. He also refused to be born from the mouth
as bats are born. Instead, he was born by
traveling up his mother's body and down her
arm, through her middle finger.
Campbell’s Departure Continued
Supernatural aid comes from we don't know where
but gives him an amulet in the form of the scepter and
the axe he was born with and also the bag of good
fortune holding the long rope. The midwives also try to
protect him. Master Muisa breaks him in half but the
scepter saves him. He is also aided by Master Sparrow
who tells him that his father has fled the underworld
and the spirit of good fortune who gives him advice
about how to proceed in the underworld.
The threshold guardian is his father, Shemwindo, who
unsuccessfully tries to kill him. This is his first struggle.
Campbell’s Departure Continued
The belly of the whale could be seen as either the
drum that he is imprisoned (womblike). It the death of
his innocent self and the birth of the self who is
vindictive and wants his revenge. It is the birth of his
Or it could be seen as the time he spent with Nkuba,
the humbling of the enormous ego of Mwindo and the
beginning of the time of his being a great chief.
Initiation of Mwindo
Road of trials
Fighting Mukiti, Iynagura's husband and Kasiyembe, her
Fighting his father, Shemwindo.
Going to the underworld and not getting stuck there by eating
the food or violating behavior codes.
Killing the dragon and getting out the people he had eaten
from inside it.
Facing Master Lightning and going from place to place
without shelter and freezing.
Facing Master Rain and suffering 14 rain storms and hail.
Facing Master Moon and getting his head burnt.
Facing master Sun and getting burnt and parched.
Facing Master Star and getting advice and getting his ears
pulled 14 times.
The Meeting With the Goddess
Iyangura, his aunt: she represents the totality of that
which can be known because she tries to give him
sound advice and to keep him from seeking revenge
against Kasiyembe and his father. She also acts as a
judge after he gets his father from the underworld
Woman as Temptress
You could see Mwindo’s hatred and desire for revenge
against Kasiyembe and his father as the temptress as it
represented his darker side of fulfilling his own desires.
Atonement With The Father
Meets and forgives his father, sets him
back on the throne. This represents his
taking on his adult role as leader and
understanding that revenge will not
help his realm, an adult way of
understanding the world.
Initiation of Mwindo
Apotheosis: After rescuing father, he goes back and tells
the people the difference between right and wrong
and he would not rule in his father's kingdom but
would have his own and would rule more justly. He
rules his own realm with respect for all people. He
creates commandments. After the meeting with the
gods, he spreads wisdom so he has learned it and is in
a god-like state.
The Ultimate Boon is making life better for the villagers
and the world: bringing new treatment of sons, less
vice, agreement, peace, "ten commandments"
The Return of Mwindo
Refusal of the return: Mwindo tells Master
Lightning (Nkuba) that he has more power
than the god. He refuses to learn his need
Magic flight: He wanders from place to place
without shelter; He learns his lessons from
Master Rain, Master Moon, Master, Sun and
Mwindo’s Return Continued
Rescue from without: The gods explain all that
he has needs to do to be a kind and just
ruler. They teach him the rules he needs to
learn before he can return and thus enable
The Crossing of the return threshold: He comes
back to his village and tells his people of all
of his trials. (communicating what he has
learned to others
Master of the two worlds: He returns
from the sky, unable to kill, and gives
out the wisdom. He passes laws. He
teaches people to understand
suffering as he has had to learn to
understand it. He gives out the
“Four times Wagadu rose. A great city, gleaming in the light of day. Four
times Wagadu fell. And disappeared from human sight. Once through
vanity. Once through dishonesty. Once through greed. Once through
Thus begins Gassire’s Lute, a West African epic poem of the Soninke, the
rulers of the ancient kingdom of Ghana. Gassire’s Lute tells the story of
Gassire, a vain warrior obsessed with immortality. He gives up everything
to gain immortality through the Dausi, a song that would allow his
exploits to live on forever.
The epic was originally documented in 1905 by Leo Frobenius, a German
anthropologist. This most recent adaptation is done by anthropologist
Alta Jablow, Professor Emeritus of Brooklyn College . It also includes an
essay by Jablow that gives special insight to the epic and the history it
represents. I found it amusing that Mr. Frobenius used Lute to describe
the musical instrument of Gassire. Today this instrument is widely known
as a kora. This book is an interesting read, one of a few that gives a
view of the nobility, dignity and history of the Soninke. Professor Jablow
does and excellent job bringing this epic tale to life and explaining its
In small groups for about 15 minutes, discuss how
Gassire’s Lute falls into a hero’s myth category
and how it departs from it.
Also. Please note characteristics that are similar
to other myths.
Next class will be the in-class midterm. Please be
on time as we will take the in-class midterm
during the first half hour. Then we will go over
the final group presentation so that you can get
started working with groups. We will also go over
the final essay project.
Make sure that you buy you Classic Fairy
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