The Story of Samba Gana


An African story of love and valor from the oral traditions of the Fulani people.

It is hard to find African stories of love in the oral traditions that I have searched; but the story of a Fulani couple in the ancient kingdom of Mali comes close.  These stories may sound strange to western people; but tremendous thought and meaning goes into their creation.  Check back again soon to find more. 

The Story of Samba Gana 

Annallja Tu Bari was the daughter of a prince.  Everyone who saw her was impressed with her tremendous beauty and wisdom.  Many noble men sought to marry her, but she always demanded that each would do something that they would not be willing to do.    

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The woman's father was the ruler of the village where Annallja Tu Bari lived; and of many smaller villages as well.  In a dispute with a neighboring ruler, the father lost the village.  The sorrow that followed caused the father to die.  Annallja now demanded that every suitor win back the lost village, and that they conquer an additional 80 villages as well.  Years passed, and no one was able to meet her demands.  Annallja grew more beautiful every year; but she grew steadily more melancholy as well.  All of her servants and citizens followed her example, and laughter was not heard in her dominion. 

A neighboring prince had a son named Samba Gana.  As was customary in his land, when Samba Gana left the home of his father to seek a land of his own.  He took with him his tutor Tararafe; and as they traveled, Samba Gana was filled with joy and laughed often. 

They came to a town and challenged the prince who ruled it.  They conquered the village, and when the defeated prince pled for his life, Samba Gana said: You can keep your village, it means nothing to me. 

As Samba Gana traveled on, he fought one prince after another and was victorious in every battle. Always he said: : You can keep your village, it means nothing to me.  Finally Samba Gana had conquered all of the princes in the region; but had no land of his own.  He always returned what he had won, and continued on, laughing on his way. 

One day while he was camping by the river, his tutor sang a song of the beauty and loneliness of Annallja Tu Bari: Only he who conquers eighty villages can win Annallja Tu Bari and make her laugh.   After hearing the song, he sprang to his feet, and commanded his servants to ride immediately to the land of Annalja Tu Bari. 

The company rode day and night for many days to reach the town.  Samba Gana was entranced with the woman's beauty; and saw that she did not laugh as he did.  Annalja Tu Bari gave Samba Gana the names of the 80 towns she required; and Samba Gana set off at once to win the woman's love.  He left Tararafe his tutor with Annalja Tu Bari to sing to her the stories of his master; and of his many conquests. 

Samba Gana journeyed across the countryside conquering one prince after another.  After each conquest, he commanded the defeated prince to travel to Annalja Tu Bari; and to tell her that the village was hers.  Soon the eighty princes; and many more; had reported to Annalja Tu Bari, and she ruled over them all. 

Samba Gana returned to Annalja Tu Bari to tell her that all she had wished for was now hers.  Annalja Tu Bari said: You have indeed performed an amazing task.  Take me, Im yours.  Samba Gana said: I will not marry you until you laugh.  Annalja Tu Bari replied: At first I could not laugh for the pain of my father.  Now, I can not laugh because of my hunger.  When Samba Gana asked how he could cure her hunger, Annalja Tu Bari replied that he must conquer the snake of Issa Beer, which causes plenty in one year, and famine the next.  No one has ever dared to attack the serpent replied Samba Gana; but because of my love for you, I will attack and defeat him. 

Samba Gana set out on a long journey.  He traveled through one village, and then another.  He journeyed further and further up the banks of the great river, but still he found no serpent.  After many days had passed, Samba Gana found the serpent; and a tremendous battle followed. 

At first Samba Gana seemed to be defeating the serpent.  Then the serpent would appear to be the victor.  The struggle continued for days, and months, and years.  For eight years Samba Gana battled the serpent.  During this time, mountains collapsed and earthquakes created giant chasms.  Samba Gana broke eighty swords; and had only one sword left.  At the end of eight years he conquered the serpent, and gave the final blood stained sword to Tararafe saying: Return to Annalja Tu Bari; give her the sword; and tell her that the serpent has been defeated.  I want to know if she will laugh now. 

Tararafe returned to Annalja Tu Bari and gave her the message.  The woman told the tutor to bring the serpent to her so that it might be her slave, and lead the river to her country.  Only then, said Annalja Tu Bari, will I laugh. 

The tutor returned with these words to his master.  Samba Gana answered: the woman asks for too much.  He took up the bloody sword, plunged it into his heart, laughed once more, and he died. 

Tararafe took the sword, mounted his horse, and returned to Annalja Tu Bari.  He reported to the woman: Here is the sword of Samba Gana.  It holds now the blood of both the serpent and of Samba Gana.  Samba Gana has laughed for the last time. 

Annalja Tu Bari called on all of the princes and chiefs who were gathered in her town.  Together they rode their horses day and night until they came to the place where Samba Gana had died.  Annalja Tu Bari commanded: This prince was greater than all that have come before him: build him a tomb that will tower far above those of every other chief and prince and great warrior. 

The tremendous work began.  The workers numbered eight times eight hundred.  A giant pyramid rose from their labors.  As time passed, this became the greatest tomb in the land.  

One evening as Annalja Tu Bari, the tutor, and the chiefs and princes ate together, Annalja Tu Bari proclaimed that now the tomb of Samba Gana was the greatest of the land.  Annalja Tu Bari laughed.  After laughing she commanded all of the princes and chiefs over whom she ruled to go and conquer as Samba Gana had done.  She then laughed again, and she died.  

The people mourned the death of Annalja Tu Bari; and she was placed in the tomb with Samba Gana.  The chiefs and princes then all rode away.  Each journeyed in a different direction, and fought to create great kingdoms of their own.

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