Essay on Sundaita and Cortes 1029 Words - Essay Prowess

Essay on Sundaita and Cortes 1029 Words


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Sundaita & Cortes

Referring to Fernando Cortes’ “Second Letter” and the book “Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali” by D.T Niane.

Option 1: Fernando (Hernando/Hernán) Cortés and Sundiata can both be seen as strong leaders and heroes in the “Second Letter” and Sundiata. Using only the assigned readings, what do these portrayals of leadership tell you about the cultures of Mali and Spain? Remember, the point is not to critique the leadership displayed, but to use these narratives of leadership to argue what

was and was not important and valued in the respective cultures. The best answers will indicate similarities and differences in a single overall argument.


Sundiata and Fernando Cortes are both leaders who demonstrated strong leadership styles in two distinct cultures namely Mali and Spain respectively. This paper analysis the similarities and differences on how the two leaders portrayed their leadership styles during their reign.

Both Sundiata and Fernando Cortes are kings of Mali and Spain respectively, and they have a relentless desire to see their kingdoms flourish to greater heights. They both establish a strong relationship with the people they rule whereby people demonstrate their respect and loyalty to their kings. Sundiata’s leadership entirely depended on consultation from the griot that was named as Balla Fasseke. Moreover, Sundiata mother also served as consultant to the king because he warned Sundiata that the queen mother had an intention of causing harm to the family hence as a king he was to leave and return to the kingdom early. Furthermore, Sundiata main consultant, Balla Fasseke discussed with Sundiata before he departed from the kingdom in regard to the history of the Mali and the role he was to undertake as a leader (Niane & Pickett, 1965).Similarly, Cortes hires the woman Malinche as interpreter, as well as his concubine. As a result, Cortes is able to subdue the Indian vassals against the Aztec emperor Moctezuma, and hence he uses this as an advantage to end the animosity between the people of Tascal-teca and Moctezuma (MacNutt, 1908).

In Sundiata, Mali had a patrilineal society where the kings’ title was inherited from the father to a son, showing a patrilineal society. Sundiata’s lineage started from his great-great grandfather Bamari Tagnogokelin. Besides, it was a cultural tradition that every prince in Mali had to have a griot whereby the griot would act as a consultant to the king during his reign. Moreover, Sundiata father tells his son to take into account every single word that came from the mouth of the griot in order to rule the kingdom according to the will of their ancestors. Therefore, Naré Maghan spoke to his son how he would rule the kingdom through assistant from his griot (Niane & Pickett, 1965). It is clear that being a king and the key roles of griots was the most valuable thing in Mali. Similarly, the Spanish Roman Empire consisted of emperor and had an established monarchy of leadership. Cortes in his letter to the emperor could be seen he intended to recover the new empire from Charles, the legal emperor. Therefore, there was also a passage of King’s title from father to son in the culture of Spain (MacNutt, 1908).

Religion was part of both Mali and Spanish cultures. Within the Spanish culture, Christianity was the main religion within the Holy Roman Empire and Cortes asserts that he reasons that they are morally obliged to fight the enemies of the Christian faith and to win glory here and in the next world. Additionally, Cortes claims that the battle was to continue in order to bring the pacification of the Spanish country. He also describes how he had used force of arms to revenge for the deaths of ten Spaniards by making rebels slaves. By bringing Christianity to new lands, Cortes brought individual fame and honor. Besides, his encouragement and motivation to his people towards the use faith of Christianity during the battle helped in uniting the people and succeed in the conquest (MacNutt, 1908).

Contrary, aspects of the Islamic religion is seen by Nare Fa Maghan, the son of a long lineage of distinguished hunters who were known for bravery, and the ability to communicate with the ancestors in spirits. The lineage of Sundiata father was known to rule over Mali at the beginning of 1200. Nare Fa Maghan had adapted to Islamic religion, but he continued to rely on the faith of spirits during his reign thus he obeyed all the aspects of prophesy. For example, the king fulfilled prophesy brought by the two hunters that required him to marry an ugly woman, who was believed that would bore him the future great king of Mali (Niane & Pickett, 1965).

After their marriage, the King Maghan’s first wife, Sassouma, was not happy since she wanted herb son to take over the throne after the king died. Thus, she plotted to kill Sogolon for jealousy as it was known that the woman would deliver a great king, but she never succeeded since the buffalo woman had great powers, and the boy (Sundiata) was born. Nevertheless, the young Sundiata could not walk, but his father still honored the prophecy because prior his death he had already chosen a griot for his son as a prince and named him Balla Fasseke, believing that one day he would be king (Niane & Pickett, 1965).


From the two literatures of Sundiata and the second letter by Fernando Cortes, it is clear that an oral tradition is one of the most important aspects of both Mali and Spanish culture. The leadership style was derived from the passage of the king’s lineage to the sons. Besides, both cultures demonstrate religion as part of cultural values including Christianity, Islam, and believing in the world of spirits. In addition, both leaders show the significance of consultation as party of successful leadership and decision making within both kingdoms.


MacNutt, F. A. (1908). Letters of Cortes: The Second Letter. G. P. Putnam’s Sons New York and London, the Knickerbocker Press. Digitized by the internet Archive in 2008 with funding from Microsoft Corporation. Accessed from:

Niane, D. T., & Pickett, G. D. (1965). [Soundjata, ou l’Épopée mandingue.] Sundiata, an epic of old Mali … Translated by G.D. Pickett. Longmans: London. Accessed from:

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