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The Silent Mother's Dream

The Silent Mother’s Dream

Samory and Sogane’ Toure’

Samory Touré. Warrior king, empire builder and hero of the resistance against the French colonization of West Africa.

In West Africa before the invasions of the European among the Mandingo people a plain girl was born. She was no great beauty, her name had no special meaning she did not have attentive and loving parents nor a drop of noble blood within her. She was not even aware of her own strength and the simple dignity of her bearing. Some would say she was a raised as a woman born to serve, for she exuded no great confidence but always did as she was told silently. It is said the gods were looking at some other village rather than Magnanbalandugu on the day she was born. So when she became a young woman of marriageable age she was given to an old weaver named Laviaafiya Toure’ as his sixth wife. Since she never spoke up for herself, even when it came to asking for food she became as a servant to the other wives and their children. That is until she found she was with child and it was as if her life had suddenly began and her eyes shone as if she had awoken from the dead.

To her great surprise she gave birth to a boy who was perfect in every way right down to his toenails he was beautiful. Each day as she fed him she felt her joy rise within her and a deep resentment at how she had been treated during her life and although she was tempted to speak of such things she remained silent for she had a secret of her own she did not want to spill. So she kept her lips sealed and gave her child the unassuming name of Samory. Samory was the name the world would know him as because it was a common name he might go unnoticed for a while but she knew he was born for greatness and whenever she picked him up to secure him on her back as she did her daily chores she would call him nicknames unknown to others in the Mande’ country: ”My little fire” she would call him, my righteous fury, my anger that does me good…The reason she called him this is that on the night before he was born she had a dream unlike any she had ever had before.

She saw herself in labor and felt the heat of flames all around her as she raised her legs upward like rising flames toward the thatched roof of the birthing hut. A elder woman urged her to push and as she gave birth a great serpent appeared falling from the heavens its mouth wide ready to engulf all of Mande’ country but she bore a great lion with teeth as large as mountains that bit the serpent in half and stood guarding all of Mande’ land. Sogane’ Toure’ would not mention this vision until much later in life and then praise singers would cite it often.

Sogane’ realized her belly had given birth to a great leader of men, a born warrior and this news appeased her heart. For him, she worked harder than ever before collecting shea tree nuts in secret to make a salve for his skin, spinning cotton at night so his clothes would be well made. When it was hot at night she would blow on his sleeping form to cool him. She fed him the best foods and fed his mind with ideas and stories to stoke the fire of his imagination. As he grew into a young man Samory was much taller than the other boys of the village. He had large black hands like iron with little rust colored patches like a black leopard. Like the other young men he had his teeth filed down into sharp points but when he laughed his upper lip curled into a sneer and he looked like a roaring lion.

When Samory was old enough to leave home his Mother urged him to flee the family home lest he become someone like her. Samory laughed his lion laugh and showed no fear saying he would stay to protect and care for her as he was the strongest but also the most peaceful boy of the village and desired nothing more than to care for his aging Mother who had cared so much for him. But after a few months of Sogane’s insistance he finally agreed to take a job as a merchant to sell kola nuts traveling the dangerous routes between Konanka and Sankaran. Many times Muslim bandits tried to attack him and steal his goods or enslave him but he was too strong and would transform into a mighty warrior with arms and legs so strong and fast it seemed as if they would multiply every time he struck a foe. He would leave many bandits broken and bleeding on the road as he tied up his bundles and walked calmly away returning once a month to the village of Magnanbalandugu to bring gifts and food to his mother.

One day Samory arrived home to find his Mother’s village had been attacked by the knights of Serebourema, The King of Wasulunka who had taken his mother into slavery. Samory found out she was in Madina the capitol of Serebourema sold to a chief named Kouyate’. Samory went to his father to ask for a few head of cattle to purchase his Mother’s freedom but his Father refused deciding to use the cattle to get himself a new younger wife instead. Frustrated Samory went to the capitol and offered himself in exchange for his mother’s freedom but the greedy chief kept both of them and warned he would harm Samory’s mother if he did not stay and heed his commands.

Every day Sogane’ begged her son to leave and find his destiny and everyday Samory chose to stay until seven years had gone by. But Sogane’ did not waste those seven years she learned all about healing and had become a Yegou Nieoumanmusso, a woman who could wring out potent fluid from solid iron that could make you into an invincible warrior. Every day she washed her sons face and feet with this water.

In the seventh year Samory still a slave was drafted into the army in his master’s stead to fight as one of the King’s troops. In every battle he fought he captured a slave who he offered to his Mother’s master in exchange for her freedom, but the master refused. So Samory doubled his efforts in battle capturing twice as many slaves then before laughing as his enemies ran away before him. Samory became so fearsome that even the king noticed his bravery and asked of his War-Chiefs ”Who is this lion of a warrior who laughs in the midst of battle, teeth gleaming? Bring him to me immediately” But by that time the battle was won and Samory was at the river washing a scratch he had received in battle with the iron water his mother had given him so he could heal quickly. After a day had gone by Samory was brought before the King who asked him how he came to be a part of his army.

By this time Samory was well aware of the darkness that lies in the hearts of powerful men so he cautiously told his tale, of how he had been a merchant, a slave and a warrior. He told the King that his greatest desire was to free his mother and continue to serve under the great king. He stated that if the King would free his Mother he would be proud to lead his armies to even greater victories. King Serebourema was moved by his words and told him he would free him from slavery as he needed a lion with shining teeth such as he to fight under his flag. He bade Samory to fetch his mother and bring her back as he would make him a chief and give him his own rifle and horse as well.

Samory agreed and quickly left but he realized that the King would be grateful only for a short time, and soon that praise for Samory’s skill would become fear as the King realized someone with such skills could one day take his Kingdom for his own. Samory decides to take his Mother on a different route using old hunting trails rather than the main roads. Sure enough Serebourema changed his mind and sent soldiers to ambush Samory and his mother on their way back with orders to bring them back to him in chains. On their way back to the village Sogane tires and so Samory cuts some wood and builds a fire to cook some meat. The meat is fatty and it makes sputters on the wood so Samory lies down between his mother and the flames to protect her from the sparks. During the night Samory’s blanket catches fire and one of his legs is scarred. They each help each other on the long road back to Magnanbalandugu, where Sogane’s heart finally wears down and she lies down to die in the doorway of her hut.

The world became so silent villagers, cousins and friends who came by to visit said they could hear her heartbeat and each breath until a deep sigh rose from her and she began to sing. She sang a song of young girls going to fetch water, a song of expectations and the virtue of youth and how it should be nurtured it was a song no one had ever heard before. The next evening before the sun disappeared behind the mountains to light up the the next world she said the words known to ALL children of the Mande’” My son, you have been a slave for me for seven years, may the world now be your slave. Your blanket burned because of me, may the whole world now be your blanket. Then Songane died. Samory spent the night by her bed reflecting on the greed and evil that he had witnessed in the world. In the morning he forbade anyone to enter and did not come out until the third day. Those who were present say the man who came out of the tent was not the same man who entered. He was now a beast of prey. A man impassive, indomitable, no longer naïve. He bore a cruel sneer at the corner of his lips that never again would laugh in battle. Even as he conquered Mandingo country, and became one of Africa’s greatest leaders, he would always be known as the man who would never bow down to the Colonizer!


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