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Chiwara, the antelope god of agriculture.

"But never try, wretch, to pierce the mystery which Mali hides from you. Do not go and disturb the spirits in their eternal rest. Do not ever go into the dead cities to question the past, for the spirits never forgive. Do not seek to know what is not to be known."
the Epic of Sundiata
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Mande mythology comprises the pre-Islamic beliefs and lore of the Mande speaking peoples of West Africa. Traditional bards known as "djelis” in the Manding subgroup or more commonly "griots" in English are the primary sources of Mande legends. Initiates into the secret societies alone had knowledge of the more esoteric traditional myths.

The most notable group of Mande speakers were the Mandinka people who founded the wealthy and powerful medieval kingdom of Mali. After its collapse, bands of Mande warriors and adventurers called the Mane expanded towards the rainforests of upper guinea, bringing Mande language and customs such as secret societies with them.

Like many African traditional religions there existed a hierarchy of spirit with the omnipotent Mangala on top. Below him were the lesser deities: Faro, the water god(dess) who rules over rain, thunder, lightning, rainbows, the seven heavens, self-discipline, and the power of words; Pemba, the god of the earth, trees, and rebirth; Muso Koroni, the goddess of discord, plants, animals, fertility, and human speech; Ndomayiri, the god of fire and first blacksmith; Teliko, the albino god of wind and sound; Surakata, the first griot who was as such god of music, storytelling, poetry, and other verbal arts; Dage (better known as Chiwara), the antelope god of agriculture; Sanen and Kontron, the hunting deities.

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Below the lesser nature and ancestor deities were the local spirits called "Jalang" such as Wokulos, Kondorongos, Ninkinankas, Danfin Woulous, Wanjilankos, and Bwas or Subagas.

Animating everything in the universe is a force called "Nyama". Nyama is a wild and unpredictable force that could be harnessed by skilled sorcerers for good or ill. The social caste known as "Nyamakalaw" or handlers of Nyama (blacksmiths, leatherworkers, and griots) were tasked with preventing Nyama from running out of control and shaping it for the benefit of man. Hunters lacked this natural gift, relying on magical skills and rituals instead.

Mande mythology had a significant impact on the mythology of surrounding peoples such as the Dogon, Fulani, Serer, and Wolof. Epics such as Sundiata and the Dausi are the most commonly known Mande legends. Mande traditional beliefs have survived to varying degrees of success into the modern-day. Despite the attempts of Islamic fundamentalists such as the Fulani in the 18th and 19th centuries belief in the power of ancestral spirits, witches, bush spirits, and magical charms lingers. Pagan heroes became "Walis" or Muslim saints. Cannibal-Witches became a cursed clan of sorcerers who dared drink the blood of the Prophet Mohammed. Witch doctors became "Marabouts" or Muslim sages. Charms formerly made up of plant and animal matter charged with Nyama became Gris-Gris bags inscribed with Quranic verses for similar effects.

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Mande myth provides examples of:

  • Abdicate the Throne: Dankaran Touman had no problem with this when he realized Sumanguru was coming for him.
  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: The sword of Dama Ngile hewed off the heads of cape buffalo and elephants effortlessly.
  • The Ace:
    • Sundiata is the greatest hunter, warrior, king, and magician.
    • Gassire's name was used as a synonym for awesome.
    • Paama Koono was beautiful and flexible like the great black serpent Bida, strong as a python,patient as a lizard, fearless as a lion, proud as a stallion, sweet natured as a child, and prudent as a sage.
  • Achilles' Heel:
    • Sumanguru Kanté's was the spur of a white rooster, his totem. A common theme in Mande heroic legend was figuring out an opponent's magical weakness.
    • The belly button of Paama Koono proved to be his
  • Adam and Eve Plot: A rather negative example in creation. Mankind was meant to be androgynous asexual twin pairs until things got out of hand.
  • Adaptational Villainy: In some versions, Pemba is a friendly god who was betrayed by his wicked twin earth goddess Muso Koroni. In others, he is the wicked twin of the water goddess Faro that caused imbalance to the world.
  • A Kind of One: Wind spirits were all referred to as Teliko and water spirits in general were named after Faro.
  • Albinos Are Freaks: Teliko was a villainous albino wind spirit who wanted to rule the world.
    • Albinos were considered both abominable and highly magical. It was thought they were the fused together souls of twins who had sex in the womb, or were the product of infidelity. So Faro punished the parents by making the child albino. Albinos were the chief sacrifice to Faro and kings would offer them in order to acquire riches as well as success in war.
  • Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: Fajigi was stumbling out of the beer house when he went home and got unwittingly seduced by his mother/stepmother.
  • All of the Other Reindeer:
    • Young crippled Sundiata before taking a level in badass.
    • Sogolon Konde was teased and ostracized relentlessly for being ugly.
  • The Almighty Dollar: Cowrie shells (widely used as money in pre-colonial sub-saharan Africa) come from Faro's domain at the bottom of the water. She sleeps on a bed of cowries.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: Witches were and still are abhorred in Africa more than any other continent. The ultimate terrors.
  • Always Save the Girl: Mamadi Sefe Dekote eventually regretted this.By killing Bida to rescue Sia Jatta Bari he destroyed Wagadu's source of prosperity, and it fell.
  • Ambiguous Gender: The first ancestors were all this, until the descent. Androgyny was the default state.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Kanku proclaims her undying love for Bala after he survived the perils of the river and defeated her lover Gboro. She confesses that she tried to have him killed previously, and then says she will kill herself if she cannot marry him.
  • And I Must Scream: The fate of Sumanguru Kante, in some versions, transformed into stone but fully conscious.
  • And Now You Must Marry Me: Subverted but then played straight by Sumanguru. He was eager to jump Sogolon Kolokon immediately, but his mother warned him that many men have ruined themselves by spilling secrets to a "one-night woman". So he married her and THEN ruined himself by spilling all his secrets.
  • Animorphism:
    • Pretty common among witches and sorcerers. From Sumanguru becoming a Coucal to Marissa transforming into a monstrous cape buffalo. Anyone could possibly shapeshift into their totem when sufficiently emotional.
    • Witches especially loved taking the form of owls.
    • Muso Koroni took the form of a black leopard.
    • Faro often assumes the shape of a catfish.
    • Simbumba Tangnagati shapeshifted into a gigantic snake after being resurrected.
    • The dark sorcerer Bama Ngala Nyama transformed himself into a gigantic crocodile and terrorized the peoples of Niger River.In some versions he is a transformed river spirit.
    • The Dogon wizard San would turn into animals to move as needed.
    • Faro is wont to take the form of a gazelle when it pleases her. She may also become a golden ram that wears earrings.
  • Annoying Arrows:
    • For Sumanguru, considering they turned to raindrops on contact with him. Not so much when exploiting the supernatural power of his totem.
    • The Buffalo Woman of Do was utterly invincible to arrows until her weakness was revealed.
  • Anything That Moves: Muso Koroni during her... rebound. Things that didn't move were fair game too. Earth, trees, thorns, rocks, red ants, and more.
  • Arc Number: 8. Eight ancestors, eight primordial seeds, eight lands first settled.
    • 7. Seven represents the complete androgynous being. Three earrings were worn on the right ear representing the male (penis and two testicles), four were worn on the left indicating the female (vaginal lips). Faro crafted the seven heavens to correspond with the seven waters and seven parts of the earth. The first men and women gave each other tribal scars on the face according to gender: 3 for men, 4 for women.
  • Arrow Catch: Sumaguru was fond of this trick to demoralize his foes.
    • Maghan the Handsome effortlessly caught the arrow Sogolon Konde shot at him when she was brought to his chambers to consummate the marriage. He quipped "Thank you for the toothpick, Konde-woman. My teeth are full of meat from sorcery.". Then he caught a spear she threw at him and said "Oh look, your walking stick has a little hat!".
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Humans who had lived exemplary lives experienced this as ancestral spirits. Even more so if they attained actual reunion with Mangala.
  • The Atoner: Muso Koroni after her failed rebellion. She helped humans learn agriculture and taught mankind to speak (humans used sign language previously).
  • Attempted Rape: The hunters Dan Massa Wulani and Dan Massa Wulamba try to force themselves on Sogolon Konde but are repelled when she sprouts lion claws and mauls them. In other tellings she sprouts quills from her body to keep them at bay.
  • At the Crossroads: Soba spirits were the Genius Loci of crossroads. People would leave offerings there to avoid trouble with them.
  • Autocannibalism: Teliko ate his own flesh down to the bone as self sacrifice for power and his copper marrow dropped into the sea, which Faro ate to become stronger.
  • Ax-Crazy:
    • The Buffalo Woman of Do killed and maimed hundreds in her time.
    • Bemba Niakhate. His favorite party games included "guess what the fetus in a pregnant woman is doing?" and "dodge the poisoned arrows". Yeah.
  • Back from the Dead: Kanisambo, courtesy of Simbumba Tangnagati's magic balafon.
  • Badass Boast: Too many to count. The entire Djeli caste existed to produce these. One notable example was the boasting contest between Sundiata and Sumanguru.
  • Badass Bookworm: Vulture, Hyena, and Ndomayiri were the most voracious students of the 266 cosmic signs taught by Faro. For their love of wisdom, Vulture was given dominion over clear "White Knowledge” (divination, day, priesthood, royalty, hunting, death, etc.) and Hyena was given power over esoteric and mysterious "Black Knowledge” (fertility, maternity, religion, song, night, dance, etc). Vulture and Turtle-Dove alone remained loyal to Faro throughout Muso Koroni's rebellion and Vulture was tasked to feed the dead and dying rebels to Hyena on earth. Hyena is an avid devourer of wicked sorcerers. In the elder days, Hyena played in the waters of Faro and fished for the mystical signs.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Gassire wanted so badly to make his lute play that he allows his sons to be killed in senseless battles and then his father dies. The pain in his heart finally let it sound.
  • Badass Adorable: In common with many sub-Saharan myths, the heroes are frequently able to kick ass before they're even two days old.
  • Baleful Polymorph: In some stories the nine witches of Manden turn Sundiata into a bull before Manding Bori saves him.
    • Kenimbleni the first witch was transformed into a Wanjilanko during an argument between the mages Niagala and Konimba. Niagala was transformed into a Hyena while Konimba was transformed into a Vulture.
    • Maliki Napo was attacked by an old crocodile which he struck with his walking stick thrice, and transformed into a large rock. It is called Jalunkuru.
  • Batman Gambit: The Vain Sorceress Yiraba was lured into a false sense of security by the people of her town who showered her with compliments. Then they beat her to death with clubs.
  • Beastiality Is Depraved: Muso Koroni bred with her pet dog Wulou and created bats: creatures neither dog nor bird.
    • Muso Koroni also bred with the spitting cobra Ngorongo and gave birth to the antelope or "Chiwara"
    • Pemba bred with a donkey and made the monstrous race of Bilisis.
  • Beast Man: Sogolon Konde would transform into a hairy monster to defend herself.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: Why the Buffalo Woman of Do allowed the hunters to defeat her.
    • Bama Ngala Nyama's sister Naasa was fed by Fanta Maa during a time of famine and so showed him how to defeat her evil brother.
  • Bed Trick: Sia Jatta Bari found herself in the afterglow with a filthy slave in Mamadi Sefe Dekote's revenge plot.
    • Fajigi’s mother dressed herself up like his lover and had sex with him on a dark night while he was drunk.
  • Benevolent Mage Ruler:
    • Dinga Cisse was a powerful wizard and not afraid to go toe-to-toe with the spirits, also the mythical ancestor of the Soninke and the Ghana empire.
    • Almost goes without saying Sundiata was this as well.
    • The Susu people tend to view Sumanguru Kanté like this.
  • The Berserker: It was said Gassire became so caught up in the carnage that he fought like a "Damo", a terrible spirit being of unknown background.
  • Best Her to Bed Her: Sogolon Konde was actually quite happy to submit to Maghan the Handsome after he proved his masculinity by dominating her magically and physically.
  • Big Good: Faro. Mangala is pretty aloof, like most African supreme beings.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: All of nature could be considered this considering the first ancestors' actions and their ramifications.
  • Black Bead Eyes: Faro's eyes are entirely piercing black.
  • The Blacksmith:
    • Ndomayiri was the first and greatest, grabbing red hot iron with his bare hands. As the god of healing, he's also the reason why blacksmiths were sought out for cures. It was he who inscribed the mystical symbols of creation on wooden objects and taught men to do so. Also responsible for civilizing humanity by showing how to make fire among other things.
    • Sumanguru Kanté was actually part of this caste. Partly explaining his supernatural abilities.
    • Teliko spirits are associated with hot hair and winds, thus the bellows and smithing in general.
    • All pureblooded blacksmiths are said to have their ancestry and powers inherited from the eight ancestors who were transformed into Bee Eaters (Tatugu Konomi). They had the power to ignite or extinguish fires at will. The Telikos became jealous of the Tatugu Konomi's abilities and waged war against them. Desperate for help, they asked one of the Gwonna (pureblooded blacksmiths) for aid. The Gwonna had pity and forged many iron weapons for them.The battle was epic but ended in a draw. The grateful birds rewarded the Gwonna by teaching them ritual lore and made them masters of purification. Ordinary blacksmiths would have to seek out a specialist but Gwonna smiths could purify each other casually.
  • Blade on a Stick: They saw widespread use. Samba Ganna wielded 800 against Isa Bere.
    • The 12 kings of Mali stabbed their spears into the earth to swear allegiance to Sundiata.
    • Tuluku Muluku was the magic spear wielded by the wizard Fakoli. When it struck an enemy, blood would pour from nine different wounds before the spear flew back to the wielder’s hand.
  • Blood Brothers: Jurundung Koli Jame and Jasse Banna Damfe as well as their respective kingdoms became this for each other after Jasse risked his life for Jurundung and Jurundung honored Jasse with his accountability. Joking relationships were usually born out of shared struggle and aid.
  • Blood Knight: Gassire liked fighting. A lot.
  • Blood Magic: From witches absorbing life force through it, to Sundiata's offerings of 100 white animals of many species, to Faro's at the dawn of time, to the Lute of Gassire.
    • Mangala sacrificed the ram Djigimakandjigi or Sonsaka with a lightning bolt from the top of the highest heaven and purified the cosmos as its blood flowed through the maze of the universe down to the lowest levels. He then split the ram with more lightning and cast the pieces across the world. Right shoulder and ribs to the north, left leg to the south, left shoulder and ribs to the east, right leg to the west. Straight downward came the stomach, intestines, spleen, liver, pancreas, heart, lungs, genitals, kidneys, spine, and head. These portions careened to the earth at high speeds and were devoured in holy fire. This offering provided a sort of bone marrow to the universe and strengthened it. Only the entrails and genitals hit the world intact. The secretions from these crushed organs gave the world manure and semen.
    • When Pemba declared himself god-king after the fall of Muso Koroni he demanded sex and menstrual blood from women in exchange for rejuvenating them when they were close to death. Men were expected to slice open their veins and feed Pemba their blood. Once they climbed down from Pemba the old men would stoically endure having their body hair all plucked out by hand and then being beaten, they would be seven years old again if they successfully endured. All virgins were manually stimulated by brides of Pemba on their wedding night, and the blood was given to Pemba.
    • The human race was exhausted by these incessant offerings of blood and many were beginning to die of hunger or exhaustion. One tired woman stumbled into a field of Ngoyo tomatoes and ate one. She was immediately restored to full strength before being killed by Faro for trespassing. Faro cut her nose, slit her belly button, and ate the pulp from her stomach. Faro was pleasantly surprised to find not only blood but the principle of duality within the tomato. It had seven seeds, three plus four.
    • When death had come into the world, eight old men attempted to mend relations with Pemba by cutting their tongues and offering him some blood. He tried to repel them with intense heat but they gave him the offering anyway. Pemba was pleased and said though he could not end death he could transform their souls into the sacred little fire birds or Tagutu Konani. The eight elders scraped their backs against Pemba until all of their blood was used up as their flesh became the bark of the Balanza tree while the blod and bone marrow became leaves and fruit.
  • Blow You Away:
    • Teliko. As the God of wind he could even convert positive sounds to nyama as it travels through the wind.
    • Sumanguru Kanté had this in his magic arsenal.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: Mande belief wasn’t about Good vs Evil. It was about Androgyny vs Monosex, Order vs Chaos, Pro-Social vs Anti-Social, and Wisdom vs Ignorance.
  • Body Horror: Bafonge the slave girl with 100 head and 200 eyes and ears.
  • Bolt of Divine Retribution:
    • Faro was fond of striking down evildoers with lightning.
    • Mangala used lightning on Muso Koroni and her forces when they tried to steal the secrets of heaven.
  • Bond Creatures: In traditional religion, each clan has a "Tana” or totem spirit. In ancient times an ancestor saved a given plant or animal, or vice versa creating a spiritual link. Neither could harm the other or eat each other without supernatural retribution, in turn, they were each other's guardians. Each person had a spirit double in the form of their totem.
  • Born-Again Immortality: In the time before death came into the world people would live until age 52, rapidly lose more youth, and then be reborn as seven year old children.
    • It was widely believed that any proper sacrifice results in rebirth.
  • Born as an Adult: Fanta Maa was born fully clothed, armed, and initiated into the hunter cult.
  • Born From A Plant: Dogs and Donkeys were said to have come from shards of the original tree, like the giants were.
  • Botanical Abomination: Pemba was a bloodsucking god-tree that gave humans immortality in exchange. He also had a wooden member that he used to make love with women.
  • Break the Haughty: Sia Jatta Bari. Beautiful yet ungrateful, arrogant, and greedy. Getting duped into sleeping with the slave of her ex-lover caused her to die of shame.
  • Breath Weapon: Jakirawajija the river spirit could breathe fire.
  • Bright Is Not Good: Bama Ngala Nyama disoriented his prey by casting bright and vivid lights like the dawn right as he closed in.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Muso Koroni and Pemba. Horrified Mangala so much (among other perversions) he sent Faro to rebuke them.
  • Brother–Sister Team: Very common as in many African legends. From Sundiata and Sogolon Kolokon to Marain Jagu and Henten-Kurube.
    • Kasiya Kante was so dedicated to her brother Sumanguru's success she allowed herself to be taken by the spirits to gain more power for him.
  • The Bully: Sassouma Berete to poor Sogolon Konde. Verbal abuse, rumor spreading, sending her to live in a hovel away from the court, and attempting to murder her with sorcery.
  • Canis Major: Danfin Woulou Binyé Tan. Black dog with ten horns. Pets of Faro and guardians of her watery domain. Most are benevolent but some are bloodthirsty. They use their red hypnotic eyes to capture prey.
  • Canon Welding: There's certainly overlap between Mande Mythology and Songhai Mythology towards the Niger bend. Rather than being children of Faro, the Bozo are considered descendants of the Songhai giant Owadia through the Culture Hero Fono.
  • The Casanova: Pemba took hundreds of lovers.
  • Casting a Shadow: Bama Ngala Nyama would cast darkness around his victims as he approached.
  • Catchphrase: "Wagadu can go to blazes!" is Gassire’s.
  • The Catfish: Nile Perch actually. Bala of the Somono was tasked with capturing a giant one to prove his love to a girl named Kanku. The Perch laughed at him when his trident attack utterly failed. Bala came back later and tried to capture the Perch but it casually blew wind and flame at the net. Underwater.
  • Celestial Body: The stars are Pemba's open pores from all the effort he put in chasing Muso Koroni around.
  • Chained by Fashion: Paama Koono wore an iron chain around his neck called "Djoro Ku".
  • Chained to a Rock: Sia Jatta Bari was going to be an offering to the Bida serpent.
  • Child Eater: Kids just about to hit puberty are a delicacy for witches, creating a need for extra magical protection.
  • The Chosen One: Sundiata’s destiny was predicted long before he was born by both friends and foes. Even his birth was heralded by two colliding storms in the middle of the dry season.
  • The Clan: Everywhere in Mande culture. From the Keita to the Cisse to the Kante. Each with its distinct totem.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Muso Koroni towards Pemba. Being cheated on with hundreds of girls was the final straw for her.
  • Colony Drop: Mangala crushed the sky against the earth to exterminate the giants and the rest of Muso Koroni’s allies in the cataclysm.
  • Continuity Snarl: As with most mythologies, not all stories' accounts of events mesh well with one another. Mande speakers traveled to Dogon country where their mythology was imposed over native Dogon beliefs and adapted. The Serer were ruled by the Guelowar dynasty of Mande nobles who introduced new motifs and spirits.
  • Cool Horse: River-Horse would be more accurate. But yes, Fanta Maa harnessed and rode a Hippopotamus.
    • Dunu Mussa wanted to impress the chief Maliki Napo, so he captured a hippo calf from its mother and allowed the children of Maliki's town to ride it around like a pony.
    • Shina Mama would ride a crocodile or hippo down the river.
    • The chief of the Wokulos rides on a black antelope.
  • Cool Sword: The Sword of Dama Ngile was incredibly sharp, shiny, magical, and hilted with gold. It could even be summoned to the hand lightsaber style.
    • Saga Djigi has a sword named "Saga Djigi Ka Mudruble". It sits on one end of the sky and rests its blade on the mountains or huge termite mounds.
  • Cosmic Egg: Doni Dyu was the original seed of knowledge composed of the 266 signs which are the origin of all things in the universe.
  • The Coup:
    • Muso Koroni tried this against Mangala. It didn't quite work out.
    • Sumanguru Kanté was very successful against the vestigial Ghana empire.
  • The Creator: Mangala and to a lesser extent Faro count.
  • Cue the Sun: After the flood subsided and the age of Faro began, the third race of humans watched the rising of Sirius and the Sun together.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: 100,000 birds challenged Mangala at the incitement of Muso Koroni. They fought in Koblekaba. 99,999 birds were obliterated by Mangala.
  • Damsel in Distress: Sia Jatta Bari and Sogolon Kolokon.
  • Dance Battler: Paama Koono didn't touch the ground when he danced. His enemies threw all manner of amulets, powders, and charms at him which he gracefully gestured away. He could even kill people by dancing well.
  • Dance Off: Paama Koono was an unbeatable dancer. This eventually enraged many men who were jealous of his skills.
  • Dark Is Evil: Bwas (witches) and other evil spirits are mostly active and powerful at night.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: In a notable exception to most African mythologies, the Hyena is viewed in a positive light here. He represents intuition and foresight. The night is a boundless mystery for most beings except for him. He is custodian of love in the night and fertility.
    • Vulture is a companion to Faro and was an opponent of Muso Koroni.
  • Dead Person Conversation: Mama Djennepu, Kassum, and Mai ask the monster Sallo if he is still alive after they cast their magic charms into his river. Sallo merely replies "no".
  • Deal with the Devil: Lots of nasty spirits are willing to do this. The blood of the innocent or the freedom of a maiden are common prices.
    • Sundiata's little brother Manding Bori pledged to a river spirit that he would trade the duration of his life for several years of prosperity.
  • Death by Sex: Muso Koroni liked killing men this way out of spite for Faro and Mangala.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: After losing twice to the giant Perch, Bala at last befriended it when it saved him from the hungry water creatures he had swum past.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Annalja Tu Bari. She even invoked it herself. Only the man who could make her laugh would able to marry her.
  • Deity of Human Origin: Nearly all of them. The Mande pantheon is largely composed of immortal human ancestors and deceased humans who have ascended after death such as Sumanguru.
    • A pregnant Fulani woman once asked a few Bozo fishermen to take her across the Niger river. Usually they're very glad to ferry people, but they refused due to her pregnancy. She insisted and they took her to the opposite shore. As soon as the boat left she went into labor and the river dried up. A voice told her to give birth in a pit on the riverbed which she did. First milk, then gemstones, then honey came from her womb. She gave birth to a baby boy who came out feet first. And she realized he had webbed hands as well as feet. She attempted to flee as the waters rose again and her husband watched her hold the child above the water thrice before vanishing under the waves. She and her son were turned into water spirits by Faro.
    • Faro herself is believed by some to have been formerly human. In ancient times there was woman named Mbata who was wandering the drought ridden lands with her infant son and daughter. Desperate for water, she prayed to Mangala for help. A spirit appeared who told her she would become mistress of water, but first she needed to make a home. So she traveled into an underground tunnel network full of water. When she surfaced there was so much water in her wake the Niger river was born. One day while buying tomatoes in the marketplace she asked the mortals what they do for the spirit that gives them such a lifegiving blessing. On her advice the villagers visited a well where they gave Faro copper, gold, and a ram as offering. Her two children became water spirits as well.
  • Depraved Dwarf: Wokulos are quite capricious and unpredictable now, but in the early days they were a much bigger threat. Muso Koroni had taught them divination that made them almost The Omniscient and showed them the dark powers of plants. She gave them wicked words to do magic with. Armed with such powers they terrorized humans and animals alike prior to the flood.
  • Driven by Envy: The singer Tiamani was very jealous of Bana Bainde's fame and adoration. So much so he cast a spell on his city so nobody would pay attention to Bana Bainde. His wife urged him to try a different tactic so he lifted the spell and everyone cheered for Bana Bainde's new performance. But Tiamani worked more dark sorcery and she fell dead that night.
  • Disabled Deity: Bolokuruni was an elderly blacksmith who had his wrists broken on accident by a clumsy apprentice with a hammer. Mad with pain, he dived into the Niger river to alleviate his suffering. Faro felt pity for him and made him her secretary. He keeps account of the living and dead and those in the process of reincarnation. Whenever Faro needs an image or sound pulled up he is the one who sorts through things and provides it.
  • Disappeared Dad: Nobody knew who Paama Koono's father was, or if he even had one.
  • Divine Birds: Vultures and Turtle-Doves. Beloved by Faro for their loyalty and wisdom. Many times the Dove is instead a Rooster. The tana of Sumanguru being a white rooster likely created a sense of divine agency to Sundiata’s victory. As was the visit to the Vulture by Lagarre.
  • Divine Date: Muso Koroni and pretty much everything. Dinga Cisse and the three river spirits. Water spirits were especially known for their relationships with mortals.
  • Divine Parentage: The Bozo tribe is said to be descended from a pair of girl twins born to Faro.
    • Fakoli’s father was the river spirit Manga Yura. This also made him one of the most powerful Mandinka sorcerers to ever live.
    • Fanta Maa’s father was a spirit from Joron Kula.
    • In some tales Sumanguru has a spirit for a father.
  • The Dreaded: Bama Ngala Nyama was known as "The Ravisher of Young Souls". He'd killed over 100 would-be hunters by the time Fanta Maa took care of him.
  • Downer Ending: Pretty common in the Dausi. Gassire loses his father, his sons, his crown, and his homeland. Mamadi Sefe Dekote is hated by everyone in Wagadu and the girl he risked everything for didn't care about him. Samba Ganna overcomes various challenges including an eight-year dragon fight to win the love of a cold princess only to be asked to do the absurd before dropping dead.
  • Drop the Hammer: Saga Djigi's three captains Tulluguri, Tunako, and Fianto carry wooden hammers almost like clubs.
  • Drums of War: The great Tabele war drum of Wagadu was stolen by spirits and tied to the sky.
  • Earth Mother: A very negative example in Muso Koroni. Farmers considered it their duty to farm. Each strike of the hoe into the ground was a righteous attack on her.
  • Eaten Alive: Bida was a simple serpent. See maiden? Eat maiden.
  • Eating Optional: Since the war of the birds living creatures have killed and eaten each other. Before this all creatures lived on air and a sort of Mana called Maa Hine through their skin. Even babies feed on their mothers first.
  • Elemental Embodiment: Faro (water), Pemba/Muso Koroni (Earth), Ndomayiri (Fire), Teliko (Air).
  • Elemental Plane: Seven of them. Kaba noro — "Soft Sky" — the first heaven, is made up of storm clouds as Faro is the god of waters. Kaba noro is impure due to Muso Koroni having the greatest impact there, although it's also the source of twins (who are holy) and scorpions (divine protectors of all twins). Kaba dye — "White Sky" — is the second heaven, a bright and clear place where Kwore or rain spirits live with the souls of humans and animals. Kaba dye is only partly impure. Kaba fii — "Black Heaven" — the third heaven, is a realm for all spirits to find rest. Kaba mana — "Shedding Heaven" — the fourth heaven, is a mirror of the lower three where Faro keeps account of the world. Koblekaba — "Red Heaven" — is the fifth heaven and home of droughts, bloodshed, fire, battle, smoke, and Faro's judgements. Ancient kings made offerings to Faro in Koblekaba for victory in war. Sunakaba — "Sleep Heaven" — is the sixth heaven where the souls of all beings sleep; it's also where the secrets of the waking world are hidden. Wolo fia kaba — "White Rooster Heaven" — is the seventh heaven and court of Faro herself. The sacred white rooster calls down blessings from here and Faro releases the life giving rains to the lower heavens then finally to earth.
  • Elixir of Life: Tomatoes — the wild ngoyo variety, specifically. They belong to Faro. One serving and you're completely rejuvenated.
  • End of an Age: Four times Wagadou disappeared and was lost to human sight. It truly came to an end with Samba Ganna.
  • Enfant Terrible: Marain Jagu walked and talked the day he was born. Like so many Mande heroes.
    • Sundiata would leave his mother's womb at night to do chores and hunt for lizards he roasted to eat.
    • Bana Bainde was born four months premature and survived alone in the bush for three years without even being able to walk. Eventually she got up and began to dance and sing.
  • Enthralling Siren: Faro used a singing fish to draw Teliko close enough to the ocean to strike.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: The odor of Muso Koroni and Pemba's sexual depravity wafted to heaven and threatened to destroy the universe.
  • Even the Guys Want Him: Paama Konno in spades. Men and women of all social classes fought to have his company.
  • Everyone Is Related: Everyone. The 266 cosmic signs are literally the origin of every being. On the smaller level, Faro or Muso Koroni or Ndomayiri parents the rest of the human race.
  • Everything's Better with Rainbows: Faro or Massa Dambali were said to have connected the heavens with the earth by a rainbow, on which the golden ark sailed down. The Dogon report similar.
  • Evil Makes You Ugly: Muso Koroni gradually became a hunched over hag as she worked to spread chaos and darkness throughout the world.
  • The Evil Prince: Lagarre’s brothers were very nasty towards their old servant. And Dankaran Touman was a cruel and cowardly ruler that not only stole the crown from his brother Sundiata but also tried to have him murdered.
  • Evil Twin: Muso Koroni for Faro or Pemba depending on version told. Pemba for Faro sometimes.
  • The Exile: Sundiata, Sogolon Konde, and Sogolon Kolokon; Gassire; Mamandi Sefe Dekote and Sia Jatta Bari; Dama Ngile.
  • Exotic Equipment: Pemba and his "wood".
  • Extra Eyes: Bafonge had two hundred eyes and ears.
  • Eye of Newt: The gris-gris Bandamire was composed of a cow stomach stuffed with live white lice.
    • Another charm was the left eye of a red dog.
  • Eyes Do Not Belong There: Sogolon Konde freaked out some folks in Niani by sending her fingers to watch them dance. These two fingers had eyes and illuminated the dance floor without flame.
    • Bilissis have eyes on their foreheads.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Muso Koroni and sometimes Pemba. Basically all the winged creatures save Vulture and Turtle-Dove. And the giants (later Wokulos).
  • Fake Ultimate Hero: Several hunters come forth claiming to have slain Bama Ngala Nyama. They are proven to be liars as Fanta Maa left behind his shoes that only he can fit, and scabbard that only his dagger can fit.
  • Fantastic Fruits and Vegetables: Ngoyo tomatoes are infused with nyama, and rejuvenate those who eat them.
  • The Fatalist: Human life isn't so much about what will happen but coping with it. Paama Koono was completely aware he'd be betrayed by his lover and die, but he did not fret over it.
  • Fire Keeps It Dead: Subverted. Yiraba’s town burned her corpse to prevent any further supernatural terror, but they threw her ashes into the Niger River. The ashes turned into leeches that took out terrible vengeance on her killers.
  • Final Solution: Mangala did this thrice. Lightning and solar beams against the winged beasts, crushing the giants between heaven and earth and rowning Muso Koroni and most of her abominations (Wokulo were able to hide themselves in caves) with rain from above and a massive geyser from below.
  • Fear Is the Appropriate Response: Dislike Dankaran Touman all you want. A sane ordinary person doesn't boldly confront an infamous sorcerer-king who has a trophy room of kings' skulls, owls, a monster snake, and covered in tapestries of human skin, and owns a witch-ring, controls weather, destroyed nine kingdoms, and is rumored to be the son of a powerful spirit.
  • Feathered Fiend: Gigantic and malevolent birds were fielded by Muso Koroni against heaven during her bid for eternal youth. The Hornbill came close enough to actually grab the signs in his beak before Mangala dealt with them.
    • Mansa Kono terrorized all of Niumu and crushed entire armies of warriors as well as wizards sent to destroy it.
  • Feathered Serpent: Ninkinanka in some depictions.
  • The Federation: The twelve doors of Mali under Sundiata. It was a coalition of states with Niani as first among equals.
  • Fed to the Beast: Muso Koroni would feed the bodies of her victims to her ravening dogs.
  • Femme Fatale: Muso Koroni and her innumerable lovers/prey.
    • Sia Jatta Bari after escaping Bida.
    • Kanku the Somono girl tried to kill Bala on three different occasions by asking him to do some perilous task she had no intention of seeing him succeed at.
  • Fertile Blood: Blood is charged with Nyama. It's everywhere. Pemba was rejuvenated by it in plant form and the celestial ram's blood purified the universe.
  • Fertile Feet: Dage was sent on a mission by Faro to restore fertility from Segou to Kri, making a path of greenery as he travelled.
  • Fin Gore: Tiramakhan Traore offended Faro by not offering thanks or anything else for crossing the Niger river. So she immobilized his boat in the middle of the crocodile and hippopotamus infested waters until he cut off his own finger as a sacrifice to him.
    • Sia Jatta Bari complained of a headache which was her feigned reason for not being intimate with Mamamdi Sefe Dekote. She told him to cut off his pinkie and make it into medicine for her.
  • Fluffy Cloud Heaven: Kaba noro the soft heaven. Faro hangs out here sometimes and it’s from here that the rain we observe comes down from.
  • Folk Hero: Many from each tribe. The most notable among the Manding peoples is Sundiata.
  • Fright Death Trap: Bafonge’s appearance was so terrible people would drop dead on seeing her.
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: Friendlier spirits like Faro and the spirit lover of Sogolon Kolokon tend to do this.
  • For the Evulz: Bemba Niakhte's casual murder and torture of his subjects. His father claimed he’d grow out of it. He didn't; Sumanguru Kanté is known for this: rape, pillage, burn.
  • Genius Loci: Dasiris were the tutelary deities of a given area or natural feature, typically in the form of a sacred animal or imagined riding the animal. The cavern of the Wokulos "Gotefanfan" was protected by a very powerful Dasiri until Ndomayiri broke its power.
    • The wizard Fakoli was taken on pilgrimage across Mande country to the most sacred sites by his aunt Ma Tenemba as a baby to gain mystic powers and become the "godson" of sorts to the strongest nature spirits and ancestor spirits.
    • Dinga Cisse went on a similar journey establishing relations with various spirit powers to found Wagadu.
    • Fanta Maa traveled the lands visiting sacred sites to battle or befriend the local Dasiri to make settlement possible for the Bozo.
  • Giant Enemy Crab: Sallo was a giant crab who dominated the Niger River between Timbuktu and Djenne. He lived on an island and Swallowed Whole trespassers.
  • Giant Flyer:
    • An entire army of giant birds, bats, and insects were said to have fought alongside Muso Koroni.
    • Mansa Kono (meaning King Bird) once terrorized the kingdom of Niumi during the age of Sundiata. Its wings were so massive that the kingdom was cloaked in darkness.
  • God of Thunder: One of Faro's domains.
    • There exists a divine ram or rams called "Lasigi" or "Saga Djigi" associated with storms. Lasigi has golden horns and often lives together with Ninkinanka. As Saga Djigi it is sometimes in the shape of a man. The rain gods break off chunks from the rain mountains in heaven and smash them into fine grains they put into calabashes. The calabashes have holes which they use to sprinkle down rain to earth. Saga Djigi's three captains determine what sort of rainy season it will be. Saga Djigi occasionally throws thunder, but only hits trees with it.
    • If there are many thunderstorms, then Tullunguri is carrying out the rainy season. He is deaf so he doesn't care about the noise.
    • A year of Kunato is feared because he makes it rain for two weeks and then stops for two weeks on-and-off. In that dry period he can make the crops wilt. The reason for this is that he has no hands, so he must shake his calabash with only his stumps, causing erratic rains. He is also feared because of his temper, being the most likely to kill people with thunder. He throws down the Djellekesse axe to do this.
    • Fianto is the most beloved captain. He is blind and brings very gentle and even rains across the lands, guaranteeing no farm is flooded or neglected of rain.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: Sassouma Berete was as cruel as she was a worthless Queen-Mother.
  • Gods Need Prayer Badly: Yes and no. Pemba was pissed people stopped worshiping him in favor of Faro, but he had taken in so much blood from humans that he didn't actually need more. Even so he spitefully cursed people with illnesses for snubbing him and forsook them.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: It could happen if you saw a spirit in their true form.
  • The Great Flood: From above and below. Mangala really wanted to ensure no survivors.
    • There are twelve future waters distinct from the primordial water which Faro harnessed and manipulated so man could live on dry land. When the time comes the waters will be released and drown our planet. The salvation of the Bozo and other fishing tribes will be their boats, shepherds their gourds, spinners their spindels, women their stools, etc.
  • Green Thumb: Dage has this. Left a trail of vegetation wherever he went, and taught humans the finer points of agriculture.
  • The Grotesque: Sogolon Konde was very ugly. She was a short bald hunchback covered in warts. Her feet were crooked and her breasts were oversized. One buttock was higher than the other and her limbs were all mismatched in size, not to mention she had knock knees. One of her tear ducts was torn so she constantly had watering eyes.
    • Bafonge was so monstrously ugly people dropped dead at the sight of her.
  • Groin Attack: Faro castrated Teliko during their battle and fed his penis to a dogfish.
  • Guardian Entity: Each clan had a totem or "tana" which was said to have a mutually protective relationship with them. Sogolon Konde had two totems which were what made her so formidable.
    • People generally tried to keep their totem secret when dealing with strangers to prevent magic from being worked against them. Sumanguru was defeated this way.
    • Sundiata was powerful because he had three totems inherited from his parents: Lion, Buffalo, and Leopard.
  • Guile Hero: Sogolon Kolokon using her wiles on Sumanguru. Manding Bori convincing the 9 witches of Manden Sundiata was more useful in human shape.
    • Two black antelopes were the mounts of the guardian spirits of the Wokulos that were the source of their powers.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Bida was one, a water spirit on his mother’s side. Sumanguru was claimed to be one. Diabe Cisse was the brother of Bida and also half-spirit.
  • Happy Dance: Paama Koono was urged to dance by a crowd of adoring women and was worked up into his best dance yet. He floated through the roof of the building, placed his tongue on the back of his head, and grew his arm big enough to sweep over the crowd.
  • Has Two Mommies: Sumanguru. His mothers Sansu Ture and Dabi Berete would alternate day-night shifts bearing him.
  • Healing Spring: The magic waters of Kita Kourou was the source of Kita Mansa’s power. Sundiata shines like radiant starlight after drinking it.
  • Heaven Above: Seven of them. The sky we see is called Kaba Noro.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Muso Koroni after being vanquished. Fakoli Koroma turned against his uncle Sumanguru after having his wife stolen
  • Heel Realization: Gassire alienates and destroys everything and everyone he held dear through his quest for glory.
  • Hell Hound: Danfin Woulous definitely fit the appearance at least. But most were well disposed towards humans. The nasty ones definitely fit the trope however. Dogs in Mande culture like most of Africa represented an intermediary between the orderly world of humans and the chaotic world of the bush.
  • Herbivores Are Friendly: Very much averted. From scheming elephants, to rampaging hippos, to the infamous cape buffalo (the final bossfight for a new Dozo to be initiated into the fraternity).
  • He's Back: Sundiata fled Niani an exile and returned as its liberator.
  • Hijacked by Jesus: Hijacked by Mohammed is more accurate. Over time the mythos was reconfigured to fit in with Islamic cosmology. Sundiata came to be seen as champion of Allah over paganism, despite being quite unrepentantly pagan in actual history. His benefactor is changed from Faro to Allah (or at least Mangala) in some tellings.
    • Surakata was the legendary griot ancestor from heaven who descended to earth on the golden ark of Faro. Some converts to Islam say he was the grandson of Bilal. Other converts say that Surakata was a heathen warrior who harassed the Prophet Mohammed, so Allah had him swallowed up by the earth many times until he quit chasing Mohammed and converted to Islam.
  • Holy Burns Evil: When the birds were repelled by Mangala unleashing the powers of heaven upon them two pieces of heaven were embedded in the wishbone of an eagle, which healed its wounds. They fell onto the earth and became the first Dyo or sacred items. Their presence alone was enough to repel Muso Koroni and her minions. They were entrusted by Faro to Ndomayiri who used them as the first anvils.
  • Horned Humanoid: Some descriptions of Chiwara characterize him as half-man and half-antelope.
  • Hot-Blooded: Gassire was easy to whip into a battle frenzy.
  • Hot God: Faro was quite the androgynous beauty. Muso Koroni was this before she went wayward. Sogolon Kolokon’s boyfriend was breathtaking.
  • Hot Guy, Ugly Wife: Maghan the Handsome and Sogolon Konde.
  • Human Sacrifice: Subverted in the case of Maghan the Handsome against Sogolon Konde. A griot suggested he scare her into submission. So he advanced on her with a dagger and pretended to think he needed to sacrifice her to get his prophesied son. Sogolon passed out and Maghan's lion spirit overcame.
    • A farmer once sacrificed an albino to a Soba at the crossroads in exchange for knowledge of weaving and spinning.
  • I Ate WHAT?!: A few early humans ate the fruit from Pemba's tree, not realizing it was the blood of the eight old men. Others lit fires using the wood not realizing it was flesh. The avenging Nyama force of the men destroyed one youth who tried to flee and the people he sought refuge with, three men and four women.
  • I Believe I Can Fly: People capable of flight were called "Apitiga" by the Bozo. Paama Koono and Bana Bainde had this ability by birth.
  • I Gave My Word: King Jurundung Koli Jame of Nyomi impregnated the daughter of the Mandinka king and was sentenced to death. Jasse Banna Damfe volunteered to be a hostage for Jurundung while he got his affairs in order and returned the royal regalia of Nyomi. If Jurundung didn't return in eight days then Jasse would die. Jurundung was impeded by a flooding river, but still rode his horse into the court of Mali without a moment to spare as the Mansa prepared to execute the hostage. The Mansa (in many versions Sundiata) was so moved by the display of honesty and devotion that he forgave Jurundung's crime.
  • Immortal Immaturity: Muso Koroni was largely driven by the Id. In fact, the wilderness exists because of her.
  • Impossible Item Drop: After Fanta Maa slew the monstrous Bama Ngala Nyama, he hacked off his tail. Gold poured out of it.
  • Impossible Task: Samba Ganna was asked to not only vanquish Isa Bere but tame him as well, this made him drop dead.
  • Improbable Weapon User: Sogolon Konde sprayed scalding hot breastmilk at Maghan the Handsome. He told her "What a gift! I needed some warm breast milk to wash my face with.".
  • Incest Is Relative: Muso Koroni and Pemba shamelessly. At the dawn of time they engaged in reckless sexuality with each other, giving rise to all manner of unnatural offspring like giants.
    • Fajigi the blacksmith was so handsome that his mother fell in love with him and slept with him.
    • Muso Koroni and Pemba bred with their own offspring: dogs and donkeys.
  • I Know Your True Name: Jakirawajija could only be defeated by someone saying his name three times, causing him to vanish.
  • Intangible Man: One of Sumanguru’s more frustrating abilities. When the Mandinka threw spears at him they passed through as if he was the wind.
  • Invisible to Normals: Spirits typically chose this because for most mortals to see a spirit with the naked eye was death, insanity, or both.
  • It's Personal: In some tales the nine kings Sumanguru kills and mutilates are the older brothers of Sundiata.
  • Jerkass Gods: Not entirely bad. But certainly self centered, bloodthirsty, and petty oftentimes. Spirits frequently terrorized people who trespassed onto their domain such as when the Bozo first tried to settle Djenne but were disrupted by the goddess Pama. The behavior of the gods when masculinity and femininity split is a reflection of both genders running wild without the mediating influence of the other.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Muso Koroni for all the mayhem she caused is still responsible for teaching mankind to farm, how to circumcise, and how to apply tribal marks. She's responsible for fertility and grain harvests.
  • Journey to the Sky: Ndomayiri fashioned an iron chain which he climbed up to the sky. In those days there was no moon so Ndomayiri crafted one from iron. When the crescent moon appears he is heating it up. When the full moon appears it means he has finished his work. Unfortunately for mankind the chain to heaven broke after Ndomayiri’s ascent and death came into the world.
  • "Just So" Story: Chameleons are slow because they were the first to walk on the scorched earth during the shenanigans of the first ancestors.
    • Lions were created from wood shavings as the ancient blacksmith Ndomayiri was carving the first Ntomo society mask.
    • Nonsi the Chameleon stole the secret of colors from the rainbow. He used his ability to color the branches of the Balanza tree.
    • Fanta Maa was given a magic powder by the sister of Bama Ngala Nyama that when thrown causes a tree to grow, or a small forest. Whoever eats the fruit of the tree or the electric catfish would get sleeping sickness, and that is its origin.
    • Balanza trees flourish in the dry season as a means of Pemba showing how well fed he is and without further need for humans. Wood from the Balanza is rarely used in reverence for the eight ancestors who stoically endured pain and death to transform into birds.
    • There once were four women who went searching for food near the riverbank after death had come into the world. They found the riverbed had dried up further and explored. Faro appeared and told them he would give them a precious gift in exchange for labor. So the women swept up Faro's feces for a week and were then shown how to make fishing nets. The small fine-eyed nets were for catching small fish or "Faro's turds" as they were called. The wide eyed nets were for catching large fish like Perch. After being set free the women gorged on fish and decimated the population in the river. Faro was irritated by their carelessness and took the nets away from them despite their pleas. Faro then gave the nets to three men and declared only men may catch fish while women were to sell them. The four women married the three men, and the Bozo tribe came to be.
    • A few men returned from a hunting trip and left offerings At the Crossroads for the local Soba. The spirit gave one old man a cotton seed and the knowledge of how to cultivate them. The man's wife was sent a little bird who showed her how to spin, using its body The old woman went to visit Faro and present her awkwardly made work when a river spirit gave her a spindle and taught her more. The old lady showed her friends who threw their first new threads into the Niger as offerings. The spirit told them that spindles would fall from heaven with the rains as a gift from Faro. The old lady who taught everyone died soon after, and her friends told others the secret of spinning. The spirit later sent a spider to weave a web over the underground home of a man named Bambou Diara. He was intrigued and called his friend Kari Mariko. They wanted to make webs too and asked the women for threads because spider threads were too fragile for humans. They used three bobbins as a symbol of masculinity and created the first clothing. This is why spinning is women's work while weaving is men's work.
    • A little boy liked to play At the Crossroads and one day heard a bell which frightened him and mysterious voices so he ran home. His parents asked what was wrong and he told them about it. When they investigated the crossroads they found a little copper bell sitting there. A Saba came out and said it was a gift so they could summon the spirits. But in exchange he wanted the lad to be a playmate for his children. The boy's parents couldn't bear to hand him off to the spirits so they asked Faro for help. The parents sent a group of lovely young girls carrying offerings and the elders to intercede. Faro agreed to let the family keep their son, but the bells were to be used by the Komo society to sing his praises.
    • A lady named Koussouba Koulibali once witnessed Faro and the Dodo fish relaxing by the riverside. The fish played a flute and sang a rather ominous song about the doom of the person who doesn't respect the spirits. The lady ran to her husband who was a Komo society leader and diviner who went to see the fish. Frightened, the fish dropped his flute and dived into the waters. The husband was followed by tremendous waves after picking up the flute. Everyone in his family drowned and his village was devastated. The Komo man cried and played a mournful song on the flute which touched Faro. Faro forgave him and declared the flute to be how the Komo society will summon or contact her directly.
  • Kill It Through Its Stomach: Tiramakhan carved his way out of the crocodile totem of Jolofin Mansa.
  • King of Beasts: Sundiata's praise name is "Lion King".
  • King Incognito: Sundiata played this role for most of his exile.
  • Little Bit Beastly: Muso Koroni has long pointed ears, a tail, and a torso like a beast. Everything else human.
  • Longest Pregnancy Ever: Sogolon Konde was pregnant for seven years before she had Sundiata, courtesy of being fed a pregnancy "medicine" by her cowives which actually extended it. Also subverted in legends where she gives birth after a month or on the same day as conception.
  • Love Makes You Dumb: Paama Koono took his lover Sirranikorro's bait and allowed her to see his belly button. She was paid by jealous rivals to kill him this way by placing a deadly magic on it.
    • "Love is like alcohol" is a Mandinka proverb. This saying is used when describing Muso Koroni's descent into madness.
  • Magical Accessory: Faro wears two necklaces, one gold and one copper. The copper necklace receives all words and sounds of lesser importance while the gold necklace receives secrets and powerful information being discussed.
  • Magical Eye: Sogolon Konde shot a magic dart at Maghan the Handsome's eye from her own eye.
  • Magic Music: Wokulos were able to charm animals using their instruments.
  • The Makeover: Some say that when Maghan the Handsome touched Sogolon Konde with his magic knife it broke the spell on her and she was transformed into an extraordinarily beautiful woman, making Sassouma Berete jealous.
  • Makeup Is Evil: Muso Koroni used makeup to disguise her increasingly ugly visage and lure men away from Faro's camp.
  • Marriage to a God: The fourth daughter of every family would become a bride of Pemba during his dominion on Earth.
  • Mask of Power: Nerikoro was an extraordinarily powerful mask of the Komo cult. It was brought from Mecca by the legendary blacksmith N’Fajigi. Some believe the mask itself was a spirit, others believe the mask was simply worn by great wizards. Many believe it was both.
    • Do Kamissa owned a mask that allowed the wearer to see things from incredible distances. She made young Sogolon Konde wear it too early, and it too made her uglier.
  • Miracle Food: Fakoli's wife Keleya Konkon could produce more food from her one pot than several hundred of Sumanguru's wives could. His uncle Sumanguru kidnapped her to sustain his armies and married her for himself.
  • Mrs. Robinson: Fajigi’s father’s co-wife couldn’t resist his beauty and pulled a Bed Trick on him.
  • Multiple Head Case: Bafonge was the slave of Mama Dinga Cisse’s mother. She had one hundred heads.
  • Nephewism: Fakoli was adopted by his aunt, the sorcery queen Ma Tenemba Konde after her co-wife
  • Never Smile at a Crocodile: The Wolof king shapeshifted into a crocodile to fight Tiramakhan Traore. It’s jaws were so large he mistook them for the cave entrance of it’s lair.
  • Nigh-Invulnerability: Sumanguru Kante could not be harmed by any physical force and nearly all magic.
    • Henten Kurube was immune to all physical harm save a little pin talisman for her dress. A single prick was enough to kill her.
  • Nobody Poops: Prior to the war between birds and Mangala no living being pooped or peed.
  • No Party Like a Donner Party: A common legend explaining "joking relationships" throughout the western Sahel is that in ancient times the ancestor of one group compassionately fed the ancestor of another group a chunk of their own body during a time of famine. This gesture created an eternal bond of friendship between them.
  • Odd Friendship: A fisherman and a 350 year old giant Perch spirit? Why not, said Bala. It behaved like a kindly grandfather towards him.
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same: Subverted. Wokulos (or "Kondorongos" as they're called in Mandinka and Wolof) are hairy little people of the forest that stand about knee high. They have long red beards which sometimes must be wrapped around their bodies to prevent tripping. Their heads are often round and oversized. They have great heaps of hair on their heads and eyes which may see over long distances as well as through walls. Wokulos are extremely fast and strong in spite of their appearance. They will challenge travelers to wrestling matches that are often fatal for the human loser. The lot of them are kleptomaniac tricksters that enjoy harassing people and their animals. People spice food to keep them away from food offerings. Wokulos are able to become invisible and communicate with babies who can all see them. Wokulos are sometimes said to transform particularly cute babies into Wokulos through magic ointments and powders, a fear for parents. Wokulos are all male because their females abandoned them for the deepest parts of the earth. Wokulos are allies of twins and serve as compensation if one's twin has died. They herd the wild game like men herd livestock. The excrement of Wokulos is charged with Nyama and hunters highly value it for its magical properties. Like many west african nature spirits, they have backwards pointing feet.
    • The Mandinka and Wolof believe that Kondorongos carry magic calabashes with them that grant vast riches to whoever can take one from them. However, Kondorongos will follow around the thief of their magic calabash for a few days demanding their calabash back. If one responds to them verbally in any way (even mumbling when asleep) the calabash and any financial gains acquired with it vanish.
    • Mangusi was the general term for the magical little peoples, of whom the Wokulos are the smallest and commonly seen.
  • Our Giants Are Bigger: Dyanandyan or Dyene Dyan Folow were colossal red giants created from shards of Muso Koroni and Pemba's divine tree. This was the first race of people. They grew so large that their heads touched the sky and they could simply grab the stars which they gave to their children to play with. Note "children" just means smaller giants created from smaller chunks of wood. Mangala crushed them between heaven and earth for their insolence and friendship with Muso Koroni. The great Dyanandyan were eliminated in the destruction but the smaller survivors were merely diminished, they hid in caves and became the Mangusi.
  • Our Mermaids Are Different: Faro was thought to have a copper fish tail rather than legs. His ears are fins and his hands are webbed. The offspring and servants of Faro often look like mermaids when they don't manifest as water creatures or ordinary humans.
    • Jakirawajija had two fish tails.
  • Our Ogres Are Hungier: Bilissis are fearsome mountain and river demons that have the general shape of humans, but are completely hairless save a ring of hair on their heads and beards. Their eyes are located on the forehead, and their ears are noticeably large. In some stories they have multiple heads and can be albino. Other times they have seven eyes, seven heads, and seven mouths. They might eat people as often as they might enslave people. Skilled sorcerers, their hair is said to have magic qualities: planting it will create a splendid harvest, bringing it on a hunting trip guarantees success, and it can be used to cure mental defects.
  • Our Werebeasts Are Different: Jelemas are shapeshifters who use fetishes and powders to transform.There are four usual transformations.
    • Suruku Jelemas are werehyenas. Blacksmiths were commonly believed to become werehyenas to fight Subagas or Witchess. More malevolent werehyenas would kidnap or kill children of people who angered them. They do not devour human flesh however.
    • Suna Jelemas are wereservals. When they use their magic powder their eyes slide to the sides of their heads near the ears and a Serval face sprouts from the back of their heads. They lay in wait for unfortunate passerby at night to devour. They will feed on every part of a human except the hands, feet, and head.
    • Jara or Wara Jelemas are werelions. This is the most difficult transformation. They do not hunt people but merely chase game alongside real lions. They only dangerous to humans in a highly specific scenario. If one cannot find prey it places its penis on an ant hill and allows them to crawl up the member, through the buttocks, over the back, and into the mouth. If a human witnesses this and laughs the werelion will tear them to shreds.
    • Jara or Waraninkalan Jelemas are wereleopards. They enjoy stealing livestock and are immune to normal weapons. A bit on earwax on the arrow or bullet will harm them though. They typically don't attack people unless wounded and scared.
    • There are many more Jelemas like Bamba Jelemas or werecrocodiles.
  • Panthera Awesome: Wanjilankos were ferocious big cats that preyed on lions. According to the Mandinka they carry an ax.
  • Parrot Pet Position: A Yellow-Crowned Gonolek rode on Fajigi’s shoulder as he returned to the Niger Valley with the sacred idols and charms. It helped him shut them up when they became too talkative.
  • Pest Controller: Bama Ngala Nyama could send flies and mosquitoes to harass people approaching his domain and monitor them.
  • Playing with Fire: Blacksmiths were given this gift.
    • Ndomayiri during his war against the Wokulos pursued them to a cave where they hid in terror of a massive fireball.
  • The Power of the Sun: Controlled by Faro, but the sun itself is Pemba. He is red from the exhaustion of chasing Muso Koroni.
  • Protective Charm: The early Wokulos had 17 divination stones, 33 geomancy signs, and many magic instruments that made them so difficult to beat. Ndomayiri threw all these things into the mud after negotiating their surrender so they could not persecute the world anymore.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Faro's eyes become red when she is about to cast judgement.
  • Rejected Marriage Proposal: Finally heeding the advice of the Nile Perch, Bala doesn’t just tell Kanku “no”. He sends his griot to tell her he’ll never so much as even eat yams again because the name will remind him of her. “Ku” meaning yam.
  • Rubber Man: Sogolon Konde was able to stretch her neck or arms from Maghan the Handsome's compound to the town square of Niani in order to observe the circle dance she wasn't permitted by wedding custom to see.
  • Satellite Love Interest: Faro sometimes has a spouse named Koni (who may very well be Pemba anyway) that basically exists to be the counterpart of Pemba as she is to Muso Koroni.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: The Wokulos fled for the caves when Muso Koroni doubled down on her resolve to fight Mangala, fully anticipating more divine fury.
  • Sea Serpents:
    • Ninkinankas were massive water snakes associated with rain, wealth, rainbows, and kingship. Any man who wanted to be a legitimate ruler needed to befriend the Ninkinanka. It has two horns and two glowing red fetishes on its head, one front and one back. They could be friendly or hostile depending on the legend. They vomit gold and silver treasures. Ninkinanka is served by an ancient fish which brings it chunks of iron thrown into the water by aspirants to kingship. The golden scales it drops for its chosen candidate confer treasures.
    • Bida was a giant water serpent who gave blessings of gold rain in exchange for virgin sacrifices thrice per year. Sometimes it is described as having several heads.
  • Second Coming: Faro is said to return to earth every 400 years to make sure everything is running properly.
  • Serious Business: Kassum and Mai have an argument over whether Djenne or Timbuktu is older. They decide to settle things with Wacky Racing using boats.
    • People played a game called Sumangolo. It was named after the primordial ancestor who explored the universe and uncovered the secrets of the sacred waters Faro allows to flow through the world, save the secret waters of the future. It was thought that playing the game and symbolically navigating the waters of the cosmos people would contribute to Faro's perfecting of the world.
  • Shapeshifting Lover: A very common motif in Mande folklore. A notoriously successful hunter drives the animals of the bush to oppose him in the face of extinction. So they send one of their number to transform into a gorgeous girl and seduce him to his doom.
  • Shapeshifter Showdown: Long ago the Komo cult was tasked with vanquishing a sorceress of great power who had defeated many. Two of the most famous Komo initiates, Ngonkoro (the old baboon) and Gwaranko Dibi (the darkness of Gwaranko) used divination to predict the outcome. The sorceress Sumoso Yiraba insulted the men of the Komo cult. She transformed into a fox to escape their wrath, so the Komo members turned themselves into hunting dogs to get her. So she turned into a pigeon, and the Komo masters pursued her in the form of hawks. She became a snake and fled to the swamps, so the Komo became yellow foxes. Yiraba transformed into wind and the Komo were confounded.
    • Shina Mama and San brought 1500 amulets each to test each other's powers. San turned into a tree so Shina Mama turned into a woodcutter and chopped him until the tree bled. A sheep lept from the wound and Shina Mama roasted then ate it. Then grain came out of the tree so Shina Mama became a chicken and ate it. The last grain turned into a bird and fled. So Shina Mama became a parrot and pursued. San turned into a silver ring and dropped into a pocket of a king. Shina Mama became a griot and played wonderfully for the court. The king offered him anything and Shina Mama asked for the ring in his pocket. San changed back into a man and Shina Mama decided San was the better wizard.
  • Sizeshifter: Fakoli demonstrated this power to Sundiata and his allies by growing so big he wore the roof of the meeting house as a hat after being laughed at for his short stature.
  • Speaks Fluent Animal: Paama Koono could communicate with animals. That's how he knew the female animals wept for him as well, their mates were jealous and wanted to kill him too.
  • Spell Book: The Book of Warthog Wisdom contained a treasury of spells and lore.
  • The Spiny: Sogolon Konde had the ability to sprout porcupine quills from her body. In some versions she prevents unwanted intercourse by growing them from her vagina. She was also a Spike Shooter from her breasts.
  • Stewed Alive: Mansa Kono met his end when Jase Banna Damfe pooped him out into a boiling pot which his sister Mari Fatuma quickly covered with another pot. They held it until the bird was dead.
  • SuperStrength: Sundiata Keita was able to rip a baobob out of the ground and carry it to his mother.
    • Gboro the rival of Somono Bala was so strong he could do the same as Sundiata.
  • Swallowed Whole: Djadje Tjenta was swallowed three times by a giant catfish. Fortunately his head came out of the anus each time his feet were finally swallowed up.
    • Bida would swallow his victims whole.
    • Mansa Kono swallowed the five Mandinka kings who came to oppose him. But each time he did this they came out of his anus. Then they would swallow him and he would come out of their anuses.
    • Dunu Mussa recklessly tried to fight a giant man eating crocodile and was devoured for his trouble. However he had impressed a chief named Maliki Napo earlier who used magic to summon the crocodile and forced it to cough him up seven days later.
    • Tiramakhan Traore wandered into the stomach of the Wolof king’s crocodile form while searching for him.
  • The Swarm: Fajigi sent a swarm of lice to devour his mother or step-mother after she tricked him into sex.
  • Teleportation: Sumanguru pulled this off to make hasty escapes.
    • Mari Fatuma was the sister of king Jase Banna Damfe. When she saw her brother had gone off to fight Mansa Kono she teleported from Jarra to Manden so she could aid him.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: When Muso Koroni annoyed Mangala one too many times he flooded the earth from the sky and underground. Then he had her eyes melted by the rays of the sun. Her uterus was ripped out and eaten by the Sume fish. She died in total solitude freezing and drowning as the raging waters rended her corporeal being. When a person dies the last thing they see becomes a fixed image they bear with them as the double part of the soul leaves the body through the eye. In burning her eyes out in the most spectacular way possible Mangala utterly annihilated her.
  • Truly Single Parent: Dogs came from the pee of Muso Koroni, Donkeys came from the pee of Pemba.
  • Turtle Island: Maliki Napo came across an ancient crocodile after converting to Islam and returning from Djenne. It had grass growing out of its back.
  • Unusual Ears: Faro's fin ears also function as mirrors of all things she sees.
  • Wacky Racing: Mai casts a spell which makes Kassum's boat crash into a sharp rock. Kassum makes a hole in the back of the boat so the water just sprays directly from the back without the boat slowing down. Kassum sabotaged Mai's charms so that he would drive his boat into a dead end and then a wave would throw it into a sand bank. Mai was stuck until he yelled "Water!" in Songhai followed by magic words and a wave brought him back into the race. All the ruckus awakened the crab monster Sallo who demanded to know what a bunch of humans were doing in his river. He opened his vast mouth to swallow them and the rivals helped each other escape just in time.
  • The Weird Sisters: Kamissa Konde, Sogolon Konde, and Ma Tenemba Konde were magically gifted sisters instrumental in the fate of Mali.
  • Whip It Good: Maghan the Handsome used a magic whip to make Sogolon Konde submit to him.
    • Somono Bala was gifted a red leather whip from a giant Nile Perch. As long as he waited for his opponent to strike him three times first, he could defeat them on all fours with a single stroke. The Perch immunized him from feeling pain. It knocked out Gboro in one lash, making blood pour from his nose and mouth.
    • Gboro had super strength but failed to hurt Bala with his hippo leather whip. So he threw it aside and tried using a heavy braided whip with all his might. It was a No-Sell against Bala.
  • Winged Humanoid: Teliko.
  • Wolverine Claws: Sogolon Konde could grow lion claws as defensive weapons.
  • Womanliness as Pathos: Women were widely considered dangerous, unpredictable, and almost entirely untrustworthy. One of the most recurring themes is the treachery of women. The legend of Bala Somono has song verses explicitly warning male listeners about how capricious women are.
    • Muso Koroni is the archetypical woman. It was she who polluted and corrupted the world with the dark force called "Wanzo". Wanzo is characterized by chaos and the savagery of the bush. Muso Koroni was the embodiment of such untamed wildness. Circumcision was believed to free boys from this feminine principle, while freeing girls from their male principle in turn. Marriage was thought to compensate the loss of femininity in men in a constructive manner.
    • Mamamdi Sefe Dekote doomed a city-state by rescuing the Virgin Sacrifice Sia Jatta Bari. She becomes aloof with him after the rescue and demands money while rebuffing affection. She makes him mutilate himself for her and then says she doesn't like mutilated men.
    • Annalja Tu Bari spread violence throughout the Sahel by saying she would only marry the man who could reconquer her father's old fiefs. When Samba Ganna accomplished this she demanded he slay a dragon for her. When he accomplished that she demanded he tame it and make it her pet. He died in disbelief at her gall and she incited more men to follow his example of conquest then died herself.
    • Paama Koono is seduced by his lover into revealing his Achilles' Heel.
    • Fanta Maa achieves victory over Bama Ngala Nyama after the latter's sister reveals his weakness.
    • Sogolon Kolokon is instrumental in defeating Sumanguru Kante by seducing him, his mother even throws a lampshade on it.
    • Fakoli works for his villainous uncle until his wife is kidnapped.
    • Myriad Donso legends are about foolish hunters letting girls manipulate them, only to realize too late that she is a spirit or bush animal. This is why a proper Dozo hunter was often expected to be ritually celibate.
  • World Tree: Silk-Cotton trees are believed to be the ladder between the different heavens. When a person died it was believed that their primary soul climbed the tree towards heaven guided by the rainbow, while the totem spirit double stays at the family altar... or goes on a crazy rampage as a violent bush ghost if final rites were improper.
    • Mount Kouroula was the axis-mundi where the golden ark of Faro landed from heaven.
    • Pemba the Balanza tree was the divine sustainer of immortal life before he was corrupted. The Balanza was the connection between the heavens and the earth. Unlike other trees the Balanza has peculiar qualities. Heavy rains cause it to dry up and shrivel while drought seems to make them flourish.
    • Some say Mangala or Massa Dambali himself planted the first Balanza tree on the small islet that was early earth. The first Balanza had four branches: the eastern branch yellow, the northern branch white, the western branch red, and the southern branch black.
  • You Are Who You Eat: Faro is albino from the waist up after defeating Teliko and taking his albinism.
  • You Killed My Father: The driving motivation for Marain Jagu was vengeance against the tyrant Garakhe Jibinga for the murder of his father Bincigi.

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