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The Great Idea

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Many epics and short stories have values and lessons to teach, and some values can be reflected across multiple stories. These ideas usually can be thought of as more important because they have endured through various cultures and time periods. An idea that can be considered universal across various time periods and cultures is the saying "Don't judge a book by its cover."

In the Sundiata, this idea gets reflected in various points in the epic. When Mari Djata sees his mother in distress because of his ailment, he says, "'Very well then, I am going to walk today,'...'Go and tell my father's smiths to make me the heaviest possible iron rod.'...He crept on all-fours and came to the iron bar...With a violent jerk he threw his weight on to it and his knees left the ground...After recovering his breath Sogolon's son dropped the bar and the crowd stood to one side. His first steps were those of a giant." (133-134) This reflects the idea because everyone thought he would never walk, but he had that "other side" of him that he finally brought out. This is also important because it shows that Mari Djata also showed the people of Mali that he was fit to be king, and this brings an end to the epic. Throughout the story, the belief is that "Each man finds his way already marked out for him and he can change nothing of it...People had seen one-eyed kings, one-armed kings, and lame kings, but a stiff-legged king had never been heard tell of...'Here is the great day, Mari Djata. I am speaking to you, Maghan, son of Sogolon.'" (127, 130, 133) This supports the idea because everyone thought Mari Djata's fate was sealed when they discovered his infirmity, but he soon became king over them, and this shows that people can be misled by what seems to be. This also is important because the people of Niani had been convinced that Mari Djata would never walk and be their king, but he turned out to be more than first glance.

Aside from this epic of Mali, the Old Testament reflects this value in the story of David and Goliath in I Samuel 17. The day of the battle arrives, "And when the Philistine looked about, and saw David, he disdained him: for he was but a youth, and ruddy, and of a fair countenance...And the Philistine said to David, 'Come to me, and I will give thy flesh unto the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field.'...And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slang it, and smote the Philistine in the forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth." (42, 44, 49) This supports the idea in that the Philistine thought that David was nothing to fight, but David ended up killing him, and surprised everyone. This is also important because it shows that even though David, being small and not as strong as Goliath, could win and show the Philistines that the Israelites had more up their sleeve than what met the eye. "And Saul said to David, 'Thou are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him: for thou art but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.' And David said unto Saul, 'Thy servant kept his father's sheep, and there came a lion and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: and I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him.'" (33-35) This helps support the idea because even Saul, who supported



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