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  • Writer's pictureFolkloristan

Issa Beer Remembers

Come my friend! I’ll tell you a story from my living days

O my friend! I’ll tell you a story from lands vast

O my friend! I’ll tell you of glories that didn’t last

It is true, o my friend

It is true what they say

Of Annallja Tu Bari and her beauty

Of Annallja Tu Bari who was melancholy

Of Annallja Tu Bari who refused to marry

It is true, o my friend

It is true what they say

Of Samba Gana, Prince of Faraka

Of Samba Gana in whose land none was bolder

Of Samba the cheerful and honorable victor

Anallja was sad because of her father

Who suffered defeat from which he didn’t recover

And so she demanded of all who would woo her

Her father’s lost honor, many times over

Bring me what he lost, that small town over yonder

To win my heart over and fill me with laughter

Then bring me eighty more towns, to win my heart over

Bring me eighty more towns, to fill me with laughter

But no man was willing to count such a high number

To pay so high a price to win her heart over

So though she was beautiful like no other

Sad she remained, a woman with no lover

Along came Samba Gana, Prince of Faraka

Samba Gana in whose land none was bolder

Samba a hero, Samba a conqueror

Samba a cheerful and honorable victor

He came with his servants, and horses, and bards

Leaving challengers in shame in defeat

But, always, he held them in high regard

Keep your town, he said to each, I have no use for it

Tararafe was a bard who rode with Samba

Tararafe was joyful just like his master

He is the one who sang of Annallja

Of this sad beauty who took no lover

To fill her with laughter, this you must bring her

To win her heart over, this you must offer

Eighty towns you must bring, to fill her with laughter

Eighty towns you must offer, to win her heart over

We must go! Samba Gana said to his followers

We must go to the home of Anallja!

We must see this beauty who takes no lover

We must go to the home of Anallja!

They rode for many days and they rode for many nights

Their horses running like the wind, running with all their might

Finally they arrived, coming in with dawn’s first light

And when they saw the woman, they were dumbstruck by the sight

Radiant like the sun, she sat, surrounded by her maids

But her eyes remained downcast, when to her, homage was paid

And so he decided on the spot, this prince of Faraka

To court this beautiful woman, whose sorrow possessed her

He rode away at once, his set on conquest

It didn’t take him too much time to fulfill her request

You have done all I asked, Anallja said on his return

Eighty towns you’ve won, so my heart you’ve surely have earned

But though she spoke the very words that Samba longed to hear

Her voice was heavy with distress and devoid of good cheer

Why do you not laugh? he asked. What keeps your joy away?

Tell me what you’d have me do to make it come and stay?

At first, she said, I couldn’t laugh due to my father’s shame

His defeat was so crushing, and he thought himself to blame

But now I cannot laugh because I am in so much pain

I feel the pang of hunger, but I have so little grain

We suffer much in this land from terrible droughts, you see

And now I know the reason from what your bard has told me

Issa Beer the Dragon is the one who holds the key

He it is who stops rivers from flowing to the sea

Conquer this dread serpent who causes us so much fear

Conquer this menace who causes drought from year to year

Conquer this dread serpent, and you’ll get your heart’s desire

Conquer this dread serpent, and you’ll fill my heart with laughter

You ask much of me, my dear! Samba Gana said

For in all the land and time, no one had ever dared

And on my part, I will say that I never really cared

For I was the dragon that they all revered and feared

But I should’ve known that someday someone would come

With some love to prove, or some fear to overcome

So when Samba Gana came and found me in my lair

I knew my time had come but I had to play it fair

We fought for eight long years, it was truly a nasty matter

We fought so hard, we changed the course of the great river Niger

We fought so hard, we split the earth and made the mountains scatter

We fought so hard, we stripped the sun of all of its hot fire

But alas, he triumphed, this great Prince of Faraka

Dead, at last, I lay at the feet of Samba Gana

I must say the young man fought with skill like no other

Eighty swords he broke, eight hundred lances he splintered

But when he sent his bloody lance to his love Anallja

Stained with evidence of the battle he’d fought for her

The treacherous woman asked for more, it did not satisfy her

She wanted both my head and my power over water

Then it was that Samba Gana saw what he’d not seen

That Anallja sought not love, but the power of a queen

He laughed one last time, realizing how foolish he had been

And thrust his sword into his chest, piercing his heart and spleen

They say Anallja summoned all the princes he’d conquered

And rode with them to Faraka, preceded by the bards

They say she called Samba Gana the bravest in the land

They say she built a pyramid, the tallest that could stand

They say she used up all the soil and left the land depleted

They say she finally laughed and died the day it was completed

They say Anallja mourned him, but to me it does not matter

She never really loved him, that is why she made him suffer


Source: African Genesis by Leo Frobenius

This is a poetic retelling of a Soninke legend, contributed by Mythological Africans.

It is a part of our series, Folklore Worldwide. We are currently open to submissions from around the world, and you are welcome to send us your stories!

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