African Oral Epic Poetry: Praising the Deeds of a Mythic Hero

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Professor Pointer is the first person to offer an English translation of the Epic of Kambili, an African heroic myth. The book is careful to point out that this text deserves to be read by myth scholars and shows that the literary tradition of epic myth-telling extends to Africa through its oral folklore. The author argues that the story should be treated as an epic myth that was pieced together by different authors over several centuries, which may or may not have been the result of observing real events. It may have been an imaginative narrative representing cultural norms with verbal symbolism, thereby putting it in a different tradition to the European epics, while also showing similar conventions of genre.


“Pointer underscores the importance of John William Johnson’s declaration that the Greek epic tradition is only one of many. In several places in Africa and elsewhere, living epic traditions can be observed in their natural contexts.”

Prof. Daniel P. Kunene,
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Table of Contents

Foreword by Daniel P. Kunene

Chapter 1: Some Background on the Epic

Chapter 2: Griots and Griottes: Composers and Performers

Chapter 3: Kambili and History

Chapter 4: The Hero of the Epic

Chapter 5: Poet and Accompanists

Chapter 6: Modes and Methods of Composition in Kambili

Chapter 7: Praise Songs, Traditional Religion and Islam

Chapter 8: Birth, Tasks and Triumph of Kambili

Chapter 9: In Praise of Kambili Sananfila

Chapter 10: The Story: A Synopsis

The Epic of Kambili (translated to English)

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