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Throughout human history, hospitality has made a great and significant impact on all cultures. The events in Sundiata and The Odyssey both show how the importance of hospitality can influence or determine one’s fate. For instance, Odysseus fate, which states that he will be returned home to be with his family, is impacted by Telemachus hospitality towards Athena. Similarly, in Sundiata, hospitality plays a major role in his path towards founding the empire. Although hospitality was a vital custom in older transitions, they also varied and were carried out differently in both books.
In present-day hospitality was treated as simply a small act of kindness towards the guest, whereas in ancient times it was an unwritten law. “Straight to the door he came, irked with himself to think a visitor had been kept there waiting, and took her right hand, grasping with his left her tall bronze bladed spear. Then he said warmly: “Greetings, stranger! Welcome to our feast. There will come time to tell your errand later.” (1: 150-155)”As one can see, those who were being entertained expected to be provided with food, shelter and the basic needs.
Telemachus offered these services without questioning his guest’s background and identity. In addition, Telemachus sincerity portrays him as a trustworthy and excellent host, despite having little left to offer from Penelope’s suitors. This contributed to the success of Odysseus fate, which was determined by the Gods that he would return home safely to be with his family. “The tale was that your father had come home, therefore I came. I see the gods delay him but never in this world is Odysseus dead – only detained somewhere on the wide sea (1: 238-239).”
Furthermore, if Telemachus had failed to honor and acknowledge Athena disguised as the mortal Mendes, then she would not offer to guide Telemachus in bringing his father home, as well as, give him the knowledge and assertiveness needed to fulfill the fate of Odysseus. In fact, the legend of The Odyssey would never be known today, considering Odysseus would not make it home without the guidance and protection of Athena, together with the support of Telemachus.
Similarly, Sundiata’s fate was already predicted before he was born and it was told that he would be one of the great rulers of Mali. Hospitality also plays a major role in his path towards founding the empire. For instance, when Sundiata and his family were exiled, they searched for places to stay but when they visited Mema, the King’s sister welcomed them lavishly. “A great escort was sent to meet the travelers and a proper reception was held before Mema (Niane 36).” In addition, “The whole Mema was at the city gate and you would have thought it was the King’s homecoming (Niane 36).” This depicts hospitality at its peak. Moreover, because Sundiata’s family was welcomed into the palace, he was given the opportunity to meet the King who was a great warrior and admired strength. Hence, the king trained and taught Sundiata to fight in an army and enhanced his intelligence, which in turn helped towards achieving his destiny – ruling the Mali Empire. Had Sundiata not been welcomed into the palace, he would not have gained the wisdom to fight in an army and acquired the principles of a king, which once again, paved the way to making his fate an actual reality.
Although hospitality was a vital custom in older transitions, they also varied and were carried out differently. Sundiata escaped death at the hands of his host, Mansa Konkon and the guest-host relationship was changed. However, Sundiata did not show any hatred or anger towards his host. Rather, he responded in a kind and intelligent way to show the king that he is above all the deception. “No king, do not accuse anybody (Niane 30), Sundiata also said, “It is nearly up to three months I have been living with you and you have never up to now suggested a game of word (Niane 30-31).”
Whereas, in the Odyssey, the suitors were being a nuisance to Telemachus and Penelope, which led to them both showing their anger towards each other. To demonstrate, it was mentioned, “Go feasting elsewhere, consume your own stores. Turn and turn about, use one another’s house (2: 424-426).” Sundiata showed respect towards his host despite all the threats, anger and plan to end his life, whereas Telemachus vented his anger towards the suitors as they did to him. Though different, the events in both these books eventually influenced the fate of both characters in the long run.