While have about the world at the time

While textual evidence from Sundiata and the “Second Letter of Fernando Cortes to Emperor Charles V”  tend to portray a monotheistic view, I believe that they both support Robert Mark’s idea of a polycentric world when we consider these works in context of lecture material. Cortes’ letter serves as a chronological timeline following his conquests through New Spain and Sundiata discusses how the Mali Empire’s creator rose to power by reuniting various African regions. While both works discuss other civilizations and leaders that their protagonists encounter, it clearly depicts those who are against them as inferior groups. The descriptions each author includes about how sophisticated and far-reaching the powers that they confronted were, serves as a way to promote their own accomplishments, by glorifying the groups they were victorious against. On the surface, it might seem that these stories encourage a monocentric view of the world; but by connecting these works to the knowledge we have about the world at the time they were written, I will show how both pieces support Marks. In Cortes’ narration of his journey to Tlaxcalteca, he was ambushed by a group of Indians, ” numbering about four to five thousand; meantime, eight other horsemen” fought alongside him (200). The most impressive detail about the skirmish had to be the fact that Cortes claimed they did not suffer single casualty and were actually able to scare them off after killing sixty of their men. By avoiding any logical explanations for their unlikely victory, Cortes simply says that they ” were obliged to do as Christians, by fighting against the enemies of our faith, …had God on our side, for whom nothing was impossible” (207). Cortes does not mention any weaknesses in his enemies that he defeats so easily, in fact he claims the armies “covered all the country, attacked their camp so determinedly” (202). There is clearly a substantial imbalance between the Spaniard forces and natives, but when Cortes dignifies his opponents, in a way it makes the Spanish Empire appear superior to all other civilizations.Looking solely at the textual evidence reveals that Cortes has a very Eurocentric view on the world, his tone is set this way since the letter is being addressed to his boss, Emperor Charles V. When stating that his conquests are “in the service of Your Sacred Majesty, to Your Royal good fortune God gave us such a victory that we slew many people without our own sustaining any injury”, Cortes reminds us that he is addressing a superior (203). This letter is written to claim the conquests in the name of the king, while establishing a reputation for himself, which is why he has incentive to praise the Spanish Empire’s superiority. Cortes goes into great depths about how he carried out his conquests, but he only glances over what they are searching for. Cortes asserts that “all the things created on land, as well as in the sea, of which Montezuma had ever heard, were imitated in gold, most naturally, as well as in silver” (254). This statement supports what we know about the Spanish Empire attempting to join the Indian Ocean trade network at the time. Chinese goods were highly desirable and the only thing the Spanish could offer as trade for their goods was silver. Silver was in high demand by the Chinese because the Single Whip turned it into the standard currency for paying taxes. Bridging the links between Cortes’ letter and what we already know about global trade during his era makes it clear that his letter actually supports a polycentric view. Sundiata explains the rise of the Mali empire through griot, Mamadou Kouyate, who was assigned specifically to follow and narrate the story of Sundiata. Sundiata faces three major setbacks according to Kouyate: a cruel queen, handicaps during childhood, and the sorcerer king, Soumaoro Kante. Before Sundiata was conceived, a prophecy “foretold that its destiny should be fulfilled in such and such a land, and men can do nothing against it” (47). This is important because it essentially tells us that no matter what obstacle is thrown in our protagonist’s way, he will always overcome them to become who he was always meant to be. Even though Sundiata was crippled at birth and exiled at an early age, it “could not keep Sundiata back because the destiny of Sologon’s son was bound up with that of Mali. Neither the jealousy of a cruel stepmother, or her wickedness, could alter for a moment the course of great destiny” (47). The evil sorcerer king, Soumaoro, was launching conquests that reached as far as Sundiata’s hometown of Mali; but when messengers finally locate Sundiata after years of serving his exile they exclaim, “Mali is saved because we have found you, Sundiata” (45). No  matter how many kings  he defeated or how far his lands extended, Soumaoro was destined to lose to Sundiata. Sundiata has been able to overcome every form of adversity he has faced, and he finally fulfills the prophecy when he defeats Kante, unifying the Mali Empire and establishing himself as king during the process.Sundiata utilizes the theme of destiny to project a very monocentric view and Kouyate declares that his recount of history cannot be argued because, “royal griots do not know what lying is” (1). Kouyate is very prideful when describing Sundiata since he is motivated to continue the ancient tradition of storytelling for ancient Mali kings. While there is a strong presence of destiny being used throughout the story, it does not serve as concrete evidence for monocentrism since it is constructed by the author. Kouyate declares that “by my mouth you will get to know the story of the ancestor of great Mali, the story of him who, by his exploits, surpassed even Alexander the Great; he who, from the East, shed his rays upon all the countries of the West” (2). The validity of this statement must be questioned because how can Sundiata be considered the ancestor of Mali when his father was the first king of Mali. Also, Kouyate compares the influence of Sundiata to that of Alexander the Great’s, exemplifying that they had prior knowledge about western civilizations. By understanding that Sundiata was not the author of his own story and that the griot would be motivated to praise the Mali king, we can tell that Kouyate recount of the story is inclined to be prejudiced towards Sundiata.Overall, both authors narrate history from monocentric views, but when we analyze their works in the context of our historical knowledge we can see how they better support a polycentric world. According to Marks a polycentric perspective includes thinking of the world as, “composed of several regional systems each with densely populated and industrially advanced cores supplied through their own peripheries” (414). The parallel theme among both texts is that they each support their own core and glorify it to imply that their core is superior to all others. But when we look at the bigger picture we can see that these cores are not dominant over other civilizations, they simply coexist with them. Through Cortes’ conquests he is trying to justify the greatness of the Spanish empire over the peripheral regions of New Spain, but in reality he would not be exploring those regions if the empire did not want to engage in trade with Asian powers that were much wealthier and economically developed at the time. Sundiata’s griot has knowledge about Mali kings that came before Sundiata as well as other powers in the west, but the purpose of his narration is to glorify the story of the king that he was assigned to. Kouyate makes bold claims about Sundiata and uses the imaginative construct of destiny to strengthen Sundiata’s reputation. However, by looking at his position in history from factual evidence, we see that he was not the first king of Mali, and did not interact with western powers. Works CitedMarks, Robert B. The Origins of the Modern World a Global and Ecological Narrative. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2007.Niane, Djibril Tamsir., et al. Sundiata: an Epic of Old Mali. Pearson Longman, 2006.Cortes, Hernan. “Second Letter of Fernando Cortes to Emperor Charles V”