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Gassire is a prince who would be the successor of his father, but his father is very powerful. Gassire wants to be king very badly, and becomes a mighty warrior to demonstrate his strength. Gassire consults an old wiseman and the old wiseman tells him that Gassire will abandon his quest to be king to play the lute. He also tells him that he will not be king and other people will become king after the death of his father, and the empire will fall. He hears the sound of the lute, and has one made for him because he loves the sound so much. When he tries to play the lute, it does not produce any sound. He hears that it can only be played if he goes into battle. He then hears that his sons must go to battle for the lute to play; in battle, seven of his sons die, but the lute will still not play. The people exiled him because of his violence and disregard for his family. He went into the desert with his one remaining son, his wives, and a few loyal friends. He finally can play the lute when he sings of the empire and the story provides lessons to all the people who listen.
Oral tradition in the legend of Wagadu says that after Cisse's death, his two sons, Khine and Dyabe, disagreed about who would become the successor. They fought and Khine won the battle. Dyabe, humiliated, made an accord with a black snake with seven heads named Bida. Dyabe promised to sacrifice a virgin to the snake once every year in return for victory over his brother. He fulfilled his promise to Bida until his death. The wealth of Ghana is depicted by this story, as the Soninke believe that there were rains of gold due to the annual virgin girl sacrifice to the black snake. Another clarification to the prosperity of the empire was its gold mines located in Kumbi Saleh, the imperial capital. This place became an important commercial centre. The existence of camels facilitated the transport of gold and other products, such as slaves, salt and copper, textiles, beads, and finished goods, with the rest of the world.
The King adorns himself like a woman wearing necklaces round his neck and bracelets on his forearms and he puts on a high cap decorated with gold and wrapped in a turban of fine cotton. He holds an audience in a domed pavilion around which stand ten horses covered with gold-embroidered materials…and on his right, are the sons of the vassal kings of his country, wearing splendid garments and their hair plaited with gold.At the door of the pavilion are dogs of excellent pedigree. Round their necks they wear collars of gold and silver, studded with a number of balls of the same metals."
For the Soninke people, the decline of their empire was due to the legend of Wagadu, and the rupture of the pact between the empire and the black snake. This happened after the nobles chose Siya Yatabare as the annual sacrifice. She was the most beautiful and “cleanest” virgin girl in that year, but she was also engaged to be married. Her fiancé, Maadi, was the son of Djamere Soukhounou whose unique quality was that he always did what he promised. When Maadi was told him what would happen, that his fiancée would be given to “Bida” - the black snake of Wagadu, he promised Siya that she would not die in the well of Wagadu. Siya tried to convince him that it is her destiny, that he should let her to be the gift to the snake in order to save the Empire, but Maadi refused. Within days, he asked his friend, the blacksmith of his village named Bomou, to sharpen his saber. When the day came, Maadi set on his way in the direction of the well of Wagadu. Siya Yatabare was well dressed and her hairstyle was in plaited with gold. The praise-singer encouraged her, as did her family. When they left, she saw Maadi and they both fell in tears. Siya told him that if he killed the snake, Wagadu would not have any more rain and the empire would be destroyed forever. Maadi refused, saying their destinies are ratified. He left her and hid himself nearby to wait for the snake.