The Worlds of a Maasai Warrior: An Autobiography Info

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An autobiographical memoir revealing the traditional
childhood, adolescence, and coming of age in Maasailond also documents
the author's life on the plains of the Serengeti and his education
and experiences as he journeyed to Europe and America

Average Ratings and Reviews
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4.06

398 Ratings

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Reviews for The Worlds of a Maasai Warrior: An Autobiography:

3

May 11, 2012

First read August 7, 2012. 4 stars.

Saitoti's autobiography is a breezy afternoon read, and it has an endearing naive and earnest tone. It is often marketed as an introductory reading to Maasai life in Tanzania, something people ought to read before they come (was rec'd by both the handbook for my study abroad program and the Lonely Planet Guide). However, I'd question its utility for that purpose. Having read it both before and after my firsthand experience with Maasai, I can't see I got much First read August 7, 2012. 4 stars.

Saitoti's autobiography is a breezy afternoon read, and it has an endearing naive and earnest tone. It is often marketed as an introductory reading to Maasai life in Tanzania, something people ought to read before they come (was rec'd by both the handbook for my study abroad program and the Lonely Planet Guide). However, I'd question its utility for that purpose. Having read it both before and after my firsthand experience with Maasai, I can't see I got much out of it either time.

Tepilit's experiences are idiosyncratic, and while they may give some sense of what it is like to grow up Maasai, they focus more on exceptional events in his life and things that would be remarkable to a Western observer, rather than things that help you grasp Maasai life in any way. Much of the interest in the book comes from him experiencing novelty - novel cultures and novel ecosystems (ie, oh a car what's that?; oh the ocean what's that?). None of that sheds any real light on how the Maasai live.

Nor is there any deeper or more elucidatory explanation of Maasai culture and economics that would be interesting in comparative/historical perspective. Just about the only relevant point of comparison with my experiences concerned education. Tepilit's generation considered Maasai who went to get educated to be abandoning their proud cultural heritage, gathering useless and arcane skills and getting brainwashed into worshiping strange gods and willingly working for others in return for money. Maasai in our study area were almost universally of the opinion that education, as much of it for as many of their children as possible, was the best path to "development" and prosperity. But the end of the book makes it clear that he saw this trend, and its main issue: education in Tanzania is terrifically sub-par, so the good faith efforts of parents and students in the name of education go largely to waste due to inadequate resources and lax teaching. ...more
4

Jan 01, 2013

This book is an account of one man crossing the enormous chasm between the traditional Maasai way of life and contemporary Western culture. What this man accomplished is more or less time travel, because the distance that divides the world he was born into and the one he learned to navigate successfully is far more than physical distance.

Saitotis descriptions of his childhood and youth enable the reader to appreciate the strengths as well as the weaknesses of his native culture. It may be This book is an account of one man crossing the enormous chasm between the traditional Maasai way of life and contemporary Western culture. What this man accomplished is more or less time travel, because the distance that divides the world he was born into and the one he learned to navigate successfully is far more than physical distance.

Saitoti’s descriptions of his childhood and youth enable the reader to appreciate the strengths as well as the weaknesses of his native culture. It may be “primitive” from our point of view, lacking in the technological and medical advantages of our own, but it is a culture on a human scale, where each individual has a role to play, and is a full participant in the life of the group. We Westerners have a life of ease in comparison with the Maasai, but we are also, to a large extent, alienated from one another and divorced from the natural world.

Saitoti’s account of his life ends with his return home to Tanzania after the death of his brother. Since his book was published in 1986 (when he was 37) we are left wondering what has become of him since. I would be very interested to know what he went on to accomplish, this Maasai warrior who graduated with honors from Emerson College and went on to earn an M.S. degree in natural resources from the University of Michigan. A man of his intelligence, sensitivity, education and experience must surely be a valuable asset to his country.
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5

Jul 22, 2008

My safari guide gave this to me, saying the author was a friend who had lived a life similar to his own. It's a very well-written memoir style book of a man who is raised among a very proud people called the Maasai in East Africa. By modern standards they live very primitive lives: herding cattle, and living in dirt huts. But some of them are sent to school and enter the modern world, and the juxtaposition of the author's viewpoint on both worlds makes for a great read.

One interesting thing I My safari guide gave this to me, saying the author was a friend who had lived a life similar to his own. It's a very well-written memoir style book of a man who is raised among a very proud people called the Maasai in East Africa. By modern standards they live very primitive lives: herding cattle, and living in dirt huts. But some of them are sent to school and enter the modern world, and the juxtaposition of the author's viewpoint on both worlds makes for a great read.

One interesting thing I noticed was that one reason the author was able to get so far in life was that as a safari guide back in the day, he met exclusively rich and powerful people as his clients. They were the only ones who could afford it back then! Just goes to show that its all about who you know! ...more
3

Jan 18, 2018

Quite a fascinating look at the life of the Maasai. The author describes his traditional life as a boy herder than warrior. At the age of 20 he ran away and became a park ranger, tourist guide and through his contacts eventually went to the USA where he obtained a university education.
His observations of seeing his first wheel, airplane, Western city and other things we take for granted were almost as interesting as his life, traditions, culture and gulf between the blacks and whites. At the end Quite a fascinating look at the life of the Maasai. The author describes his traditional life as a boy herder than warrior. At the age of 20 he ran away and became a park ranger, tourist guide and through his contacts eventually went to the USA where he obtained a university education.
His observations of seeing his first wheel, airplane, Western city and other things we take for granted were almost as interesting as his life, traditions, culture and gulf between the blacks and whites. At the end of the book he returns to his homeland where the world of the Maasai was under major threat by new park/ranges and increasing encroachment of farmland. Well worth the read. ...more
5

Feb 15, 2010


This is an amazing autobiography by a great author who just happens to be from a nomadic African herding tribe.

It is not an anthropological work that looks at Maasai society from the outside; it is an actual report about the Maasai told by someone who actually grew up and lived among them. In fact to describe it as a report about the Maasai probably overplays the anthropological aspects of it. The author is concerned more about conveying his own life than the mores of his people, and he does it
This is an amazing autobiography by a great author who just happens to be from a nomadic African herding tribe.

It is not an anthropological work that looks at Maasai society from the outside; it is an actual report about the Maasai told by someone who actually grew up and lived among them. In fact to describe it as a report about the Maasai probably overplays the anthropological aspects of it. The author is concerned more about conveying his own life than the mores of his people, and he does it exceedingly well. The author spends pages discussing events like the time he fell asleep while his father's cattle herd was attacked. He is able to convey the incredible struggle to defend the herd along with the intense fear of his father's punishment. Through these little stories, the reader really gets the feeling for a life lived on the Serengeti plain.

There are of course great little vignettes about Maasai society here too: the women rushing to cover their huts with cow-dung to patch leaks during a rainstorm, the tribal dance to commemorate the killing of a lion, and, above all, discussions dealing with the huge herds of cattle. How they have to be corralled with thorn bushes to protect them against predators at night, how they strain after green pastures during the dry season, how they get poisoned by volcanic ash, and so on. It is amazing to see how deeply the Maasai come understand their animals after a life lived in continual contact with them. For instance, the author learns that lions sometimes station themselves upwind of a herd to frighten the cattle with their scent and drive them into another pack of lions.

There are also great scenes here about the author's travels to the West and America, where he eventually earned a Master's degree in environmental science. He travels to Disneyland and loves the Jungleride. He is physically threatened by whites in racially-tense Boston during the busing controversy. He dates a white woman and is threatened by blacks in Harlem.

This book probably taught me more about both traditional societies and cosmopolitan life than anything else I've ever read. I recommend to everyone. ...more
5

Aug 23, 2011

Strange and compelling. One of those books that attempts to bridge a cultural gap and in doing shows you how immense it truly is. Tepilit's narrative is well written and evocative, but essentially personal and straightforward. There is no pandering, or false humility or pride, and rarely pontificates on the greater meaning of his unique life. It just tells his story as a Maasai, not not the story of the Maasai.
5

Aug 11, 2018

This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Equally as heart-warming and funny as it is heart-breaking and sobering, Tepilit Ole Saitoti takes you on a journey through his life. From herding calves as a boy, to fighting a lion and achieving warrior-hood; from hunting for poachers in the Serengeti, to being the focus of a Nat Geo documentary; from being a university lecturer in the USA, to being the leader of his family in Maasailand. The sweet boy you fall in love with in the beginning becomes a man time and time again in different ways Equally as heart-warming and funny as it is heart-breaking and sobering, Tepilit Ole Saitoti takes you on a journey through his life. From herding calves as a boy, to fighting a lion and achieving warrior-hood; from hunting for poachers in the Serengeti, to being the focus of a Nat Geo documentary; from being a university lecturer in the USA, to being the leader of his family in Maasailand. The sweet boy you fall in love with in the beginning becomes a man time and time again in different ways throughout this autobiography.
Though the story can sometimes jump around and there was at least one sentence that didn’t make sense to me, this is truly an unforgettable read. It is a love letter to the semi-nomadic people of Kenya and Tanzania.
The only other place you’ll get this kind of insight into the life of the Maasai is by personally befriending someone of the culture. I would recommend this book to anyone. ...more
3

Jul 19, 2012

A good first person narrative of the Maasai culture that served as a helpful primer for a trip to Tanzania.
3

Feb 03, 2010

I think everyone should read some books written by former tribesman. Their style is very unique...interesting. Tone is different. Which is mainly why I read them!
2

May 27, 2012

Very informative book, but your opinion of it depends on what you're hoping to get out of it. Definitely more of an educational read than a leisurely one.
2

Jan 07, 2016

I found that this autobiography shared many personal facts and lacked enough reflection to make it compelling.
5

Jun 23, 2012

A very interesting read. The author provides insight into the way of the Maasai and also on how he views the western countries he visits. Both are very interesting. A very good book.
3

Sep 12, 2014

A fun book to read whilst on safari Tanzania. I visited a Maasai village with my famiy. I really enjoyed learning some Swahili and doing the jump dance with the Maasai!
3

Jul 25, 2013

Decent. Gives some interesting cultural insight. Has some great, thought provoking lines, and other sentences that I had to read five times just to understand what the heck he meant.
0

Jul 22, 2012

I registered a book at BookCrossing.com!
http://www.BookCrossing.com/journal/11288441
4

May 18, 2016

I read this right before spending 6 months in Tanzania. I was already familiar with the culture, but I enjoyed reading this book and learning more and seeing more details into the day to day life of the Maasai. While in Tanzania, I had the honor of meeting saitoti and his family.
3

Mar 10, 2013

An autobiography of Tepilit Ole Saitoti. His life in Tanzania as a Maasai warrior. He pursued a higher education in Europe and the United Staes. He is now involved in rural development in Kenya and Tanzania
4

Aug 31, 2008

This was a really intersting book about the Maasai people. It was even more interesting when you add the HIV/AIDS prevention that we are trying to do in there with the ABC program of Abstinence Be faithful and Condom use. This is a group of people that believe that semen from the warriors aids in the growth of prepubescent girls. Additionally they are polygamous. ABC will not work on this group of people until things change within their culture.
3

Jul 07, 2008

Very interesting book written by someone who was raised in a traditional Maasai family on the Kenya-Tanzania border. Big herds of cattle, men with 8 wives, ritual circumcision when it's time to become a man, etc. And then with the help of a US film crew and his English skills he made it out of Africa, to Europe and the US where he went to college. Only tragedy was that the book cuts off at the end, leaving you wondering where he decided to live ultimately. Very interesting, surprisingly little Very interesting book written by someone who was raised in a traditional Maasai family on the Kenya-Tanzania border. Big herds of cattle, men with 8 wives, ritual circumcision when it's time to become a man, etc. And then with the help of a US film crew and his English skills he made it out of Africa, to Europe and the US where he went to college. Only tragedy was that the book cuts off at the end, leaving you wondering where he decided to live ultimately. Very interesting, surprisingly little heard of, considering how few other books I can think of written by someone raised in such a very non-Western way, who later came to share our culture. Really interesting perspective on both societies. ...more
4

Feb 16, 2011

This is very different in that it shows us and our outreach workers under the view of the masaai tribesman and in their culture. This person travelled all over the world. He took pride in his heritage. There was nothing "soft" about these peple as a group. They had been known for centuries as fighters and just plain people who need to be respected. The person himself had no real trouble fitting into beth cultures as need be by the situations that came up. A worth-while book information-wise, but This is very different in that it shows us and our outreach workers under the view of the masaai tribesman and in their culture. This person travelled all over the world. He took pride in his heritage. There was nothing "soft" about these peple as a group. They had been known for centuries as fighters and just plain people who need to be respected. The person himself had no real trouble fitting into beth cultures as need be by the situations that came up. A worth-while book information-wise, but not a plot driven type of situation. They are looking for what theyt want for themselves and their own, and this will come first. They are less and less satisfied with the education provided for them. ...more
5

Jul 23, 2008

This is probably my top recommendation if you are looking to read a book while on safari. For one, it's not depressing, and you really get a marvelous glimpse into a world that you see whizzing by from your jeep window. The Maasai (one of our fellows on our trip likened the group to the Amish of Africa, which I thought was a pretty good metaphor) are all over Western Tanzania and Kenya. They "try" to live the same life that they lived hundreds of years ago. Homes are made out of cattle dung, This is probably my top recommendation if you are looking to read a book while on safari. For one, it's not depressing, and you really get a marvelous glimpse into a world that you see whizzing by from your jeep window. The Maasai (one of our fellows on our trip likened the group to the Amish of Africa, which I thought was a pretty good metaphor) are all over Western Tanzania and Kenya. They "try" to live the same life that they lived hundreds of years ago. Homes are made out of cattle dung, cattle is the only currency and they believe that all the cows in the world belong to the Maasai. They also eat chiefly cow meat and milk (mostly milk). It's a hard life.

Our guide was a Maasai who had left the traditional way of life and went on to attend school, run in the 1964 Olympics and head up all the national parks in Tanzania during the chaoic 70s. The main character in the memoir has a similar path from rural life to life in the big city and abroad.

After reading this book, I thought that we were able to ask our guide better questions about our his culture and also appreciate a visit to a traditional Maasai village. It's not a lifestyle that I would personally thrive in, but after reading the book, I have a lot more respect and interest in their way of life. All in all, a very rewarding read. ...more
5

Jun 27, 2009

I read Tepilit Ole Saitotis The Worlds of a Maasai Warrior because I was so impressed with several books I read on the life of pygmies. The Maasai is another proud race that is disappearing, trampled by the march of so-called civilization. How other people live in the arms of nature while Im snug and hidden in my man-made home with my store-bought food amazes me.

Tepilit grew up on the African Serengeti, drinking milk for breakfast, herding cows all day, and feeling lucky to have food for I read Tepilit Ole Saitoti’s The Worlds of a Maasai Warrior because I was so impressed with several books I read on the life of pygmies. The Maasai is another proud race that is disappearing, trampled by the march of so-called civilization. How other people live in the arms of nature while I’m snug and hidden in my man-made home with my store-bought food amazes me.

Tepilit grew up on the African Serengeti, drinking milk for breakfast, herding cows all day, and feeling lucky to have food for dinner. He was happy–content. He didn’t feel put upon or less than the city folk in their cars and clothes. He led what we would call a simple life, one which he considered complete, filled with the natural wonder of nature's flora and fauna. Somehow, hard to say how it happened, but he grew to love learning. This passion for education led him to the western world and a Bachelors, then a Masters. I’m not sure if they made him happier–I think not–or if he just changed, became more civilized in a Western sense, with no negative connotations to that observation.

The books ends with his plea, “The only key that can now open locked doors is education. The Maasai once resisted education, afraid of losing their children. Now… the Maasai have come to accept it.”

I didn’t realize the Maasai had a reputation as warriors until I read Tepilit's autobiography. When their youth grow to adulthood, they aspire to the warrior class. Not because they fight the enemy anymore, or enter in battle with their foe, but for the same reasons many of our youth join the military. The uniform of a warrior marks the individual as strong and competent, which is a worthy designation for mature males.

Overall, I would recommend this to anyone wishing to understand how to be happy in life. Tepilit makes it clear that it's not our western culture or anything that rhymes with 'money' that brings happiness. Rather, it's an intrinsic quality within us, a pride in who we are and from where we came. I wonder how many of us are as lucky as Tepilit Ole Saitoti.
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4

Dec 02, 2019

A very fascinating anthropological account, especially in regards to acquiring written language and pictorial competence, though I could have done without most of the sex snippets.
4

Apr 03, 2018

This was a really easy read and Tepilit's story is remarkable. From Maasai warrior to Harvard graduate. I wish I could find more information on him to see what else he did after he goes home. It's also really insightful on how these tribal African societies and families grapple with globalism. At what point do you accept Western influence in order to keep your family together?
5

Dec 29, 2017

Great read before you go to Africa.

Outstanding. I read it last month before my first trip to Africa/Kenya and it added a layer of depth and understanding to my experiences there. We spend a great deal of time with the Maasai during our three weeks there and I learned so much more about their traditions and how it fits into their changing modern world. The natural intelligence and confidence many display is matched only by the dignity and genuine sense of humor that many visitors may miss .

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