Africa’s warriors: women in folklore

Written by Nathaniel Postell

Women are warriors! A fact that becomes abundantly clear by studying African legends and folklore. These fiercely independent women help shape the world, inspiring countless interpretations, even presenting themselves in recent pop-culture. The wildly successful Marvel Studios movie Black Panther features a group of gifted women warriors inspired by the Dahomey Amazons – an all-female military group that proudly defended their boarders up until the 19th century.

Dahomey Forever!

Turning the tides of war against formidable foes through sheer conviction, standing against insurmountable odds, a feat which Kandake (sister to the King of Kush) accomplished against the greatest conquering force ever amassed. It should be noted that the title Kandake is not a name rather a moniker passed between queen rulers. Candace of Meroe is the title given to this heroin.

The military prowess and conniving strategies of Alexander the Great are well documented (said to possess unparalleled prowess in the art of war). He finally found his match when he attempted to invade the wrong woman’s space (without consent).

332 BC. Alexander marches on. Hearing of his approach Candace of Meroe compels her people to meet them in the field of battle. As Alexander crested the horizon he was greeted with a sprawling army, led by none other than Candace of Meroe atop a battle elephant. Alexander, the clever male that he was, recognized an unwinnable battle… He may emerge triumphantly but at what cost? She would certainly reference past indiscretions regardless of their pertinence to the given altercation. Wisely, he withdrew his troops.

Women are historically underestimated… 🤨
Often to the fault of their opposers
Overlooked in favor of admiring their appearance

My personal favorite game-of-thrones-esk story of Yennenga comes to mind – The Mother of the Mossi Kingdom.

Yennenga was renowned for her beauty. A guaranteed swipe-right candidate, a legendary princess, the daughter of Nedega king of the Dagomba Kingdom. Her visage betrayed the fiercely independent women beneath. She was gifted in the arts of war. Javelins, spear, and bows it matters not for her abilities surpassed her equals. On horseback, she had no rival, a fact that she displayed as she marched into battle at the age of fourteen. Her beauty made her a cultural icon; her fierce will and skill made her a legend.

Her prowess exceeded her father’s expectations in every regard. When it came time to choose a suitable husband 😏 for his gorgeous and gifted daughter he refused. She was far too valuable as a soldier to be permitted to perform the miracle of life (birth, a miracle to some an immense torturous experience to others).

Yennenga was disheartened. She devised a plan to open her father’s eyes. She planted a field of wheat. The perfect beginning to any winning argument. Then she allowed the wheat to grow to the point of harvest. Instead of harvesting the field of delectable wheat that surely would have fed many starving subjects, she allowed it to spoil. Point made (talk about the long game).

The wheat was symbolic of her feelings caused by the inability to wed, which she explained to her father. Nedega gazed upon the spoiled crop, unmoved. Her wasteful efforts were in vain. 

She refused his rebuff and enlisted a fellow king’s horsemen to dress her as a man and escape aback her majestic stallion. The plan quickly went awry as they were set on by Malinkes. Her helped was slaughtered, leaving the princess alone. She rode north undeterred by the graphic slaughter of her dear friend.

Until she came across a river, exhausted, she allowed her stallion to guide her toward a foreboding forest. Waiting within was an elephant hunter by the name of Riale. He instantly saw through Yennenga’s cover and fell madly in love. The miracle commenced and they gave birth to Ouedraogo which translates to “stallion”, who became the founder of the Mossi Kingdom.

As you see, Yennenga was not only a woman, but also:

  • a strong-willed warrior princess,
  • the one, who lived by her principles, unperturbed by the opinion of men,
  • the one who gave up her title in favor of her accomplishments,
  • The Mother of the Mossi people of Burkina Faso.

From protecting to creating nations women are truly exceptional. Each one is a legend in their own right…

Next post – Thriller Sophia von X, blurb and cover 

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