The Power of Women in Sundiata and The Romance of Tristan and Iseult

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In a patriarchal society men normally have the power. This power is generally handed down generation to generation as seen in Sundiata where the lineage of the first kings of Mali is explained generation by generation (Niane 3). It can also be seen in The Romance of Tristan and Iseult when “[T']he barons, Andret, Guenelon, Gondoine, and Denoalen pressed King Mark to take to wife some king's daughter who should give him an heir...”(Bedier 26). In these examples men generally have the primary power. However, there is an argument to be made that women, in both Sundiata, and The Romance of Tristan and Iseult have some significant power in their society.
In Sundiata the power that women have can be seen as knowledge that is gained through experience, and the craftiness to use this knowledge. Sassouma Berete knows this power of craftiness all too well. When Sogolon is to marry the king, Sassouma Berete uses her craftiness to spread rumors about Sogolon. As D.T. Niane writes in Sundiata, “It was known that she was not beautiful [Sogolon], but the curiosity of everyone was aroused, and already a thousand anecdotes were circulating, most of them put out by Sassouma Berete, the king's first wife” (Niane 10). This suggests that Sassouma Berete understood the power of using her experience and craftiness to create a hostile atmosphere for Sogolon.
When Sogolon becomes pregnant with Sundiata, Sassouma Berete begins the process of determining how it would affect her and her children. D.T. Niane, writes, “What would become of her, Sassouma Berete, if her son, already eight years old, was disinherited in favor of the child that Sogolon was going to bring in the world?” (Niane 13). In this example Sassouma Berete uses her experience and craftines...

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Lastly, when Iseult is set to leave for her impending marriage to King Mark, “her mother gathered herbs and flowers and roots and steeped them in a wine, and brewed a potion of might... (Bedier 41). This love potion, that was intended to be shared between Iseult and King Mark on their wedding night, again shows the power that women possessed.
In both Sundiata and The Romance of Tristan and Iseult women do have power within the society. This power is shown through their knowledge, experience, and craftiness. This power that they possess in both the Epic and Romance story are crucial to the success and failure of both stories.

Works Cited

Bedier, Joseph. The Romance of Tristan and Iseult. New York: Vantage Books, 1994. Print.
Niane, Djibril Tamsir., David W. Chappell, and Jim Jones. Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali. Harlow, England: Pearson Longman, 2006. Print.

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