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Women of Power

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Jane Smith

CLS 165

Women of True Power

In many ancient epics, women and their roles in society are always being under minded. These women somehow manage to fade into the background, and their contributions are overshadowed by the dominant male characters. The men are portrayed to be powerful and above all, and the women are portrayed not as powerful, but delicate and fragile. However, in the epics of Gilgamesh, Sundiata, and The Odyssey, the roles the women play show that they are the true sources of power. Although men are represented as dominant figures in these works, the roles of the women have a vital impact on the success of fulfilling the tale's prophecy.

In the epic of Gilgamesh, the two powerful women are Shamhat, a "prostitute", and Ninsun, Gilgamesh's mother. Shamhat shows her true strength when she completes the most important task of seducing Enkidu, and convincing him to go to Uruk. That role alone is very powerful for no one else is brave enough to approach him, but she courageously goes to help her country. Shamhat also shows her strength by preparing Enkidu for city life. She is able to transform him from a wild untamed beast, to a civilized human being in a matter of days. Without Shamhat bringing Enkidu to Uruk, Gilgamesh may never have changed his ways, and the people of Uruk would be in dismay. Also the prophecy of Gilgamesh meeting his match would never have come true without Shamhat's help. Ninsun's role is equally of true power. She shows it by giving advice to Gilgamesh and he listens because she is wise. Whatever Ninsun would have told Gilgamesh, he would do it because he trusts her judgment. Being that she is his mother, she would never advise him wrongfully, but she certainly has the power to do so. "That axe, which drew you so powerfully like love of a woman, that is the comrade Whom I give you, and he will come in his strength like one of the host of heaven" (Sanders 8). Ninsun's advice is also very powerful because had Gilgamesh not listened to her, he would never have Enkidu for a companion, which ultimately provides a better team for ruling Uruk. Shamhat and Ninsun both possess a higher power over the powerful men in this work. Ninsun uses her power over Gilgamesh and Shamhat uses her power over Enkidu. "Ask him to give you a harlot, a wanton from the temple of love; return with her, and let her women's power overpower this man" (Sanders 6).

In the ancient Mali epic Sundiata, the women that show true power are Sogolon and her mother, the buffalo woman. Their roles greatly impact the lives of the two hunters, Oulani and Oulamba, and more importantly the king. The buffalo woman shows her strength when she helps the two hunters by sacrificing herself. No man will go near her because she is so strong and powerful. The buffalo woman killed over 100 men, and finally she decides to cease her wrath for the hunters that are kind to her. "...For arrows are useless against the buffalo; but young hunter, your heart is generous and it is you who will be the buffalo's vanquisher" (Niane 190). Without the buffalo woman's help, the hunters would have failed at trying to kill her just like the others, and would have never received Sogolon. Sogolon's role, although it appears to be quite simple, is to produce the king's heir that would make Mali immortal. "The child will be the seventh star, the seventh conqueror of the earth. He will be more mighty than Alexander" (Niane 188). Without her, the king would have no heir to his throne. Sogolon's power to produce the only heir, alone is of a higher power. Even though Sogolon is hideous and monstrous, the king must comply, and marry her if he wants his child successor. Sogolon also has power over



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