Tag Archives: history

Amazons in Action – Part 2

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IN FILM

Disney’s Mulan graced the big screen in 1998 – a young girl volunteers to join the Chinese army in place of her ailing father and ends up saving the nation from the invading Huns.  As a classic underdog story, the film succeeds on its merits.  Mulan is also the first Disney princess that’s not a “princess.”

IN HISTORY

The Trung sisters, Trac and Nhi, were from a powerful family among the Vietnamese.  At this time (the 1st century A.D.) Vietnamese culture was matriarchal, meaning property was inherited through the line of the mother and it wasn’t uncommon for women to become business owners, warriors, politicians, etc.  but Chinese culture was patriarchal, demanding that women be subservient to men.  In addition, the Chinese instituted new taxes.  All of this was a major source of contention.  Trung Trac‘s husband, among others, openly protested the new policies.  But overall, the Chinese domination of Vietnam was tolerated by the Vietnamese until a Chinese commander raped Trung Trac and murdered her husband.  The Chinese were hoping to solidify the Vietnamese’s submission but instead this one-act began the rebellion.

Legend has it that the sisters killed a tiger and used its skin as paper to write a letter encouraging the people to join them.  They trained 36 women to be generals, including their own mother.  These women were so committed that one of their closest allies went into battle pregnant, gave birth on the battlefield, and strapped her newborn to her back so she could continue fighting.

The Trung sisters organized and led an army of 80,000 men and women against Chinese forces and reclaimed most of Vietnam.  The people were so grateful that they raised Trung Trac to queen status.  She reversed all the Chinese mandates, in favor of a government that respected their cultural roots and ruled for 3 years until the Chinese reclaimed power.

Legend also claims that both sisters threw themselves into the river, rather than face dishonor.  Today, stories, poems, plays, postage stamps, posters and monuments still glorify the heroism of the Trung sisters.  In Vietnam, February 6th is the national holiday in honor of them.

“All the male heroes bowed their heads in submission;
Only the two sisters proudly stood up to avenge the country.”
15th century Poem

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Amazons in Action – Part 1

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IN FILM

Avatar burst onto the scene in 2009 with visual effects that we had never seen before but the story was a familiar one.  With strong themes of nature and spirituality, I couldn’t help being reminded of Pocahontas.

With one major exception.  Neytiri did more than run through the forest singing.  Her spiritual bond to the land and devotion to her people was balanced by her knowledge of combat.  She was a princess and a warrior.  Unlike Pocahontas, she didn’t seek permission to be with Jake.  It was her decision and she was willing to spill blood to defend him. First against her own people and then again during the last fight scene.

Jake spends most of the film struggling to find his moral compass and assert his physical abilities so Neytiri actually comes across as the stronger hero between the two of them and that doesn’t happen every day!

IN HISTORY

Lozen was a spiritual leader and warrior of the Apache Nation during the U.S. occupation of their lands.  She was born around 1840 in what we now know as southern New Mexico.

Lozen never married; instead she devoted herself to becoming a warrior and master strategist.  She fought alongside men like Geronimo and was often photographed with him, although from looking at her most people didn’t think she was a woman.

Lozen’s abilities as a seer were well respected and usually enabled her to steer her people away from danger.  But one night she was unable to go with her troops into battle because she was attending to a woman in childbirth.  The troops were ambushed and her brother (the chief) was killed.  Many felt that if she had been there the battle would’ve been won.

Eventually, she was captured by the U.S. army and imprisoned first in Florida then Alabama where she died at the age of 50 from tubercolosis.

Before his death, her brother had this to say about his older sister: “Lozen is my right hand… strong as a man, braver than most, and cunning in strategy. Lozen is a shield to her people.”