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30. Yennenga (Burkinabé Legends)

In today's episode we discuss Yennenga, legendary mother of the Mossi Kingdom. We talk about the significance of finding one's own path and her importance today, as well as reflect on the meaningfulness of apologies in legendary narratives.

Sources:

Warriors, Witches, Women: Mythology’s Fiercest Females by Kate Hodges

In Praise of Black Women, Volume 1: Ancient African Queens by Simone Schwarz-Bart

Africana Woman: Her Story Through Time by Cynthia Jacobs Carter

Yennenga, the Dagomba warrior princess whose son founded the Mossi Kingdom of West Africa

Princesse Yennenga (Burkina Faso): amazone rebelle contre le patriarcat, mère-fondatrice du Royaume Mossi

Femmes de l'ombre : Yennega, l'amazone des Mossi

Princess Yennenga, Mother of the Mossi people-MYTHS & LEGENDS OF AFRICA

Burkina Faso: une ville nouvelle portera le nom de la Princesse Yennenga - Afrique économie

Writing Yennega's Story: The Importance of Oral Tradition | UNESCO

Historical context: The emergence of royalty and the intermingling of West African peoples | UNESCO

Stranger Than Fiction: ​Burkina, Princess Yennenga

Transcript below cut:


Musical intro

Zoe

Hello, and welcome to Mytholadies, the podcast where we talk about woman from mythology and folklore all over the world. We're your hosts.

Lizzie

I'm Lizzie.

Zoe

And I'm Zoe. Lizzie, how's it going?

Lizzie

It's going pretty good. I've talked a little about my thesis, but now I actually have data. Like, I actually have results now. So that's really exciting. Even though I have like, thousands of things to read. Um.

Zoe

Mm hmm.

Lizzie

So that's not fun, but also nice that I have a big sample size. So that's, that's nice.

Zoe

Yeah. Mm hmm. Yeah, you're just that popular.

Lizzie

Yeah. Well, my thesis is an interesting topic, I guess. I don't know.

Zoe

It is, definitely.

Lizzie

Thank you. Yeah, no, it's really interesting reading the responses. It's, it's very cool.

Zoe

Mm hmm. Yeah!

Lizzie

Anyway, how are you?

Zoe

I'm good. Um, I woke up like an hour ago. So I'm still a little sleepy. But the most exciting thing in my life right now is that I had some work done on my closet. So there are shelves now, in-built, and I put all my stuff back in there yesterday, like all my clothes and everything, and it looks very great and organized. And that's making me really happy. So--

Lizzie

That's very exciting.

Zoe

Um, yeah, that is, that's what's up with me. I love controlled chaos organization.

Lizzie

So true. Organization is great.

Zoe

So Lizzie, who are we going to be talking about today?

Lizzie

Today we'll be talking about Yennenga, who is a legendary warrior princess from Burkina Faso.

Zoe

Awesome.

Lizzie

Have you heard of her?

Zoe

I think I looked up her once from our list, but besides that, I don't really know much about her.

Lizzie

Nice. Okay, so to begin, the Mossi people are an ethnic group native to Burkina Faso, and are the largest ethnic group in Burkina Faso, making up roughly 52% of the population. The Mossi Kingdom was established anywhere between the 11th and 15th centuries, though expansion was halted by French colonization beginning in 1896.

Zoe

Mm.

Lizzie

Yeah. As is the case for most groups, there is variation within the Mossi people specifically, Mossi society can be split into two groups: the political class descended from horsemen who conquered the land, called the Nakomse, which means people of power--

Zoe

Mm.

Lizzie

--and the spiritual class descended from farmers called the Tengabisi, which means people of the earth.

Zoe

Interesting.

Lizzie

And the origin story I'm about to tell with Yennenga principally involves the Nakomse people, and the Tengabisi people don't share these origins.

Zoe

Gotcha. Yeah. So they're the same ethnic group, but they have different origins, the two different groups within--

Lizzie

Yeah, the group have different origins.

Zoe

And you're gonna tell us the origins of like one group?

Lizzie

Yeah.

Zoe

Awesome.

Lizzie

Well, I mean, I feel like the Nakomse, um, people's origin story is for all of the Mossi people. It just isn't necessarily, like, corroborated by everyone.

Zoe

Oh, gotcha.

Lizzie

But I'm not 100% sure about that. Anyway, let's begin. So, Yennenga was born in the Digomba Kingdom, in present-day northern Ghana. Her father was the king of the Dagomba people, named Nadega, and her mother was Queen Napoko. When she was young, she developed a great love for animals. Even as a child, she would attend animal births and comfort and tend to animals such as sheep and birds. But her favorite animal was the horse.

Zoe

Hm!

Lizzie

Yennenga had several brothers who all commanded their own battalion, and their father encouraged Yennenga to learn horseback riding, fighting, spear throwing and bowmanship as well.

Zoe

Awesome.

Lizzie

And she she surpassed them all in skill.

Zoe

Oh, good.

Lizzie

She was extremely talented, graceful and strong. She was an exceedingly good warrior and fought many victories for her father. She commanded her own battalion as well as the Royal Guard. Wow.

Zoe

Her name Yennenga means "the svelt," in reference to her tall and elegant figure. Awesome.

Lizzie

In addition to being extremely skilled, she was also reported to be the most beautiful woman in the kingdom.

Zoe

Makes sense.

Lizzie

As is--I feel like that's usual for (laughs) legendary ladies.

Zoe

Yeah, it definitely is. It also sounds accurate from your description of her.

Lizzie

Yeah (laughs). So in the book In Praise of Black Women by Simone Schwarz-Bart, she writes, "Yennenga was her name, and she was so beautiful that the praise singers compared her to an open parasol and a gingerbread palm, trunk reaching toward the sky. And she was so fearless in battle that they often described her as a lioness with stubborn chin and flowing name."

Zoe

Wow.

Lizzie

I know, pretty fun. It is also mentioned in a few sources that because of Yennenga's association with lionesses, the people of the Mossi Kingdom don't hunt lions. They prefer hunting elephants, buffaloes, and panthers, but they won't go after lions unless provoked.

Zoe

Interesting.

Lizzie

I will say I didn't see anything about that outside of the Yennenga story when I google, but, I don't know. It's a pretty cool detail, anyway.

Zoe

Yeah.

Lizzie

However, as she grew into a young woman she longed for more than just fighting and battle and wish to start a family. When she told her father this, he was reluctant to let her go. When suitors started showing up for Yennenga he turned them all away, claiming none of them were good enough for his daughter. Yennenga became angry and wished to show her father how she felt. She planted a field of okra, corn or wheat depending on the version. And after several months, the okra was flourishing and Nedega boasted about his daughter's agricultural skills. Then she stops tending to the field and let the plants wither and die.

Zoe

Oh.

Lizzie

When her father asked why she let her crops die, she told him that he was doing the same thing to her, allowing her to wither and die.

Zoe

Wow.

Lizzie

I know, powerful statement.

Zoe

Mm hmm.

Lizzie

But her father wasn't impressed by her resolve and stubbornness. Fearing his daughter would act out and disobey him, King Nadega locked Yennenga up so she couldn't escape.

Zoe

Mm.

Lizzie

But Yennenga, who was a battle savvy and sharp soon hatched a plan. She disguised herself as a man and escaped with the help of one of the guards, and broke out of the prison.

Zoe

Oh.

Lizzie

She mounted her horse and rode away as far as she could, eventually resting in the north of the region.

Zoe

Awesome. Amazing.

Lizzie

Yeah!

Zoe

So cool.

Lizzie

Right?

Zoe

Yeah.

Lizzie

In some versions, she is completely alone, um, or, like, accompanied by the guard who helped her and in others, she has an entourage of servants. But regardless, she eventually stumbled across a hunter's hut. The man who owned this hut was an elephant hunter named Riale, who was the son of a Mande King who had been dethroned and murdered by his own people.

Zoe

Hm.

Lizzie

And so he was subsequently exiled. And he was, like, on the run.

Zoe

Interesting. But he's still royalty.

Lizzie

Sorta. I mean, technically, yeah. But also, he's kind of on the run from his own people, so...

Zoe

Ah. I see. Okay.

Lizzie

So they eventually married. Oh, wait, sorry. I skipped a bit.

Zoe

It's okay. I kind of figured (both laugh).

Lizzie

Riale took her for a wealthy man and invited her inside.

Zoe

Oh!

Elizabeth LaCroix

Yennenga kept--well, she was still wearing, like, men's clothes at this time.

Zoe

I know. I know. I know. I know. It's just interesting.

Lizzie

Yeah.

Zoe

To me personally.

Lizzie

Yennenga kept her identity hidden for several days of staying with him. But at one point her helmet fell off, revealing her flowing hair.

Zoe

So I know we said this last time, but it kind of is a Shrek moment, because--(Lizzie laughs)

Lizzie

Because of the moment where he takes off his mask or like, the helmet?

Zoe

Yeah, cause he takes--he's wearing the helmet when he rescues Fiona from the dragon, and then when he takes it off, um--(Lizzie laughs) then she realizes he's an ogre, not, like, a knight, even though he's green.

Lizzie

I did not make that connection (laughs).

Zoe

Anyways, I'm sorry. That's a--anyway.

Lizzie

But instead of it being an ogre, she's a beautiful woman.

Zoe

Some would say that's a--that's a much better discovery (Lizzie laughs).

Lizzie

Riale realized she was a woman, and fell in love with her. They eventually married and had a son who they named Ouedraogo, which means "stallion," in honor of the horse that brought Yennenga there.

Zoe

Nice.

Lizzie

Yeah. So, years passed, and when Ouedraogo was 17, Yennenga brought him to meet his grandfather. King Nadega hadn't heard anything from Yennenga for years, and he was--was delighted at the return of his daughter, having long since forgiven her. Yennenga left her son in King Nadega's care so that he could learn from his grandfather and returned home. As in Yennenga returned home.

Zoe

Mm hmm.

Lizzie

Leaving Ouedraogo in the Dagomba kingdom.

Zoe

Mm hmm.

Lizzie

So, King Nadega taught Ouedraogo many things and informed him that he was next in line for the throne.

Zoe

Hmm.

Lizzie

However, much like his mother, Ouedraogo wished to carve out his own destiny and establish his own kingdom. Having learned from his former mistakes, King Nadega gave Ouedraogo his blessing, as well as a large number of troops to command. Ouedraogo returned to his parents to pay his respects to them, then rode north, where he founded the first Mossi Kingdom and much of present day Burkina Faso and northern Ghana.

Zoe

Hmm.

Lizzie

The Mossi Kingdom still exists today and has only known one dynasty, a chain of 37 monarchs, who are all descendants of Ouedraogo. The 37th and current king is Naba Baongo II. Naba, by the way, means chieftain or leader.

Zoe

Mm.

Lizzie

And he began his rule in 1983.

Zoe

Wow. Yeah, it's pretty cool that it can be traced back all the way back to Ouedraogo. Yeah, 37 that's a--that's a lot.

Lizzie

Yeah, like, that's crazy. It's very cool.

Zoe

That's a long-lasting dynasty, yeah.

Lizzie

Mm hmm. Yennenga is considered to be the mother of the Mossi Kingdom, and her legacy continues to present day Burkina Faso. So, there are a number of statues and sculptures of her. Notably, there's at least one statue in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, in which she is depicted holding a bow and a spear. In addition to that, um, Burkina Faso's national soccer team is referred to as "Les Étalons," or the stallions in reference to Yennenga's horse.

Zoe

Mmm. Awesome.

Lizzie

There's also a soccer club in Ouagadougou that was founded in 1947, originally named after Joan of Arc, but later changed to L'Association Sportive du Faso-Yennenga, or the Sports Association of Faso-Yennenga.

Zoe

Awesome. That's really great.

Lizzie

Yeah! (Zoe laughs) I think it's cool they changed it from Joan of Arc to Yennenga. I mean, Joan of Arc is also cool, obviously. But--

Zoe

Yeah.

Lizzie

--like, European, so--

Zoe

Yeah.

Lizzie

Less relevant. That, too.

Zoe

She's definitely, like, a French nationalist symbol. So to change it to, like--

Lizzie

Yeah.

Zoe

A Mossi nationalist symbol instead (laughs) is--

Lizzie

Yeah.

Zoe

--cool.

Lizzie

It's the better option.

Zoe

Definitely.

Lizzie

There's also a biennial film festival that takes place in Burkina Faso called the Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou, or le Festival panafricain du cinéma et de la télévision (Zoe laughs) de Ouagadougou, where the first prize is called the Étalon de Yennenga, or Yennenga's Stallion.

Zoe

Wow.

Lizzie

And winners receive a small gold statue depicting Yennenga on her stallion.

Zoe

Oh, so she is just everywhere.

Lizzie

Right? Because she's, like, sports, like, movies.

Zoe

Yeah, she's just like their national pride, like, this, this woman.

Lizzie

Yeah, like it's very cool.

Zoe

Yeah.

Lizzie

Also, in 2017 it was announced that a new city will be built 15 kilometers south of Ouagadougou, which will be called Yennenga. And as of 2021, I believe it's still in progress.

Zoe

Mm hmm.

Lizzie

But yeah. So she's very important in Burkina Faso.

Zoe

Mm hmm. Yeah.

Lizzie

So what are your overall thoughts?

Zoe

I think this story is super interesting, as I've sort of expressed throughout. I think I've expressed this before to you, probably also on the podcast. I just think that stories of women who are, like, sort of symbols of nations or people--

Lizzie

Mm hmm.

Zoe

--are just very interesting to me.

Lizzie

Yeah.

Zoe

And how, like, they can become, like, sort of like an identity, like a cultural identity. I just think that's really interesting. And also in general, really interested in how, like, mythology and stories form identity, which we've, like, talked about many times before.

Lizzie

Yeah.

Zoe

So this story basically checks a lot of boxes, I just think it's really cool. And like the influence that she has even today is, like, significant! And it also makes sense because like the current monarch, I mean, the--the dynasty's unbroken, it's not like there's any, like challengers. So it makes sense that legacy is still continuing very prominently to this day.

Lizzie

Yeah, I think it's cool that her legacy seems to be pretty consistent from the time of Ouedraogo up until now.

Zoe

Yeah.

Lizzie

Like, that's quite cool.

Zoe

Yeah.

Lizzie

I really like her story.

Zoe

Mm hmm. And it's really awesome that it's been able to, uh, continue even despite the devastation of colonization--

Lizzie

Mm hmm.

Zoe

and even, like, to the extent that they replace, like I said, before, a French symbol of Joan of Arc to the symbol of Yennange to be, like, their own symbols and sort of, like, reclaim their legacy--

Lizzie

Yeah.

Zoe

--and their stories and their culture, which I just think is really--it's--I mean, it's just very symbolic to me, and--

Lizzie

Yeah.

Zoe

--really awesome.

Lizzie

I agree.

Zoe

Obviously, there's some moderate Mulan parallels, like, dressing as a man...

Lizzie

(overlapping) Yeah, that, like, woman warrior dressed up as a man, yeah.

Zoe

Yeah. I mean, it's not very extreme. Like, they're clearly very different stories.

Lizzie

Yeah.

Zoe

Like, that's something I noticed. And I was thinking about, basically, when she's escaping, she--you know, she's raised to be a warrior. Like, her father wants her to be a warrior. He wants her to be, like, fighting alongside her brothers and everything.

Lizzie

Exactly.

Zoe

And then those skills are eventually like, what allows her to escape and forge her own path and destiny.

Lizzie

Yeah, exactly!

Zoe

Even though her father doesn't want that for her, he wants to sort of like, just keep her for whatever reason, like whether, you know, he's just, I love my daughter, I don't want anything--I don't want to let her go, you know, or whatever. And so I just think it's very, I don't know, symbolic that, like, those skills that she brings, that she's gotten through her father's influence, and, like, interference, sort of, are the ones that she ultimately uses to, like, defy him and go away from him. And I just think that's really neat.

Lizzie:

That's totally right, yeah. I hadn't thought about that, actually.

Zoe:

Mm hmm. Yeah, there's also some Oba parallels, because, just a little, because I remember at the beginning of Oba's story, she was trying to get married and her father--

Lizzie

Yeah

Zoe

--didn't want her to marry anyone until Shango came by and was like, I'm going to marry her. And the father was like well, yeah, you are, like, a god. So...(laughs).

Lizzie

Yeah.

Zoe

You're gonna marry her (laughs). So that sort of made me think of it. I think it's really interesting, cause normally in sort of, like, European stories, there's the desire for the woman to marry and then the woman's like, I don't want to marry and I'm going to forge my new path or whatever.

Lizzie

Yeah. Which is also nice.

Zoe

Yeah. Which is also nice. And in this story, it's like, No, I do want to marry and you're keeping me from getting married. And I think it just shows like, ultimately, it's just about choice and having control over your destiny and like, regardless restricting one's destiny, no matter what, like, the restriction is, is bad.

Lizzie

Yeah, exactly.

Zoe

So I think that--I don't know, I think it's really cool! I-I mean, I really liked the story.

Lizzie

Yeah, me too. I think it's a nice story.

Zoe

Yeah.

Lizzie

So I do want to mention that there's a lot of variation in her story, um, as is natural since it's an oral tradition.

Zoe

Mm hmm.

Lizzie

So, I basically just repeated the the details that were common in all or many of the sources I read, and I didn't include any details unless I saw them in multiple versions. When it comes to oral storytelling, it's important to be a little bit cautious, especially telling stories from colonized peoples with sources you find may have been somehow altered to fit any sort of agenda or due to negligence.

Zoe

Mm hmm.

Lizzie

So it's possible that some of the details in the story I told may have had colonizer influence, even though I tried to avoid that. I mean, there were some details from like the French versions in particular that I was like, eh.

Zoe

Mm hmm.

Lizzie

Maybe not, but just--

Zoe

Yeah, that's a good point.

Lizzie

Yeah, just putting that out there. Moving on. According to UNESCO's Women in African History module about Yennenga, some variations of Yennenga's story include her name varying from Yennenga or Yennega to Poko or Yalanga, and her father's name can vary from Nadega to Na Gbewa in Dagomba, or Na Bawa in the Mamprusi tradition. The details that all versions of Yennenga's story have in common are that she is a daughter of the king of the Dagomba people, that she's a skilled warrior, and that she meets an elephant hunter from a different community and gives birth to a son who would found the Mossi Kingdom. Other details appear in some versions, but not others. And sometimes names and genders of the characters vary. In terms of the historical context, I mentioned earlier that this could have been taking place anywhere from the 11th to the 15th century. Some sources I read place it definitively in the early 12th century, while others say it most likely happened between the 14th and 15th centuries around the time of the arrival of migrants in northern Ghana.

Zoe

Hmm.

Lizzie

While it's not known for certain, the dominant theorie says that migrants from the Lake Chad area arrived in northern Ghana after passing through present-day Niger during a migration that would have lasted several 100 years.

Zoe:

Oh, was this, like, part of the Bantu Migration?

Lizzie:

Possibly.

Zoe

Cool. Okay.

Lizzie

Not sure. That leader at the time of arrival was named Tohazie, whose name means "red hunter" in the Mampruli language. And according to Dagomba and Mampruli traditions, Tohazie is the ancestor of a great chieftain called Na Gbewa, who, if you remember from a minute ago is another name for Yennenga's his father, Nadega. Also, a source by the Mossi historian Yamba Τiendrebeogo traces the ancestral line of Ouedraogo's descendants all the way back to the 1100s, beginning with Ouedraogo, whose reign evidently ended in 1132, where he was succeeded by his son. And if you look online, you can also see like the whole line of Ouedraogo's descendants up until now. Which is pretty cool. So yeah, um, Yennenga's story is important in the founding of the Mossi Kingdom, and is still important to Mossi people today, clearly. And like you said, she's an important symbol of Burkina Faso. Um, I do think that there's ways you could potentially view her story as sort of, like, less feminist.

Zoe

Mm.

Lizzie

By the way she gave up being a skilled warrior in order to become a wife and mother, and how that could potentially send the message that all women are destined to be wives and mothers, you know. Um, however, I think it's a little bit deeper than that. I think--I don't think she ran away solely to--so she could find a husband, but because the environment she was living in was incredibly restrictive and unfair. She was basically being used as a weapon in her father's army and winning battles for him without going after her own desires or having any freedom.

Zoe

Yeah, that was basically, like, how I was thinking of it, too, is just basically she's been raised in this one place her whole life, and she wants to go off and do her own thing now.

Lizzie

Yeah. She wants to, like, make her own life and not just do what her father wants her to do.

Zoe

Mm hmm.

Lizzie

She didn't give up all of her skills in battle when she ran away to Riale, but rather one source I read talked about how she taught her husband strategy skills, and he taught her how to hunt, and they became a successful team treating each other as equals. So in this sense, she was able to use her skills in ways that were more fulfilling than fighting in battle. And she found a companion that saw her as an equal.

Zoe

Yeah.

Lizzie

Which I think is a much more fulfilling life for her.

Zoe

Definitely. Yeah. I feel like there's just this tendency among like, primarily white Western feminists to be like, there's only one potential destiny for a woman that's like, quote, unquote, feminist. And I feel like that's not--that shouldn't be the case, and that idea in itself is--goes against the idea of feminism because feminism is the idea that, like, giving women the agency to do what they want with their lives in a way. And, like--

Lizzie

I mean, yeah. I certainly don't think that Yennenga is anti-feminist--

Zoe

Yeah, exactly.

Lizzie

--for choosing to, like, get married. It's what she wanted to do.

Zoe

Yeah. I mean, like, sure, when you were like raised--like, obviously, we've talked about like, another Disney story, oh, she gets saved by the prince or whatever, then the idea of her being a warrior seems really cool and feminist or whatever. But as you said, her being this, that's the life that she was thrust into, not necessarily the one that she was given. And she wants to make her own way now, like, she wants to have her own life. And that--before that she didn't really have her own life. She was just sort of being like, used by her father and, like, fighting for her father, and she didn't really have--

Lizzie

Yeah, she never chose to become a warrior. She just did what her father wanted.

Zoe

Yeah. She, like, never really had the opportunity to see what she really wanted.

Lizzie

Mm hmm.

Zoe

And now this, her leaving to go get married is her chance to see what she wants.

Lizzie

Yeah.

Zoe

And then of course, again, it's very important to consider in the situation that we're dealing with different societies.

Lizzie

Yeah, that too.

Zoe

With different expectations for women. And so like, what might seem liberating for some woman might not be liberating for other women. Yeah. And that's my thoughts on that (laughs).

Lizzie

Yeah (laughs). Yeah. But I think it's less about foregoing practical skills in order to find a husband and more about the fact that you can't deny parts of someone. In the end, she was both a highly skilled warrior and someone who longed for love and family.

Zoe

Mm hmm.

Lizzie

And ultimately running away to start a family was a much more fulfilling way for her to live her life than being used by her father for her battle skills while being denied what she really wanted. I mean, she was--this is all, like, when she was a teenager, and she was like--

Zoe

Yeah.

Lizzie

--you know, learning about life and she was saying, like, you know, I want to go get married instead of, like, being a warrior, and she was super young, like she has the right to do what she wanted for the rest of her life.

Zoe

Yeah, I mean, like, she could have been, like, going through at least to some extent, a teenage rebellion phase where she's like, I've been under--under your wing, like, this entire time. And now I want to be independent and I want to, you know, be away from my parents for a bit, you know, like all teenagers are like--

Lizzie

Yeah (laughs).

Zoe

--have that period where they're like, leave me alone, Mom and Dad, you know, like, (laughs) let me do my own thing. And that's sort of what she's doing to like, a more intense extent.

Lizzie

Yeah, like getting jailed and planting a whole field of okra.

Zoe

Exactly. She's just going through her self-discovery.

Lizzie

Yeah, as she should be able to.

Zoe

Mm hmm.

Lizzie

I also think it's important that Yennenga being the mother of the Mossi people isn't just about the fact that she gave birth to Ouedraogo, and he went off to do great things. If it hadn't been for Yennenga's journey, and her resilience and rebellion, Ouedraogo wouldn't have had the dream of starting a new kingdom. It says in the story that Ouedraogo was similar to his mother and that he wanted to carve out his own destiny. So in that way, the founding of the Mossi Kingdom isn't just the story of Ouedraogo riding north and establishing his kingdom. It's also the story of Yennenga's legacy and having fought for her freedom and taken her life into her own hands. A journey that began with fighting for her personal desires and ended with her inspiring her son to start his new kingdom. And her legacy continues even to now.

Zoe

Yeah.

Lizzie

Ouedraogo would never have been able to found the Mossi Kingdom if he hadn't had Yennenga for a mother. Ultimately, he was just continuing his mother's legacy of independence and resolve, and carving out his own path in the world rather than doing what was expected of him.

Zoe

Mm hmm. Yeah, I definitely had felt myself slightly falling into that trap, where it's like, well, you know, women only ever get to be sort of like the mothers of civilization. Like, they don't get to be the founders. They're just the mother of the founders, or whatever.

Lizzie

Yeah.

Zoe

But I think that point is really good. And, like, shows that it's more than just that. It's more than just her--like you said, it's more than just her giving birth, it's her being the inspiration, and creating the idea that her son could do his own thing and not follow, like, the rules of the society that they both came from, like creates--

Lizzie

Yeah, like, ultimately, you know, Yennenga's journey was necessary for the founding of the kingdom. It wasn't just about Ouedraogo doing heroic things. Yennenga's a very important part of the story of the founding of the Mossi Kingdom.

Zoe

Yeah, and that's really awesome.

Lizzie

Yeah.

Zoe

And I mean, like, she's the one who's on all the--on the statues.

Lizzie

Yeah (laughs).

Zoe

I mean, I'm sure there's--I'm sure there's probably, like, statues of her son as well, like, I assume so, considering he's, like, their first king.

Lizzie

(overlapping) I have no idea.

Zoe

But, like, you know, she's the one who's getting all, like, the attention and the name recognition.

Lizzie

I mean, what I can tell you is that Yennenga's Wikipedia is pretty long, and then Ouedraogo's is like one sentence.

Zoe

Well, there we go.

Lizzie

He's also very important, obviously, but Yennenga's the one who was, like, more remembered, it seems.

Zoe

Mm hmm.

Lizzie

Which is kind of nice.

Zoe

Yeah.

Lizzie

I thought that's nice.

Zoe

Mm hmm.

Lizzie

I also found it notable that Nadega had been quite restrictive and stubborn while Yennenga was young. But then in the 20 years following her disappearance, he learned and grew from his mistakes and nurtured Ouedraogo when he came to visit rather than holding grudges, and supported his and his endeavors in a way that he had failed to do with Yennenga. I mean, it could have just been that, like, she raised Ouedraogo, and then he was like, I want to go found a new kingdom. But then Nadega ended up being really important to his journey because he's the one that educated him--

Zoe

Mm hmm.

Lizzie

--and everything.

Zoe

Yeah.

Lizzie

I think this is notable, because first of all, it's great character development, and shows that you can act poorly but then make up for it later. It's nice, you know, redemption,.

Zoe

Mm hmm.

Lizzie

And also because it shows how older generations are meant to nurture younger generations so the same mistakes won't be repeated, and how he sort of, like, got a second chance to do something good for his progeny. I don't know.

Zoe

Yeah! Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Lizzie

Also, I love the moment where Yennenga comes back to her father, fearful that he would still hate her, and, like, after all these years, only to find out that he's grown since she's been away and had forgiven her and was happy to see her. I think it's beautiful. He gets a second chance, and Yennenga gets to have a better relationship with her father going forward.

Zoe

Yeah.

Lizzie

Overall, it's a nice ending.

Zoe

Yeah, it's really great. I really loved your point, particularly about nurturing future generations.

Lizzie

Yeah.

Zoe

And yeah, like, I feel that in a lot of these stories you don't ever really get that resolution between father and child.

Lizzie

Yeah.

Zoe

And so to know that there's that resolution, and there's no hard feelings basically, is really--it's really nice. It makes it really nice, complete story.

Lizzie

I agree. And Yennenga's rebellion was definitely really important for her journey--

Zoe

Mm hmm.

Lizzie

--but doesn't mean that Nadega has to be the villain.

Zoe

Yeah. And I mean, it shows that she also influenced her father as well--

Lizzie

Yeah!

Zoe

--and she showed him like, hey, I can't live like this anymore. So she left, and then her father realized after he had been without her for several years, I'm the one who messed up. I was the one who was wrong. And I'm--I'm the one who needs to make amends.

Lizzie

Yeah.

Zoe

And yeah, like, that's significant.

Lizzie

Yeah, and he gives Ouedraogo his blessing. It's great.

Zoe

Yeah, like something I realized recently when I was reading a similar book was like, we don't really get a ton of apologies--

Lizzie

Yeah.

Zoe

--in mythology.

Lizzie

That's true.

Zoe

There's not that much apology. There's not much--much, like, efforts to restore, like, broken relationships.

Lizzie

Mm hmm.

Zoe

And so to see that is...it's really great. That should be a model people should follow, like--

Lizzie

Yeah, no, it is really nice.

Zoe

You can always like fix things, you know, like, it doesn't have to be the end if you have to, like leave your father for a while, like...

Lizzie

Yeah. Which is great. I mean, a lot of mythology is not necessarily about, like, nuance maybe.

Zoe

I mean, yeah, a lot of it is very moralistic.

Lizzie

(overlapping) Some--some, yes. But some of it's--yes. Some it's like, this person did something bad so now they're the villain type of thing.

Zoe

Yeah.

Lizzie

Which is fine sometimes.

Zoe

Yeah.

Lizzie

But it's kind of nice that this one doesn't do that.

Zoe

Yeah, I mean, it just like shows, you know, we're talking about people here as opposed to like, you know, this god did this thing, and then he got trapped in a net for a while and laughed at for a while. And that's why you shouldn't do things like this or something like, you know.

Lizzie

Yeah. And it's also nice that their, like, origin story has nothing to do with gods and magic or anything. It's just like--

Zoe

Yeah!

Lizzie

You know.

Zoe

About the people.

Lizzie

Yeah, it's great. It's really nice

Zoe

That--how extraordinary people can be.

Lizzie

Totally. Yeah, that's totally true. So the poet Aja Monet wrote a poem called "A poem for Yennenga," which is excerpted in the short film Burkina Princess Yennenga by Nicole MacKinley Hahn, which goes:

"In the heart of Burkina Faso

Travels the tale of a woman

It's a common tale to tell

Of fighting a war that is not ours

Yennenga, princess of Gambaga

A woman is warrior

Fierce with conviction

That which knows the soul best

Disguised herself In a means to escape

Other people's visions

Of who she ought to be

Running towards something

More than running away

She, the stallion of running."

Which is a nice poem.

Zoe

Mm hmm.

Lizzie

Also, I like the part where it says that she wasn't running away--

Zoe

Yeah!

Lizzie

--as much as she was running towards something, which I totally agree with that.

Zoe

Yeah, well, I was just thinking that. I was like, that's really awesome.

Lizzie

Yeah.

Zoe

Way to say, you know, like, she wasn't running away. She was creating, she wasn't escaping something as much as she was creating something.

Lizzie

Yeah, exactly. That's a good way of thinking about it. I mean, she's not like, Oh, I'm gonna run away from this oppressive thing. I mean, she kind of was. But then it was more like, she gets to carve out her life the way that she wanted it to, rather than like, oh, just this sucks, or whatever.

Zoe

Yeah.

Lizzie

And it was nice and ultimately worked out for her. I mean, she met her husband, she had this really great child. And ultimately, it all was very fruitful because it led to the founding of the Mossi Kingdom.

Zoe

Yeah.

Lizzie

It's great. It's nice story. And like I said before, it's a nice ending, but really, there isn't really an ending to the story--

Zoe

Yeah, because it's still going!

Lizzie

Yeah, exactly. I mean, the Mossi people are still in Burkina Faso, and they still have Mogho Naba, who was like the leader.

Zoe

Mm hmm.

Lizzie

And yeah, it's just like, that's just the start. Which is a really nice story.

Zoe

Yeah.

Lizzie

I liked it.

Zoe

Yeah, it's really awesome. Thank you for sharing!

Lizzie

You're welcome.

Zoe

Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed listening, please leave us a review. Subscribe. We'll be back here in two weeks with another episode.

Lizzie

Thank you.

Outro, underscored by music:

Zoe

Thank you. Good-bye. Mytholadies podcast is produced by Elizabeth LaCroix and Zoe Koeninger. Today's episode was researched and presented by Elizabeth LaCroix. You can find us on Instagram and Twitter at Mytholadies and visit us on our website at Mytholadies calm. Our cover art is by Helena Cailleaux. Our music was written and performed by Icarus Tyree. Thank you for listening. See you next time.