The Kebra Nagast is an ancient sacred text of Ethiopia. In the myth the Jewish King Solomon (1000 BCE) and his contemporary, the Queen of Sheba fall in love. The Tale of Genji is a masterpiece written by Murasaki Shikibu. This novel is considered the first great novel in the history of world literature. In The Tale of Genji Shikibu tells a story of love, lust, and about the vulnerability of women in a male-dominated world (Puchner 1154).
In both texts, the women are important to society, but they are not valued by the men as much as they deserve. In both sacred texts, men who held a higher ranking of social and political power were entitled to multiple wives and concubines. Polygyny was a normal practice for men of faith; some of the greatest men marked in history and literature possessed many wives. In the Kebra Negast, King Solomon had relations with women other than his beloved Queen Makeda.
“And he married wives of the Hebrews, and the Egyptians, and the Canaanites … nd he had four hundred queens and six hundred concubines” (Puchner p. 543). If a man could possess so many women in his life, the love that he has for them is not pure as one should have for their significant other. When a man holds many concubines and spreads his seed, it signifies power. Also, in The Tale of Genji it was a common practice to marry young and have more than one wife. The emperor had women of lower and higher ranking causing tension amongst the concubines.
According to the text, “as a result, the mere presence of the woman at morning rites or evening ceremonies seemed to provoke hostile reactions among her rivals” (Shikibu 1160), This is referring to the emperor’s low ranked lover whom suffered anxiety from the constant expressions of jealousy from the emperor’s other women. As a result, her health began to decline, and she eventually perished. This objectification of women is seen in both texts; however, it was normal for women to be submissive in the male dominated world they lived in.
Although women flourished and made contributions to society, they were often undermined and overpowered by men. Kiritsubo, the Emperors lower ranked lover, fell ill because of his accountabilities. Despite her declining health, she remained by his side and continued to play her role. The Emperor denied her request for leave; he did not relieve her of her duties so that she may return to good health. This is neglect and a lack of consideration of women’s importance.
He may have loved her, but he did not value her as much as he valued his empire. One cannot help but wonder if these women were truly happy or if they merely coped with their way of life. On the other hand, the Queen of Sheba held a higher position; however, her virtues were not cherished as they should have been either. She was beautiful and graceful, and was rich in wisdom and knowledge. The Queen valued the prosperity of her mind over other things, and beauty was just a perk.
Despite her heavenly presence, she shared Solomon with his other concubines. As if a woman who possessed all of what Queen Makeda had deserved anything less than the finest treatment. Back in their time era, polygyny was not seen from a negative perspective, but what would have been thought of the Queen if she practiced polyandry? In addition, the king of Solomon said, “and give him command that a woman should never again reign” (Puchner p. 549). At this moment the king sought to end matrilineal rule thus stripping women of power.
Furthermore, in both texts we see that women serve as influential political leaders whether they were recognized as such or not. Heian Japan was the high point of Japanese aristocratic culture. Japan has the world’s oldest living tradition of court poetry, and women were the most important writers of the Heian period. These women were masters of writing, art, and music, which was huge in their culture. The Queen of Sheba was divine in her own right. She was eager for wisdom and understanding; she was a true leader.
The Queen of the South shall rise up on the day of judgement and shall dispute with, and condemn, and overcome this generation who would not hearken unto the preaching of my word, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear wisdom of Solomon” (Puchner p. 539). Her thirst for knowledge and great faith shaped her into a Queen truly worthy of ruling over a mass of individuals. In conclusion, we see a culture of undermining women despite their contributions in both of the texts. The stories portrayed the relationships between the men and women as positive; however, from a modern perspective there was a system of mistreatment.