the king woman is a powerful story of strength and resilience told from the point of view of Agojie, the all-female King’s Guard of the Kingdom of Dahomey, and its writing is as strong as its action sequences. Powerful performances by Viola Davis, Lashana Lynch and Thuso Mbedu are anchored in a dialogue that speaks to the conflict of a nation still caught in the clutches of the slave trade.
From the advice given by General Nanisca to the new recruit Nawi to the preparation of the Agojie for battle against the Oyo Empire, the best quotes from the king woman they are as inspiring today as they were in 19th-century West Africa.
“We have a weapon that they are not prepared for.”
The Kingdom of Dahomey was still involved in the slave trade during the 19th century and regularly went to war with its neighbors to exchange prisoners of war with the Oyo Empire and its Portuguese partners. the king woman he depicts King Ghezo as a man in conflict for what he has brought wealth to his kingdom, and he refuses to remain a tributary state of Oyo, sending Agojie with a message of succession.
This quote opens the film and instantly imbues Agojie with a formidable force, bolstered by several incredible battle scenes that include them fighting Oyo. At a time when the rest of West Africa adapted to European warfare with horses and guns, the Agojie still strongly defended their presence thanks to their skill and lethality in battle.
“Always obey Izogie.”
Izogie to Nawi
Izogie is the first Agojie member Nawi meets at the palace, and the stern second-in-command is not very impressed with his new recruit. He doesn’t mince words with Nawi, instead telling her exactly what to expect from life as a member of the king’s guard, ending his tour with the most important rule; “Always obey Igozie.”
Far beyond evoking the first rule of fight club, this quote is important because many of the things Izogie teaches Nawi form the foundation for the physical and mental strength she needs to be one of Agojie’s fiercest warriors. When Izogie is captured by Oyo Nawi, she enforces her most important rule and by always obeying Izogie, she repeats Izogie’s own principles to her and refuses to let her give up on herself or her sisters. .
“To be a warrior you must kill your tears.”
General Nanisca to Nawi
To become an Agojie, a woman must turn her back on the opportunity to have a family. She must refrain from marrying and having children to serve the king and protect her kingdom, relying only on her abilities and her brotherhood to survive. General Nanisca is an example of the kind of hardened, practical woman Nawi must become if she hopes to last decades in the king’s guard.
However, at nineteen, Nawi is still far removed from Nanisca’s cynicism and doesn’t always understand her motivations. When Nanisca explains to Nawi that there is no room for tears in the Agojie and that she must be strong and impervious to pain, it is because she does not want her emotions to overcome her and she makes a mistake.
“Are we learning to cook? You’re cutting a body, not a ham.”
Izogie to Agojie Warriors during training
Izogie and General Nanisca are responsible for training the new Agojie recruits and they don’t hold back with their criticism. As the girls cut the wooden targets, they review each of their shots and point out their mistakes in front of the group.
Despite her taciturn demeanor, Izogie actually pulls double duty as a character with some of her dates. As intimidating as she can be, she’s also frequently the comic relief, as with this line of dialogue where she compares the strikes of young women to dicing a ham for dinner.
“Fighting isn’t magic. It’s skill.”
General Nanisca to Nawi
Growing up, Nawi has heard great stories of the Agojie, matching their fighting skills to those of the most powerful magic users. When she sees that they are only flesh and blood women instead of powerful witches, she is disappointed and is not afraid to tell General Nanisca about this in a private moment.
The general clears her up when he explains that fighting is not magic, but a skill that must be perfected. No special chants or herbs can make up for the lack of effectiveness with a spear, sword, or rope. The Agojie have a fearsome reputation because they are so good in battle, not because of anything supernatural or untrue.
“I didn’t have an easy life!”
Nawi to General Nanisca
Faced with a choice between marrying a brutal man twice her age or joining Agojie, Nawi makes the decision to become a warrior. After living in the palace, she begins to see how much sacrifice life in the king’s guard entails, and she struggles to earn a place among the other new recruits. General Nanisca doesn’t think young Nawi has what it takes to get ahead.
Like any young woman who wants to be taken seriously, Nawi refutes Nanisca’s claim that she doesn’t know what it’s like to fight and that spending her life on a farm has weakened her. The general’s words light a fire in her and she begins to find a strength within herself that he didn’t even know she had, earning the respect of her companions in the process.
“We are Agojie. We do not act alone.”
General Nanisca to Nawi
During a particularly harrowing confrontation with Oyo, Nawi decides to act on impulse to protect General Nanisca in a “one vs. many” fight scene. While her decision succeeds, she acted alone, which is not Agojie’s way. Even after saving her life, the general berates Nawi in front of the other women.
One of the many reasons the Agojie are so successful is that they fight as a single unit, adapting to each new military challenge with strength built on teamwork. Like the Spartans of Greece, they fight for the woman to their right and to their left and thus end up fighting as an unstoppable force. Acting alone threatens the strength of the entire unit and risks endangering lives.
“You are powerful. More than you know. Don’t give your power away.”
Izogie to Nawi
Izogie acts like a big sister to Nawi, warning her about the dangers of loving someone other than her fellow Agojie. Catching a man’s attention is not only prohibited but is also a distraction from the unit’s focus. She believes that “love is weak” because it can usurp a person’s priorities.
This quote speaks of a person who might lose their innate agency once they give in to their partner’s demands. Izogie sees how powerful Nawi is when she is a warrior and she believes that if she gives her to Malik, he will lower her spirits by forcing her to serve only him. Izogie’s words help Nawi see where she needs to focus: on her own desires and aspirations.
“You have the key. You decide when the lock turns.”
Malik to Nawi
Despite being from two different continents and two different worlds, Malik and Nawi end up having feelings for each other. To protect Nawi from Oyo, Malik is forced to buy her into captivity so she won’t be taken abroad. When she protests, he assures her that he has no intention of controlling her.
As Malik physically gives Nawi the key to her chambers and tells her that she can decide when to leave, he is actually reminding her that she is always free to make her own decision. With the Agojie and with him, she has personal freedom.
“We fight not only for today. But for the future!”
General Nanisca addressing the Agojie
During his final battle against the Oyo, General Nanisca brings the Agojie together with a speech that encompasses everything they stand for and what they hope to do in the future. She hopes they will become part of a kingdom that she no longer sells out to her own people, but instead gains strength from her through unity, as the Agojie have always done. To fight for the Kingdom of Dahomey is to fight for all of Africa.
This quote brings to Agojie’s story a recurring theme of agency, while also combining it with a modern theme of unification that hopes to inspire audiences as well as warriors. As the king woman it is slightly revisionist in its approach to the history of the Kingdom of Dahomey, it is a way of avoiding some of its more unpleasant actions in the past.
NEXT: The 10 Best Movies Like The Woman King
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