In a patriarchal society men normally have the power. This power is generally handed down generation to generation as seen in Sundiata where the lineage of the first kings of Mali is explained generation by generation (Niane 3). It can also be seen in The Romance of Tristan and Iseult when “[T']he barons, Andret, Guenelon, Gondoine, and Denoalen pressed King Mark to take to wife some king's daughter who should give him an heir...”(Bedier 26). In these examples men generally have the primary power. However, there is an argument to be made that women, in both Sundiata, and The Romance of Tristan and Iseult have some significant power in their society.
In Sundiata the power that women have can be seen as knowledge that is gained through experience, and the craftiness to use this knowledge. Sassouma Berete knows this power of craftiness all too well. When Sogolon is to marry the king, Sassouma Berete uses her craftiness to spread rumors about Sogolon. As D.T. Niane writes in Sundiata, “It was known that she was not beautiful [Sogolon], but the curiosity of everyone was aroused, and already a thousand anecdotes were circulating, most of them put out by Sassouma Berete, the king's first wife” (Niane 10). This suggests that Sassouma Berete understood the power of using her experience and craftiness to create a hostile atmosphere for Sogolon.
When Sogolon becomes pregnant with Sundiata, Sassouma Berete begins the process of determining how it would affect her and her children. D.T. Niane, writes, “What would become of her, Sassouma Berete, if her son, already eight years old, was disinherited in favor of the child that Sogolon was going to bring in the world?” (Niane 13). In this example Sassouma Berete uses her experience and craftiness to try and change the course of destiny.
In the examples of Sassouma Berete it can be seen that woman possessed power, but that it was used in a negative way. This is not always the case with this type of power women possessed in Sundiata. Throughout the story are examples of women using the same power to produce positive results.
While in exile in Djedeba, Mansa Konkon's daughter shows the use of this power of craftiness to protect Sundiata. Knowing that her father, Mansa Konkon, never lost at the game of wori, the king's daughter explains this to Manding Bory. When the next day comes and Sundiata is summoned to play wori against the king he is able to beat him with this knowledge. D.T. Niane writes, “In fact the...