Califia and Her Daughters

Five hundred years ago, a popular novelist named Garci Rodriguez de Montalvo came out with a rousing adventure about a black queen who raises an army and sails away to join the Muslims doing battle in Constantinople.

A battle for Constantinople in the 9th century.

With her go hundreds of trained griffins

—but unfortunately, it turns out that they cannot tell a Muslim man from a Christian one, only men from women, so kill ally and enemy alike.

A battle for Constantinople in the 13th century.

Califia withdraws her griffins, and after personal combat she loses to a king, is taken prisoner, and eventually marries and converts to Christianity.

A battle for Constantinople in the 15th century. Though no griffins in sight.

She ends up taking her army back to the New World island of California, a land ruled by dark Amazonian women, and introducing Christianity to the ladies. And, one assumes, to their griffins.

I find much cause for reflection in that story.  For one thing, one has to wonder, if Las Sergas de Esplandián had been written by a woman, whether or not the queen might have simply shrugged and let her griffins do their thing.

I also enjoy what it has to say about my home state of California.  Not only are we very dependent on our dark women—Disneyland once had a show with Whoopie Goldberg as Queen Califia—but we are essentially as much of an island as the map-makers of the time imagined.

A globe in Lisbon’s maritime museum.


Califia’s Daughters is available in ebook—now on special offer at $1.99—or as a mass-market size paperback, from Bookshop Santa CruzBarnes & Noble/Nook, or Amazon/Kindle.


Posted in ,

Leave a Comment