Thursday, December 7, 2017

Meet the characters - Sultana Moraima

The character of Moraima becomes one of two protagonists in Sultana: The White Mountains. She is the beloved wife of her husband, Sultan Muhammad XI, who's come down through Spanish history with the name Boabdil. Like her spouse and so many of the characters in the series, she is based on a real historical figure who was the daughter of the governor and war hero known as Ali al-Attar. She married when she was fifteen, and had two sons Ahmad and Yusuf and possibly a daughter named Aisha. I've seen one unverified reference to the meaning of her name as "she who is as beautiful as the blueberry tree." In Spanish history, she’s always described as having been beautiful, I suppose a prerequisite for having captured the heart of a prince. She certainly was in season two of the Spanish series, Isabel. 

There is no reference to another wife of Muhammad XI except Moraima. Sometimes, the historical figure strangely gets conflated in the legends about Sultanas purportedly loved by men of the Abencerrage clan, whose chieftains died by the order of Moraima's father-in-law Sultan Abu'l-Hasan Ali at some banquet twenty years before her union with Muhammad XI. By all accounts, theirs was a love match, whereas past Nasrids tended to marry royal cousins. 

Readers of Sultana: The Pomegranate Tree, the preceding novel in which she first appears, will recall Moraima's unhappy state at the start of the marriage when her father-in-law Abu’l-Hasan Ali imprisons and separates her from her husband for a time. On her wedding day, Spanish historians described her as having been so poor, she borrowed simple wedding garments - quite unlikely since her father governed their birthplace of Loja, Spain by such time AND she was about to join the ruling family of a shrinking Moorish Spain. She's come down through history as a long-suffering woman, like the statue of her in Loja. She remains a sympathetic figure, never having been a queen in her own right. That's not quite true; when her husband reigned over Moorish Granada, she would have enjoyed a queenly status, although perhaps overshadowed by her mother-in-law, Sultana Aisha. As I've imagined her life in the new novel, she's no wilting wallflower content to remain in the background. Few women of the Nasrid Dynasty could afford to be. Not when life and death or the survival of the Moors affected their choices.

How does the image of Moraima in the annals compare with my portrayal of her? My readers would know of the Sultanas I depict that each of them is strong in her own way. But this was the first royal woman I've written about as someone who had to dig deep within herself to tap into that wellspring of strength. At first, she's uncomfortable giving orders to servants and sees herself in a lesser role compared to Aisha and Soraya, the wives of Abu'l-Hasan Ali. I imagined the daughter of a provincial governor might have felt somewhat overwhelmed in her new position as the sole companion of a dynasty member. But there isn't much chance for Moraima to allow others influence for long – she’d be a boring protagonist if she did! Historical events in the novel force her into the spotlight and give her many opportunities to impact the future of Moorish Spain. Find out how in Sultana: The White Mountains, available now. 

If you've missed any of the Meet the characters posts about this novel, find them HERE.

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