If you watched Black Panther then you were likely captivated by the strength and overall badass-ness of the all-women Wakandan army, Dora Milaje.
What you may not know is that the five-women crew–led by Danai Gurira‘s character Okoye–is actually based on a real tribe of fighters known as the Dahomey Amazons.
According to the Smithsonian, the first tracing of the women warriors is in the 1720s. They served as guards to the palace in Dahomey, an African kingdom that existed between 1600 and the late 1800s. The army went by other names, including Mino (which means “Our Mothers” in the Fon language).
The soldiers served as bodyguards to the king’s “third class” wives, lovers and his children. The women guards were also formally married to the king, and because he never actually had intercourse with them, they ended up living a life of celibacy.
What’s really important to highlight, as demonstrated in Black Panther, is that Dahomey’s women warriors often fought and died for the king and their country.
The women army made its splash in Vol. 3 of Marvel’s Black Panther comic books as special forces for Wakanda. Known as the “adored ones,” Aneka, Ayo, Okoye, Nakia and Queen Divine Justice, were handpicked by the Black Panther from rival tribes to serve as his guard and ceremonial wives-in-training. Choosing from rival tribes was a decision believed to keep the peace in Wakanda.
Though the women are actually teenagers in the comic book, the film’s producer Nate Moore says the Doras were intentionally aged up, and any mention of their role as “wives” was omitted entirely.
“That was part of the original Christopher Priest run where they were all sort of betrothed which, look, we felt like wasn’t necessary to tell the story of the Dora, and in a way we all kind of rejected as being a little creepy,” Moore said, according to ComicBooks.com. “So yeah, we will not be exploring that.”