The Woman King is mostly focused on combat-heavy action, but the true meaning behind its shark tooth reveal helps develop an emotional center in an important way. Starring Viola Davis and Thuso Mbedu, The Woman King tells the story of the Agojie, an all-woman warrior unit who protected the African kingdom of Dahomey. Despite coming to Dahomey after being offered by her father, Nawi quickly proves herself as a skilled and invaluable warrior to the Agojie.
Nawi harbors a birthmark on her left shoulder, which she shows to Viola Davis’ Nanisca while the former is being treated for other wounds. Although Nawi does not see anything special about the mark, it has an important meaning to Nanisca. Nawi’s birthmark and Nanisca’s subsequent shark tooth reveal lead to one of the most important scenes in the Oscar-snubbed The Woman King, as the two warriors discover they have much more in common than either could have imagined.
The Shark Tooth Was A Way To Secretly Prove Nawi Was Nanisca’s Daughter
Despite having displayed a cold attitude towards Nawi throughout The Woman King, Nanisca reveals she has been hard on Nawi because the latter is her secret daughter, and she has a way to prove it. According to Nanisca, she was assaulted repeatedly while being held captive, resulting in an unwanted pregnancy. After complications with the birth, Nanisca was left alone with her newborn daughter while Amenza went to fetch medicine, and she decided to mark her daughter as hers in some way, knowing she would have to give her up. Nanisca placed a shark’s tooth in an incision she made in the baby’s arm, leaving evidence the baby is hers.
Although Nawi, played by The Woman King cast member Thuso Mbedu, initially empathizes with Nanisca’s experience, she also affirms that she is not the lost daughter, believing that Nanisca is projecting the past onto her. However, Nanisca is able to prove that she is right about Nawi being her daughter by cutting into Nawi’s birthmark, which is really a scar. Inside it, Nawi finds a shark tooth, proving that she is Nanisca’s long-lost daughter after all.
How The Woman King’s Shark Tooth Explained Nanisca’s Flashback
During The Woman King, Nanisca has a flashback to the traumatic birth of her lost daughter. After Amenza left to get medicine to treat her, Nanisca was left alone with her infant daughter. Seeing the knife that Amenza had left on the ground, Nanisca grabbed it and held it up to the infant. This could be seen as an ominous image, but the Agojie warrior’s flashback is seen in a new light after The Woman King reveals the true story of the shark tooth.
Rather than brandishing the knife against baby Nawi out of malice, Nanisca was doing so to connect herself to Nawi, who at that point in the The Woman King, Nanisca thought she would never see again. Because of Nanisca revealing that she placed a shark tooth in Nawi’s arm, the flashback is now less about violence or fear, and more about a fleeting act of love between a mother and child. Because of Nanisca’s shark tooth, her flashback scene and her reveal to Nawi is a touching moment in the otherwise action-filled The Woman King.