Seeds of Inspiration and Controversy

One has encouraged the world's poor women to plant 30 million trees. The other creates incendiary fables of female sexuality and subjugation. They make an odd couple, but last week they were united as Nobel laureates: Kenya's Wangari Maathai for the Peace Prize and Austria's Elfriede Jelinek for Literature. It was the second year in which women won both of the most notable Nobels.

Maathai, 64, founder of the Green Belt Movement, says the Nobel committee "is going beyond war and looking at what humanity can do to prevent war: managing our natural resources." She has inspired devotion but also controversy,...