After the Disney cartoon Cinderella was brought to life on the big screen and proved a success, there have been several ideas to make Mulan a success in the big screen as well. While the movie will undoubtedly be based on the much appreciated Disney Cartoon few of us know that the cartoon itself was based on a very real Mulan who lived a long time ago.
For those of you who don’t know, Disney’s Mulan is an animated classic about a girl who goes to war in place of her father. She overcomes adversity, defeats the Huns, and gets the man. But what actually happened? This beloved Disney story came from an ancient Chinese ballad of the Song Dynasty, called ‘Ode to Mulan’. This poem was originally part of a musical collection of lyrics and songs that no longer exists, which makes tracing the origin difficult. The inspiration for this poem could have come from a real person, however this was never confirmed.
If you didn’t know before, you know now. The real Mulan was even more badass than her Disney counterpart! She was a tomboy and her father taught her how to fight, including how to handle a sword and shoot a bow and arrow. Unfortunately, no training montage with catchy song was needed. Disney’s Mulan was considered (according to the traditions and culture) somewhat of a failure as a woman. She hates who she is and she goes to war to bring back some of the honour she has lost.
The town matchmaker deems her not marriage material and everyone is disappointed with her.
But ‘Original Mulan’ tells her parents straight up that she wants to go to war. She gathers all the weapons and gets a horse and convinces them that it just makes sense for her to go instead of her elderly father. They don’t argue with her and she rides away confident that she’ll be successful.
There was never any doubt in the real Mulan’s mind that she could go to war. She was a successful traditional woman who could weave and embroider – but she could also fight. Disney’s Mulan has very low self-esteem going off to war. Maybe the original is a better inspiration for young women today.
Okay, so it’s not surprising that original Mulan didn’t have a small red dragon sidekick. I’m sure she prayed to the ancestors, as was tradition, but no lucky cricket and no Mushu.
When it seems Disney Mulan is fitting in and doing well, her true identity is discovered.
No matter how many lives she saves, or how she helps the army, her friends and commander leave her all alone – after they try to kill her.
Disney’s Mulan has to save the whole empire and prove she is, in fact, a decent warrior, before she is finally accepted back into society. Think the original Mulan had to go through all that?
Nope. After original Mulan got out of the army and returned home, she was welcomed into her family with open arms.
She invited all her army friends over and revealed to them that she was actually a woman this whole time. And, you know what? They didn’t care. They finished the party and everyone went back to what they were doing.
As a final bit of trivia, Disney Mulan was in the army for a year or two at most, it seems. Original Mulan, however, was in the army for a whopping twelve years. How she kept her identity a secret that long is truly a mystery and she deserves mad props for that. Disney did take a few liberties with Mulan, obviously adding some comic relief, but in a way they made Mulan a less strong character.
It’s still a great movie and a Disney Classic, but the original Mulan was just so much of a badass – they’re like two different stories!