The Origins of Mulan

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The story of perhaps one of the most daring stories Disney has gone onto adapt is Mulan. The history of this story is well documented and there are only two different historical accounts/ stories of Hua (Fa) Mulan although both follow the same vein of the story.

The Ballad of Mulan was first transcribed in the 6th Century into the Musical Records of Old and New. Although this original work no longer exists the lyrics for the ballad was compiled in the 11th and 12th centuries into the Music Bureau Collection, where the original records are cited as the source for the anthology.

The Ballad tells of Mulan, sitting at her loom as males from each family are called to war. Her father is old and frail and her younger brother is just a child. She bids farewell to her parents and 12 years later they are rewarded, and after turning down an official post she asks for a swift horse to take her home. Donning her own clothes, her comrades are shocked to discover that she is a woman after all the years travelling together. There is no prince in this adaption.

There is also The Sui Tang Romance which deviates greatly from the simple and original ballad. It elaborates the plot with twists and additional characters, and for Mulan an unhappy ending. Discovered by the warrior princess upon taking her father’s place, she becomes sworn sisters with her and they work together. After surrendering she is allowed leave to go home, but discovering her father long dead and her mother remarried, she is heartbroken. Upon being summoned as a concubine for her leader, she commits suicide.

The Disney version is much more light hearted with its own additions the story with dragons, lucky crickets and a touch of the typical Disney romance.  These additions added in a touch of Chinese culture which the American audience may not have been aware of and helped to educate on the bases. Even the art style is reminiscent of Chinese art, with the use of swirls being very predominant.

Mushu is a red dragon and in China the colour red is associated with happiness and good fortune for the future. Dragons are also used to represent excellence and outstanding in a person, which you could say Mulan personifies. The use of fireworks in China is a representation of warding off evil spirits, which Shan Yu, the leader of the Huns is killed by in the end of the film. Very well played there Disney. 

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