Fairytales Retellings & Prompts: Mulan

This month we’re doing a series called the A-Z blogging challenge where we dive into Fairytale Retellings and provide prompts for writers. Writers are the people making the books, television shows, and movies of tomorrow. For more information on the challenge check out my earlier post here.

Mulan is a legendary/fictional female warrior from the Northern and Southern dynasties period of Chinese history, originally described in the Ballad of Mulan. In the ballad, Hua Mulan, disguised as a man, takes her aged father’s place in the army. Mulan fought for twelve years and gained high merit, but she refused any reward and retired to her hometown.

In Chinese, mùlán refers to the magnolia. The heroine of the poem is given different family names in different versions of her story. According to History of Ming, her family name is Zhu, while the History of Qing says it is Wei. The family name Hua, which was introduced by Xu Wei, has become the most popular in recent years in part because of its more poetic meaning.

In 1998 American Walt Disney Feature Animation created the musical historical action-adventure film for Walt Disney Pictures. It is based on the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan, and was Disney’s 36th animated feature and the ninth animated film produced and released during the Disney Renaissance. (Did you know that Disney had a Renaissance? I know!)

It was directed by Tony Bancroft and Barry Cook. Some of the stars attached to this Ming-Na Wen, Eddie Murphy, Miguel Ferrer and BD Wong star in the English version, while Jackie Chan provided the voice of Captain Li Shang for the Chinese dubs of the film.

In its earliest stages, the story was originally conceived as a Tootsie-like romantic comedy film where Mulan, who was a misfit tomboy that loves her father, is betrothed to Shang, whom she has not met. On her betrothal day, her father Fa Zhou carves her destiny on a stone tablet in the family temple, which she shatters in anger, running away to forge her own destiny.

In November 1993, Chris Sanders, who had just finished storyboard work on The Lion King, was hoping to work on The Hunchback of Notre Dame until Schumacher appointed him to work on Mulan instead. Acting as Head of Story, Sanders grew frustrated with the romantic comedy aspect of the story and urged producer Pam Coats to be more faithful to the original legend by having Mulan leave home because of the love for her father. This convinced the filmmakers to decide to change Mulan’s character in order to make her more appealing and selfless.

Acclaimed filmmaker Niki Caro brings the epic tale of China’s legendary warrior to life in Disney’s “Mulan,” in which a fearless young woman risks everything out of love for her family and her country to become one of the greatest warriors China has ever known.

When the Emperor of China issues a decree that one man per family must serve in the Imperial Army to defend the country from Northern invaders, Hua Mulan, the eldest daughter of an honored warrior, steps in to take the place of her ailing father.

Masquerading as a man, Hua Jun, she is tested every step of the way and must harness her inner-strength and embrace her true potential. It is an epic journey that will transform her into an honored warrior and earn her the respect of a grateful nation…and a proud father.

In the original ballad, Mulan is given leave to journey back to her homeland, and once arrangements were made for Mulan’s parents to relocate, it is expected that they will all be living in the princess’s old capital of Leshou.

Mulan is devastated to discover her father has long died and her mother has remarried. Even worse, the Khan has summoned her to the palace to become his concubine.

Rather than suffer this fate, she commits suicide. Mulan’s words before she committed suicide were, “I’m a girl, I have been through war and have done enough. I now want to be with my father.”

But before she dies, she entrusts an errand to her younger sister, Youlan, which was to deliver Xianniang’s letter to her fiancé, Luó Chéng. This younger sister dresses as a man to make her delivery, but her disguise is discovered, and it arouses her recipient’s amorous attention.

Are you loving these fairytales? What is your favorite part of Mulan’s story? Write your own version of Mulan and make it good.

For more blogs participating in A to Z 2020 click the link here.

ABOUT T.S. VALMOND:

T.S. Valmond is the science fiction and young adult fantasy author of The Bolaji Kingdoms Series and The Verity Chronicles. As an award-winning poet, world traveler, and sign language interpreter she uses her experiences to fuel her stories. She’s a regular contributor to the website and founder of the Riders & Flyers group.

3 Comments

  1. There are many Mulan-like stories in world folklore. I love the ones where the men try to test the girl in disguise to see if she’s really a man. They make up hilarious tests, like “if we go walking, and she picks flowers, then she must be a woman!” She never falls for them though.

    The Multicolored Diary

    1. LOL! Not surprising they didn’t catch her with tests like that!

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