The real story of Mulan is not quite as disturbing as you might think just going into this clip, though there are some very noticeable differences between Disney’s version and the actual tale of the woman that inspired so many stories. It’s unknown if Mulan ever really existed, but her story has been an inspiration for many throughout the centuries, leading a great many people to tell it again and again. The biggest differences are those that Disney has taken the time and effort to embellish as they wanted something that seemed more traditional and built up a movie that showed Mulan fighting against the odds more than anything.
For instance, the beginning of the Disney movie shows that Mulan’s family expects her to become a good housewife, though obviously that doesn’t pan out. She fails the meeting with the matchmaker and is thought to bring dishonor to her family. Not long after that it’s discovered that the emperor is recruiting more and more soldiers for the ongoing war, one man from each house. In the movie and in the tale Mulan’s father is the one that is expected to answer the call, but in the tale she decides to answer it, but is not opposed by anyone. In the tale her gender doesn’t matter as much, and in some versions she’s even skilled as her father had already taught her martial arts and how to wield several weapons with ease. In the movie she has to pass as a man and work much harder than anyone else to be seen as worthy of remaining in the army.
In the tale though she eventually advances to the rank of general, as she is dedicated and skillful enough in battle to prove herself again and again. In truth it seems that the Disney movie set her up for more hardship than the tale ever did, as she has to hide who she is, fool everyone around her into thinking that she’s just another man that enlisted in the army, and run the risk of being put to death if she’s found out. There was no such punishment in the tale, in fact the other soldiers didn’t care and were quite impressed. In some ways it seems as though Disney would have done better to take directly from the tale and not use their creative team to fabricate another tale out of thin air. Some tales are just fine as they are.
At any rate, Mulan did fall in love with a man who didn’t know she was a woman to start with, but once he realized what she was he became even more attached to her. When the other soldiers came to realize she was a woman their dedication became even more devout. It was said that Mulan spent 12 years in the army, leading troops into battle and fighting for China. But the tragic part of the tale was that when she came home her father had passed away, unlike the movie. So there are ups and downs between the two, but the original tale would have been so much better.
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