Mulan is more than just a character in a movie. The brave warrior girl is the stuff of legend in Chinese literature dating back many centuries. Her story has been told countless times and has taken numerous different forms. One of the best known versions of the Mulan story in the modern era is the heart-warming animated Disney film, but several other Mulan tales exist.
The legendary heroine Mulan is a young Chinese girl who supposedly lived during the Northern Wei Dynasty,. Since her story has been handed down through the generations, it is impossible to say if she really existed or is merely legend. Mulan would have lived sometime between 386CE and 534CE because her written legend first surfaced in the 6th century. Mulan, whose full name was Hua Mulan, was trained in Kung Fu and swordplay throughout her life. She could also shoot arrows and ride a horse.
According to the legend, when Mulan was 18, the Mongols invaded China and the Chinese Emperor ordered all families to send one man to join the army. Mulan’s father was too old and weak to fight, and she had no brothers. Mulan disguised herself as a boy and went to fight in her father’s stead. The story says that Mulan’s courage in battle was remarkable. She fought for 12 straight years and was offered many higher military ranks and privileges. According to the tale, Mulan refused them all and returned to a quiet life in her village.
Poem and Book:
The first Mulan story was a 6th century CE Chinese poem entitled “The Ballad of Mulan.” The poem’s author is anonymous and the piece first appeared in an anthology entitled “Yuefu.” The short poem was expanded into a book during the Ming Dynasty, sometime between 1368CE and 1644CE. The more detailed tale explored Mulan’s epic battles and her ability to hide her gender from her fellow soldiers while they fought side by side for years. The story became an empowering tale for generations of Chinese girls.
The character of Mulan has been referenced or included in many films. Perhaps the best known modern-day version of the story is the 1998 Disney animated film, “Mulan.” There are some differences to the Disney version of the story, including Mulan knowing nothing about battle and undergoing training before going off to fight. In the original story all children of her village learn martial arts, archery and horse riding. Disney also added its own entertaining touches in the form of songs and friends for Mulan including a brave, intelligent horse and a tiny, magical dragon named Mushu.