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Non-Fiction

The Real Story Behind Mulan

In honor of Women’s History Month, I would like to talk about my absolute favorite badass Disney Princess and strong female role model, Mulan. Growing up, I loved Disney Princesses like mostly everyone else my age. They all told stories and taught history in a way that appealed to children, and I loved the creativity they poured into these movies by spinning off classic stories, or taking real life examples, in this case, Mulan.

To begin, we all know the story of how a young woman in ancient China took her injured fathers place in the imperial army, dressed as a man. In the beginning she couldn’t quite keep up with the others, but she worked diligently and trained to the very best of her ability. When the time came to fight China’s enemy, the Huns, she showed courage and helped win the war, and became known as the savior of China.

The real story is documented in a poem called the Ballad of Mulan, which takes place in Ancient China (In the Northern Wei dynasty to be exact). Unlike the Disney movie, where Mulan was unfamiliar with fighting and weapons, the real Hua Mulan was said to be very skilled in Kung Fu and archery, especially shooting arrows from horseback. Similar to the movie, Mulan decided to take her fathers place in the army because there was no male child, and her fathers health was failing. At first, she asked for her parents permission to join the army, but they said no, insisting that it was too dangerous to go. Not discouraged, Hua Mulan dressed up as a man and challenged her father to a duel. She won, and her father, very impressed, gave her permission to fight. She went on to fight in the imperial army disguised as a man not once, but for 12 years. As she continued to fight, she moved up the ranks until she became a very well known and respected general. After 12 years, the emperor presented her with medals of honor, and even wanted her to marry his daughter. When Mulan got the the emperors palace, she revealed herself to be a girl, declined all the awards, and went home, back to her village where she lived happily ever after. (Sources)

The original poem has been lost, but there are many copies today, and also some books that were written about Mulan, expanding on the original poem. There are also many different versions in the forms of plays, books, and movies. Because of this, it is hard to know exactly when or where Hua Mulan lived, and some believe that she is just a legend, not a real person. Whether you do or do not believe that she was a real person, her story is still very heroic, and has survived for many generations. There is even a crater on Venus named after her. If you ask me, I think that is pretty badass, worthy of being a historic role model for women and gender equality (which was pretty rare back in Ancient China BTW…). This story still influences people today, and everyone should know about Hua Mulan’s story.

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Elisabeth is a freshman at BCCHS and is passionate about writing, art, and social justice. She hopes to save the world with words.

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