The Ballad of Mulan is the story of a strong woman willing to sacrifice herself but entering an army for 12 years in order to keep her family safe.
If you don’t think that’s hardcore af than you can GTFO.
I love Disney movies.
Yes, yes, I know. They’re hella problematic and not very diverse but they’re one of my problematic faves okay?
They’re also one of my favourite ways of forgetting when life is really shitty.
How can you feel awful when you’re watching brightly coloured cartoons, musical numbers and hilarious animal sidekicks???
My all time favourite Disney princess film is by far Mulan.
I’ve got a shocking memory so I don’t remember a whole lot from when I was a kid, throughout my teen years I always thought that Beauty and the Beast was my favourite Disney princess film.
I’m a huge bookworm so that makes sense right?
This isn’t a surprise because so much of my life growing up was made from assumptions of who I was. I assumed I was straight, I assumed I liked hugging people, I assumed I was an extrovert HAHAHAHAH WRONG!
Then Tangled came out and I really loved it.
Later on, there was the Frozen craze and I have lost count how many times I’ve watched it. No seriously, I was living out of home when it came out, with 5 other girls who all had many friends, so every time someone came home, or someone visited who hadn’t seen it, we all watched it again.
I haven’t watched it since.
A couple of years ago I was consumed by a very sudden need to watch Mulan. I’m pretty sure it was because my sister tagged me in a gif of Mushu saying that ICONIC line:
Whilst we were watching Mulan I suddenly remembered just how much I love this film.
I was struck with the memory of being a little kid, waking up far too early and quietly putting on the Mulan VHS tape while my family was asleep.
I remember loving this strong and heroic kickass woman.
I realized that my favourite was always Mulan, I just kind of forgot for a little while
I mean, talk about story of my life.
The last year or so I’ve been trying to collect all the Disney movies on DVD, starting with my favourites, obviously, and I am so excited for the live action remake next year
even though they’ve cut out bisexual icon Li Shang and replaced him with some dickhead, I’m obviously not bitter.
I am trying to remain positive though since I loved Maleficent, hopefully, I’ll love this one just as much, if not more.
I’ve gotten my mum to watch it as well for the first time a couple of months ago because I kept talking about how I managed to forget what my favourite Disney movie was for like 10-15 years and she wanted to see why I loved it so much.
While we were watching it my mum had been reading the Shades of Magic series by V.E. Schwab which is my favourite book series of all time
and I was forcing her to read it.
Halfway through mum said she could see why I loved it so much, it was another woman dressing like a man and kicking ass. She was taking charge of her own destiny, gender politics be damned!
We also had a dog called Mushu when I was a teenager who was named by her previous owners so I think I feel extra connected to Mulan that way as well. Our dog passed away a few years ago and so mum got a little emotional seeing another Mushu in the film.
When I was coming up with the idea of doing the Ancient Archive series I knew that I needed to cover the folklore behind the Disney film. I’ve finally decided to give it ago!
Mulan is a historical figure who may or may not actually be real and could possibly be just a legend but I don’t give a shit, I’m doing it anyway!
There isn’t a whole lot of information that I’ve been able to find, but I’ll do my best!
“Huā” means flower in Chinese and Mùlán means magnolia which has been a symbol for China since, like, the dawn of time. However, Mulan’s family name has been debated with ancient texts using different names. Some say Wei, some think it’s Zhu. Of course the most popular is Hua since it’s meaning is poetic and people love poetic shit.
Now when it comes to when Mulan lived, no one can know for sure except that her story was connected to the history of China during the Northern and Southern dynasties.
Maybe, I’m not really sure because everyone lists different periods and it’s all very confusing.
The Ballad of Mulan is one that describes the life of a woman who takes her elderly father’s place in the war in order to protect him for twelve years.
Go on, try and tell me that isn’t badass??
It’s first known transcription was in the 6th century in the Musical Records of Old and New, but it came from a folk song older than that. Dating back from the North Wei Dynasty (386-557 AD), the Musical Records of Old and New no longer exists, however, the text we do have comes from the Music Bureau Collection.
I like to imagine in times like this where people would be throwing their papers into the fire and then looking up to read words as the paper is eaten by the flame and thinking ‘Oh fuck! Burned the wrong one, shit, shit, shit‘ because that’s far more fun.
It does credit Musical Records of Old and New as its source, so let’s everyone has to hope for the best that it wasn’t changed. Compiled by Guo Maoqian, the Musical Burau Collection was created during the 11th or 12th century and is a collection of lyrics, songs and poems.
They ask Daughter who’s in her heart, They ask Daughter who’s on her mind. “No one is on Daughter’s heart, No one is on Daughter’s mind. Last night I saw the draft posters, The Khan is calling many troops. The army list is in twelve scrolls, On every scroll there’s Father’s name. Father has no grown‑up son, Mulan has no elder brother. I want to buy a saddle and horse, And serve in the army in Father’s place.”
In the East Market she buys a spirited horse, In the West Market she buys a saddle, In the South Market she buys a bridle, In the North Market she buys a long whip. At dawn she takes leave of Father and Mother, In the evening camps on the Yellow River’s bank. She doesn’t hear the sound of Father and Mother calling, She only hears the Yellow River’s flowing water cry tsien tsien.
At dawn she takes leave of the Yellow River, In the evening she arrive sat Black Mountain. She doesn’t hear the sound of Father and Mother calling, She only hears Mount Yen’s nomad horses cry tsiu tsiu.
She disguised herself as a man for twelve years, her comrades not learning until later that she is in fact a woman.
Which goes to show that gender is a social construct.
She left for battle with her ancestors’ sword and gained high merit from her work in the war. However, when the rewards for their efforts were being dispensed, Mulan refused all and asked only for a horse to return to her home and family. Mulan, babe, I get that you’re all about honor but come on, I’m sure your family could have used some money! And I’d for sure accept a title. I’d be running around like, ‘Yeah bitch, I got a vagina and I’m a general!’
Trigger Warnings for Self Harm, Suicide, Sex Work Shame
I’ll let you know when the story ends so you can skip all of it instead of reading until the trigger and then wanting to know how it ends and reading it regardless of your own mental health. The warning will be in the above font.
I’m not the best at remembering trigger warnings and I kind of learned to push past my own before people became aware that they were just a good and kind thing to do, but I try. If there’s anything you can suggest that might help me in supporting those with triggers please let me know!
If you think this is all unneeded and you wanna comment how stupid you think it all is just remember one thing. Fuck off.
Mulan discovers that her father had long passed away during her leave and her mother has remarried.
To make matters worse, she is summoned to serve the Khan, a foreign ruler, as his concubine. Not able to live with that kind of life, Mulan kills herself. Her last words were “I’m a girl, I have been through war and have done enough. I now want to be with my father.”
I hope ya’ll enjoyed today’s Ancient Archived! Let me know if there’s anyone you’d like me to cover next time!
I will be posting Ancient Archive once a month now instead of every fortnight. You can expect to see them towards the end of the month.
I want to free up some of my schedule to post other things but mostly I was burning myself out trying to research each subject and still be able to make it fun.