Episode 81: Mulan

Posted 10 December 2016 by

Once a season we take a historical look at a fictional woman and this season we have to get in the Way, Way, Way Back Machine to follow the life of Mulan.

Mulan as depicted in He Dazi's album Gathering Gems of Beauty

Mulan as depicted in He Dazi’s album Gathering Gems of Beauty

The story of Mulan goes back a whole lot farther than 1998 when the Disney version introduced her from their very tall, very American stage–the origins of her story go back into SINGLE DIGIT AD. Fact or folktale? More than likely Mulan was not a real person but that’s admit  since her story is beloved in China. She could have been real, but her story has been told so many times and for so many years that if she didn’t really exist we can Velveteen Rabbit her to life?

When Mulan’s story began the Great Wall was a collection of not-so-great sorta walls that had begun to be formed together, and her tale has been rebuilt and reinforced kind of like that wall for about a couple thousand years.

A watchtower from the era that Mulan's story can be traced, the Han Dynesty. wikicommons

A watchtower from the era that Mulan’s story can be traced, the Han Dynesty. wikicommons

Different eras have put their touches on her story, but essentially it’s this:

A young girl leaves behind her comfortable village life to take her father’s place in the Army. She disguises herself as a young man, battles bravely and successfully and as a reward for up to 12 years of service, she returns home to her life as a young woman.

We talk about the different versions and the historical situations where they were set. For a girl whose story is STILL being told she’s held together fairly well! There are differences, for sure–the original written version only had 300 or so words, lots of room for storytellers to fill in the blanks–but her bones are still solid.

Map of China about the time of Mulan's origins

Map of China about the time of Mulan’s origins

There is a lot more detail in the podcast, but we track Mulan through 2009’s Disney version and to the Chinese 2009 live action (and violent, can’t mention that enough) Mulan: Rise of a Warrior talking about controversy, appreciation, appropriation and the adaptability of this warrior to inspire people living lives far different than her own.

Chinese acrobatics played a little role in getting Disney's Mulan in theaters...plus, aren't these ceramics from the Western Han Dyanasty cool?

Chinese acrobatics played a little role in getting Disney’s Mulan in theaters (wikicommons, Cernuschi Museum, Western Han Dynasty ceramics)

And her story isn’t over yet, Disney is in pre-production for a live action version scheduled to be released in 2018! We’re very certain Mulan won’t look like the last time we’ve seen her, but know that her story will be the same and she will continue to inspire us all. mulan_disney

 

TIME TRAVEL WITH THE HISTORY CHICKS

WEB!

Your first stop will be quick, but we strongly recommend that you read a translation of the Ballad of Mulan from Columbia University. It’s the story in its most basic version and the site also has some some great resources about ancient China.

One of our favorite rabbit hole sites is TV Tropes. Here is a link to MULAN’S PAGE and another to the her OPINION page. It’s really easy to click and click and click once you are on there. You have been warned. Or promised–your call.

If you are hankering for some more Disney inspired knowledge of her story, learn more cultural accuracies of the animated movie  at Reocities, or about another interpretation of her story on the Once Upon a Time character information from the TV show.

Not exactly Mulan related, but we really, really love this site–Rejected Princesses, women to awesome, awful or offbeat for kid’s movies.

Longing for the olden days of classic video games? Here is the opening for the Sega Genesis Mulan.

 

And Beckett’s son’s lowbrow suggestion of Disney Dudez

And Beckett’s own highbrow Vienna Orchestra with the Mulan opera. Again, your call–you can’t choose wrong.

BOOKS!

Read aloud version Susan talked about

Read aloud version Susan talked about

Read aloud Beckett talked about

Read aloud Beckett talked about

 

the book Susan wished she had read (weirdest recommendation ever)

The book Susan wished she had read (weirdest recommendation ever)

Excellent source

Excellent source

Beautiful book

Beautiful book

Recommended by a teen reader, YA retelling

Recommended by a teen reader, YA retelling

 

 

MOVIES!

Disney 1998

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2009 Chinese live-action version

Did we mention it's a bit violent?

Did we mention it’s a bit violent?

 

(TV show, starting Jan 2017) EMERALD CITY which has nothing to do with Mulan, exactly, but we talked about it and are going to give it a shot.

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