Mythic Studies, Writing

The Mythic Feminine, Part 8: Legendary Heroine: Hua Mulan (Chinese)


                                                                                                                                                                Legendary heroines are those who may possibly have a basis in historical fact, though the facts have been so embellished now that the truth is much obscured. Whatever the truth behind them, legendary heroines are most enduring.

Hua Mulan (also spelled Fa Mu Lan/ Fa Mulan) was a warrioress of ancient China. Accounts differ on when, exactly, Mulan actually lived. Some say it was during the Sui dynasty (581- 618 AD), some during the Wei dynasty (386- 534 AD), and others say it was during the Tang dynasty (618- 907 AD). Whenever it was, suffice it to say, it was a very long time ago and during a time of invasion and warfare. The Emperor demanded a man from each family to serve in the army. Mulan’s father had been a soldier once, but when the summons came, he was an elderly man who could not reasonably be expected to fight. Mulan’s younger brother was by far too young to go. To protect her father, Mulan dressed as a man and went to join the army in his place. In some accounts, Mulan learned to fight from her father. In others, she was trained by another.

Mulan proved to be a sturdy, level-headed soldier. The war lasted many years and, during this time, Mulan rose through the ranks to become a general in the army. Through this all, she still managed to hide the fact that she was a woman. When the war finally ended, Mulan resigned her post and returned home, supposedly because the commanding general had decided she would make the perfect husband for his daughter! Seems her disguise worked a little too well! Not to be deterred, the general sent on of his friends to follow her home, hoping to arrange the marriage. Imagine his surprise when he found a ‘she’ instead of a ‘he’. In the end, the general’s friend sought Mulan’s hand for himself.

Needless to say… the Mulan of legend is a far, far cry from Disney’s fanciful version.


**Neat little clip about Mulan-


Also, be sure to check out the 2009 film Mulan: Rise of a Warrior.


*Cambell, Joseph, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, 1972

*Frankel, Han, The Flowering Plum and the Palace Lady: Interpretations of Chinese Poetry, 1976

*Frankel, Valerie, From Girl to Goddess: The Heroine’s Journey through Myth and Legend, 2010

*Kwa, Shiami, Mulan: Five Versions of a Classic Chinese Legend with Related Texts, 2010

*Murdock, Maureen, The Heroine’s Journey, 1990

*Schmidt, Victoria, Story Structure Architect, 2005

*Schmidt, Victoria, 45 Master Characters, 2007

*Volger, Christopher, Writer’s Journey, 1992


Next up: The Mythic Feminine, Part 9: Modern Heroine: Arya Stark (A Song of Ice and Fire series, GRR Martin)

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