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Sunday, July 6, 2014

Fairy Tales in Different Cultures: Mulan

Disclosure: Tuttle Publishing gave me a copy of these books free of charge. All opinions in my review are my own and I did not receive any other compensation. As in all my reviews I am providing links for your ease, but receive no compensation.


Mulan was a story I really knew nothing about. I had not watched the Disney film when it came out and every time Hazel and I sat down to watch it, she got scared. Mulan was the one Disney princess we did not try to see in Disney World. When I was offered to review some of Tuttle Publishing's books, I thought Mulan would be fun to review to compare with the Disney story for my Fairy Tales in Different Cultures. While receiving Mulan by Li Jian and Yijin Wert is the translator, I also received My First Book of Chinese Words: An ABC Rhyming Book by Faye-Lynn Wu and two other books I will be reviewing at another time.


Now before I go into anything about the stories I have to say all four books I received are beautiful books. They are high quality and the illustrations are amazing. Now the two books I am reviewing here are both about the Chinese and both have Chinese words in them.  

My First Book of Chinese Words goes through our alphabet and gives a Chinese word for that letter. Most of the time the pronunciation of the word begins with the letter. Then it describes the word and also shows you the word in Chinese (and some are in both traditional and simplified). The words themselves teach you more about the Chinese culture. This book is truly a beautiful lesson on culture and language. 


Now onto our fairy tale for this week. The story in this book is in both English and Chinese. It tells the story of Mulan in a non-frightening way based on The Ballad of Mulan. The Ballad of Mulan is a poem written over 1500 years ago in China. It has over 300 words and depicts the legend of the heroine Mulan. This poem is how the story was passed down through the generations. 

In the story in the book Mulan goes to fight in her father's place because he is too old. She has a sister and brother. The brother is too young. Mulan loves to ride horses and shoot arrows and is very good at martial arts before she leaves for war. She dresses as a male so she can fight. Her parents do not want her to go, but they know they have no other choice. Her sister and brother help her prepare for war. She is so good at warfare they have her fighting in the frontline. After twelve years of fighting, the war ends and she gets to return home. The emperor gathers all the heroes to award them for their deeds, but Mulan refuses everything and just asks for a fast horse to return to her family. Some of her fellow soldiers follow her. She goes in and hugs all of her family and then changes from the soldier uniform into her female clothes. She puts on some cosmetics and does her hair. When she greets her fellow soldiers they are surprised to see she is a woman. 

The story in the book is spread out on 42 pages with beautiful illustrations and both the words in English and Chinese. It is truly a wonderful book. 

Now Disney of course changes the story a bit, as they do with all their movies. First they show Mulan as being a failure as a women and dishonoring her family by not being able to be matched with a husband. Next they add the ancestors coming back to life to send a magical being to help bring Mulan home. Of course the magical being does not get awakened and instead she gets their slave dragon that always is messing things up. She also does not have any siblings, but lives with her parents and grandmother. 

She sneaks off in her father's armor with his draft notice. She takes her beloved horse who understands her and she seems to understand completely as well. When she reports for duty and is to be trained she has very little skills in fighting and actually gets told to leave. She however stays and perseveres. They go off to war and find the main army to have been killed (with her leading officer's father the general of the main army). Now their sad army must fight the Hun. She gets smart and aims the fire power at snow hanging on a ledge and buries the enemy in the snow. She however gets injured and the doctor lets them know she is a woman. Her fellow soldiers leave her there since it is a dishonor to have a woman fight. They could have killed her, but since she saved their lives they do not. She however realizes the enemy did not die in the snow. She runs off to warn her soldiers and the emperor. No one will listen to her, but she is able to help them save the emperor and China. They honor Mulan as a woman and the emperor gives her his seal and the enemy's sword since she will not take a position in his cabinet.