Google+

Monday, July 28, 2014

Fairy Tales in Different Cultures: Mulan and the Many Versions



In the beginning of the month, I shared with you a wonderful version of Mulan by Li Jian and Yijin Wert is the translator, which Tuttle Publishing sent me to review. I compared it with the Disney version or at least the movie version. I also found a few other versions of Mulan and thought I would share all of them with you. 


The first version is by Robert D. San Souci and is called Fa Mulan. As all of San Souci's books seem to be it is child friendly and tries to give an overview of the culture the story comes from. In this version she has a younger brother and elder sister, and her family knew she was going to go to war in her father's place. They bid her farewell. She rises in ranks with her victories and becomes a general. At the end of the twelve year war her family is happy to greet her and five of her companions who came home with her. She changes from her armor into her normal female clothes and her companions are shocked to learn that their general is a female. One companion hints at the possibility of a shared furture. 

The next two are the ones I compared at the beginning of the month--Disney's version and Li Jian's version. The next book, Mulan: Five Versions of a Classic Chinese Legend with Related Texts edited and translated by Shiamin Kwa and Wilt L. Idema, has five versions of the story in it. Two are poems and the other three are plays. 

Wild Orchid: A Retelling of "Ballad of Mulan" by Cameron Dokey is a young adult version. I enjoyed this version even though the story was changed from all other forms. In this version, her mother died when she was born and her father stayed away at war for most of her life. He did not return until she was fourteen and girls were usually married at age fifteen in China. She had a male best friend who lived next door (but across a creek). They spent all of their free time together. When it came time for her to learn the female arts and the friend to learn the male things, he taught her how to read, write, ride horses, shoot bows and arrows--all the male things. Her father came home to find her with more male habits than female habits. Her father was injured in the war and had upset the emperor. He is accompanied by his good friend another general. Her father falls in love a few weeks after he returns with a widow who has a hurt driver. He marries her and she becomes pregnant. The draft is announced and Mulan sneaks off during the night so her father does not have to leave his new wife and soon-to-be baby (like he had to with her mother). He is not called back to be a general but is called in the general draft which is a blow to him as well. Mulan sneaks off and when questioned at the camp about her bow and arrow (her father's friend gave it to her), she tells them this and they call his assistant who is her best friend. In this version there are three princes--the emperor's sons--and each commands a part of the army. I am going to leave it there as to not ruin the story by giving all the ending away.

The next two books contain a version of Mulan in them. They seem to be translations of the "Ballad of Mulan". The final book, Mulan's Legend and Legacy in China and the United States by Lan Dong, is not a version of Mulan, but actually looks at the things people have pulled from the story and some of the misconceptions Americans have of Ancient China. This is really a research type of book meant for teenagers or older. For example there are other women in China's history who fought in war. Some names to check out are Xun Guan, Zhu Xiu's Mother, Princess Pinyang, and Lady Liang. This book also goes through how Mulan changes through the different versions and what the image of Mulan has become. 

So that is what I found at my local library on Mulan. It is a mixture of books for children, adults and everything in between. It is interesting to see how one story changes so much when you consider the original written version is only 300 words long.

Be sure to check out our Fairy Tales in Different Cultures page for more fairy tale fun.