(Photo courtesy of Karissa Soeter)
Mulan and Me
By Bonny Lou Dady
In Disney’s animated film, Mulan, we see the world of ancient China, through the life of a young woman, and her struggle to fit into that society. Mulan was a beautiful, kind, and a young woman––an only child who was devoted to her elderly parents, who wanted the best possible future for her. A future that required her to marry well and bring great honor to her family.
Try as she might, Mulan failed to acquire the skills and genteel manners that would attract the best and wealthiest suitor for an arranged marriage by the local matchmaker. After a disastrous series of lessons, and even worse meetings with potential husbands, Mulan was sent home. She was labeled a failure of a daughter who would surely bring great shame to her honorable father and mother. Her parents, and even her grandmother, were horrified that Mulan had failed so badly. They, all believed she could do nothing right. Mulan wanted so much to please her family, but she had no idea how. She seemed to fail at everything expected of a young woman in her society. The biggest hurt was hearing her father say she’d brought dishonor to the family.
Not long afterwards, soldiers came to the family home, with a decree from the emperor that each and every family must send a man to fight in the army. The country was being invaded. Mulan’s father had served many years earlier, and had been wounded in battle. Now, he would have to go again, even though he walked with a cane. Honor demanded it.
The night before her father was to leave and rejoin the army, Mulan made a fateful decision. She could not let her father go to battle again. He would never survive. So, Mulan did what was unthinkable, and worthy of death for a woman in ancient China. She cut off her long hair, and dressed in men’s clothing. She took her father’s armor and sword, and then, snuck out of the house, got on her horse, and went to join the army in her father’s place.
Mulan showed up at the closest army camp, and reported for duty. She told the officers her (his) name was Ping, and that his voice was still changing. Mulan trained very hard and was able to fool everyone in the camp. She was a brave and able soldier who fought well with her unit. While on patrol, they discovered the Mongol invaders approaching, and tried everything they knew to stop them. Mulan had used the last rocket in their arsenal to fire at an overhanging rock formation. She succeeded in causing the overhang to collapse onto the enemy the soldiers, covering them in snow and rocks. Unfortunately, Mulan was shot and seriously wounded by the leader of the Mongols. She was able to keep up the ruse until she was seriously wounded and carried from the battlefield to the medical tent. The doctor discovered her deception and called for her to be shot for impersonating a man. Even though Mulan had fought bravely and had even saved the life of her commanding officer. It was only because she had saved him, that the officer decided not to take her life. He and the other soldiers left her, abandoned in the snowy field.
When they left, she got on her horse and headed back home, in shame. On her way she noticed the Mongol leader and a small number of enemy soldiers heading toward’s the Emperor’s palace.
Mulan caught up with the surviving members of her unit, including her commanding officer, and warned them. The group rushed straight to the Emperor’s palace to warn him, and successfully battle the invaders. Eventually, Mulan was instrumental in saving the Emperor’s very life and became and became an honored hero of the entire country. She was forgiven for her deception.
Mulan’s family and her entire village had seen her as a failure. A disappointment, who was bringing dishonor and shame to her family and even her ancestors. Her selfless heroism and her newly discovered skills as a warrior brought her new respect. Her family told her she brought them great honor. They were proud of her!
Mulan eventually married that commanding officer too. Wouldn’t be a Disney fantasy story without that!
I love the story of Mulan! I was also a girl who didn’t fit in. I was different from the other girls I knew. I moved to new schools often and had difficulty making friends. I was from a poor family, and sometimes wore the same dress everyday for a week. I had never learned how to take care of my hair, swim, or even ride a bike. I mostly kept to myself and read books. Books that would take me away to other times and places. Books were my escape from an abusive and unhappy childhood. Mulan escaped her unhappy life by caring for and riding her beloved horse. She was a daydreamer like me too. Mulan became a very skilled rider, which ended up being perfect preparation for her future calling. My childhood past has prepared me to understand and counsel other women like myself. I may not have been a perfect secretary, or homemaker, but God has given me other gifts. He is even using me to write articles for this wonderful online magazine. God has a plan for each person in this life. It may or may not look like society’s ideal, but it is the perfect purpose for each one of His beloved children. It really is ok to be different. And even a little quirky!
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.”
– Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
– Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)