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Fa Mulan

Name Meaning: “Magnolia Blossom”
Ancient China (Possibly Northern Wei Dynasty 386-536)
Premiered in: Mulan (1998)
Voiced By: Ming-Na Wen

As I’m sure many are well aware, Mulan is the only Disney Princess to not be royalty in any sense of the word. In point of fact, Pocahontas has a significantly higher status as far as nobility is concerned being the “jewel of her father’s eye” and all that what not. That does not mean that Mulan isn’t of significant status however considering what transpired shortly after her, shared, defeat of the invader Shan Yu. Though properly chastised by the Emperor of China, and expecting a quick execution if nothing else, Mulan was instead surprised and shocked to have the Emperor bow, actually bow, to her and, as a result, all those present at his palace as well.

Now, I’m going to enter my lecturing soapbox for a moment here by explaining something. While bowing is reserved primarily for marriage ceremonies and a sign of respect towards the deceased nowadays in China, in Mulan’s time period bowing held much more significance, particularly the bowing known as the kowtow. While the Emperor of China merely bowed to her at the waist, the fact that he did so at all meant that he considered her of equal standing to him and thus, when everyone else bowed to Mulan, they did so via the kowtow, the bow that is atypically reserved only for the Emperor himself.

While it does not make her royalty, it puts Mulan pretty close to it.

Back to Mulan proper, she has a small number of companions in the film and its direct-to-video sequel but as most were unaware of her actually being a girl, I’ll exclude the trio of Yao, Ling, and Chien Po. Her first companion, and one of her truest friends who could care less if she were a perfect example of society’s womanhood or the tomboy she wants to be, is Khan, her horse. While formerly serving under her father, Khan is quite the stallion being incredible courageous in trying moments including but not limited to running straight into avalanches to save her. He also takes no lip from anyone if that someone is a dragon.

Speaking of the dragon, Mushu is perhaps Mulan’s closest confidant and one whom does his best to try and build her up as best as he is able. This is initially for his own benefit as a means of regaining his former post as a guardian to her family and lose his new status as “bell ringer” but he does sincerely care for Mulan, even going so far as to wanting to punch Shang’s face in during the “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” segment. On the note of his revoked status as guardian, I’m honestly surprised no one in Mulan’s family noted both the destruction of the “top” guardian that being the Great Stone Dragon, or that the little decorative dragon atop the incense burner was missing. Anyway, last but certainly not least in the contender for cute companion is Cri-Kee, a supposedly luck bestowing cricket given to Mulan by her grandmother prior to her examination by the town matchmaker. Cri-Kee is, if anything, Mushu’s minion but he still manages to grant some luck Mulan’s way though it is usually done by the unluckiest of means…

As to Mulan’s “Palace Pet,” I’m sorry to say that I’m on the fence about it insomuch that I can’t quite consider Cri-Kee, Mushu, or even Khan as a pet though I can easily say Mushu trumps all of them. He did, after all, land the decisive blow against Shan Yu. Still, there is something utterly adorable about pandas, particularly one named Blossom. While pandas were considered as rare and noble creatures, and still are to this day might I add, there really wasn’t much said about whether one could be kept as a pet. Still, I’m rather glad that Blossom’s decorations are kept minimal compared to the previous Palace Pets though again I question the validity of an otherwise wild animal keeping such things as a tiara atop their heads.

Like Pocahontas before her, I’ll only take briefly on Mulan’s love interest, Captain Li Shang rather than a full review. Li Shang is an honorable man in every sense of the word and though initially fed up with Mulan, or “Ping,” being unable to do much of anything as a soldier, he is both surprised and intrigued by the ingenuity of the younger soldier. To a point where I’ve no doubt that Shang was questioning certain aspects of Ping and himself but that’s a topic I shan’t touch. If there’s one thing that I admired about Shang in the film it’s his willingness to do the honorable thing rather than what is the “right” thing even if it means staining his own name with dishonor. This is heavily shown when rather than put Mulan to death for her crimes of falsifying herself as a man and a soldier in the army, Shang spared her life as she had only just saved his earlier that very day.

As to Mulan’s domain of China in the ancient times, I imagine that it was a beautiful place to behold but one where, I’m sorry to say, equality between the genders was severely lacking. Women weren’t looked highly upon back then and especially not women like Mulan whom, to quote her own words, “a girl whose got a brain, who always speaks her mind.” Frankly speaking, out of the entirety of the official Disney Princesses, not including those whom are not yet had an official coronation ceremony, Mulan is one of my favorites amongst them, easily coming to mind despite her lack of actual royal standing.

Mulan’s “redesign” is distinct insomuch that it is, essentially, a royal version of her everyday wear seen in the beginning of the film. Though truth be told, this is only the current incarnation of her royal attire, the first being so over the top with gold and crimson that even diehard fans questioned the excessiveness of colors that, while distinctly royal colors in China, were far too much for a simple “soldier’s daughter” even if said daughter accomplished more than she could have ever expected. Mulan is unique amongst the Princesses in that her design actually grows and changes throughout the film and she changes outfits accordingly. Honestly, while I did like the outfit she wore to meet the matchmaker I rather like her redesigned outfit much more. It stays true to her background whilst still being of incredibly expensive make and design though this does nothing to add to her beauty whatsoever.

While there is no doubt that she is beautiful, it is what lies below the skin that makes Mulan distinct amongst the Princesses. She’s smart enough to outthink even the most experienced of soldiers/warriors, courageous enough to take the risk of staining herself with great dishonor to save her father’s life, and strong enough to see her charade through to the bitter end. Those are what makes Mulan a “girl worth fighting for” and what I find most attractive about her character.