Who was Hua Mulan? The true story that inspired the original Disney film Mulan and upcoming remake

8 July 2019, 16:23

The Disney film Mulan is based on a folk tale
The Disney film Mulan is based on a folk tale. Picture: Disney/Getty
Alice Dear

By Alice Dear

Disney are currently working on a real-life remake of Mulan, telling the story of Chinese heroine Hua Mulan.

Disney recently released their first trailer for the new real-life remake of their 1998 classic Mulan.

The trailer was far from fan's expectations as it failed to feature any of the classic musical numbers, dragon Mushu or even Li Shang.

With speculation the film will tell the original story of Mulan, a Chinese heroine, what do we know about the real Mulan?

Who was Hua Mulan and what is her story?

The new Mulan remake appears to be very different from the 1998 Disney original
The new Mulan remake appears to be very different from the 1998 Disney original. Picture: Disney

Hua Mulan is a legendary heroine in Chinese culture, whose story has been told for thousands of years.

The story of Mulan has been around since the fifth century, which means there are several versions of the tale – some more violent and dark than others.

However, the main synopsis tells the story of Mulan, a young girl who went undercover as a man into war in place of her father.

After her father was drafted to fight in the war, Mulan decided to secretly take his place as she feared he was too old to fight and would therefore die.

In the tale, Hua Mulan is said to have fought undercover for years, and even led her army to victory, before being rewarded by the emperor.

The original animated Disney film starred Li Shang as Mulan's love interest, and Mushu as her sidekick
The original animated Disney film starred Li Shang as Mulan's love interest, and Mushu as her sidekick. Picture: Disney

How is the story different from the Disney film?

The biggest difference between the folktale of Mulan and the 1998 Disney film is the existence of Li Shang, Mulan’s love interest.

While some versions of the original tale mention a love interest in another solider, the Disney film’s story focusses mainly around their romance.

In the Disney film, Mulan develops feelings for her Captain, Li Shang.

At the end of the film, Li returns to Mulan’s family’s home to start a relationship.

The story of Mulan has been around since the fifth century, which means there are several versions of the tale – some more violent and dark than others
The story of Mulan has been around since the fifth century, which means there are several versions of the tale – some more violent and dark than others. Picture: Getty

Another character not present in the original story is the talking dragon, Mushu, who was voiced by Eddie Murphy in the animated film.

Unlike the original story, Mushu and other characters offered some comedic relief to the tale.

Which story will the Mulan remake tell?

The official synopsis for the film reads: “When the Emperor of China issues a decree that one man per family must serve in the Imperial Army to defend the country from Northern invaders, Hua Mulan, the eldest daughter of an honoured warrior, steps in to take the place of her ailing father.

“Masquerading as a man, Hua Jun, she is tested every step of the way and must harness her inner-strength and embrace her true potential. It is an epic journey that will transform her into an honoured warrior and earn her the respect of a grateful nation…and a proud father."

At the moment, there is speculation around whether there will be a Mushu, or a Li Shang, or even musical numbers in the remake, dividing many Disney fans.

Mulan will be in theatres March 2020.