We all know the story of Disney's 1998 animated classic Mulan. Girl goes to war in place of her father, overcomes adversity, kicks ass, takes names, becomes a hero and falls in love. It's a beautiful tale and a pretty open and shut case. But did you know that Mulan is rumored to be based on a real person?

The original story of Mulan comes from the Chinese tale the Ballad of Mulan. While the real-life Mulan was speculated to have lived during the Northern Wei dynasty (386CE–536CE) her story was first transcribed in the 6th century. Although the poem is great in itself, it's also pretty short and lacking in detail.


Since Mulan's story has become one of epic and near-mythical proportions, there have been countless retellings and additions to her story. The version we are most familiar with today, and the model for Disney's version, likely stems from Xu Wei's play The Heroine Mulan Joins the Army in Place of her Father (1368-1644).

While Disney's version of the young warrior was awesome and empowering for girls everywhere - myself included - the original story of Hua Mulan (by which I mean the play) shows that she was even cooler than Disney let on.


With that, here are the differences between the source material and the Disney version:

She was a highly skilled warrior


Probably the biggest difference between the Disney movie and the source material is that Mulan had to learn to fight. A large portion of the film was spent showing Shang Li teaching Mulan how not to die on the battlefield. How could anyone forget that lovely training montage set to "I'll Make a Man Out of You?"


In the play, Mulan grew up as a tomboy with her father teaching her to fight at a young age. By the time she enlisted in the Chinese army, she already knew martial arts, how to wield a sword, and how to competently use a bow and arrow. Sorry, Shang Li, but maybe she could teach you a thing or two about how to be a man.

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