The Legend of Mulan

A Folding Book of the Ancient Poem That Inspired the Disney Animated Film

by: Lei Fan

Next in our selection for the Bookshelf section of our site, we look to The Legend of Mulan. Published by Hyperion, now Disney Editions, this wonderful little book showcases parts of the original poem in tandem with images from the development of the Disney film.

This is a lovely poem and you can understand why Disney would take such an interest in the story for a feature film. The great thing about this book is that all of the artwork contained within is developmental work. The range of rough character sketches, color experiments and the like work nicely with the text.

Also, within each page is the original Chinese text as well, which adds another nice graphical element for those of us who cannot read the Chinese characters.

I have had this book since it was first published and having trained as a bookbinder, I appreciate the accordion binding. It adds yet another unique element to the reading experience not often found in Western books. Although this book has now been out of print for years, you still might obtain it via Amazon or other online vendors.

The full transcription (which differs in places from the Hyperion text) of the circa 5th Century A.D. Anonymous Poem, Ode of Mulan, is below:

Tsiek tsiek and again tsiek tsiek,
Mu-lan weaves, facing the door.
You don’t hear the shuttle’s sound,
You only hear Daughter’s sighs.
They ask Daughter who’s in her heart,
They ask Daughter who’s on her mind.
“No one is on Daughter’s heart,
No one is on Daughter’s mind.
Last night I saw the draft posters,
The Khan is calling many troops,
The army list is in twelve scrolls,
On every scroll there’s Father’s name.
Father has no grown-up son,
Mu-lan has no elder brother.
I want to buy a saddle and horse,
And serve in the army in Father’s place.”
In the East Market she buys a spirited horse,
In the West Market she buys a saddle,
In the South Market she buys a bridle,
In the North Market she buys a long whip.
At dawn she takes leave of Father and Mother,
In the evening camps on the Yellow River’s bank.
She doesn’t hear the sound of Father and Mother calling,
She only hears the Yellow River’s flowing water cry tsien tsien.
At dawn she takes leave of the Yellow River,
In the evening she arrives at Black Mountain.
She doesn’t hear the sound of Father and Mother calling,
She only hears Mount Yen’s nomad horses cry tsiu tsiu.
She goes ten thousand miles on the business of war,
She crosses passes and mountains like flying.
Northern gusts carry the rattle of army pots,
Chilly light shines on iron armor.
Generals die in a hundred battles,
Stout soldiers return after ten years.
On her return she sees the Son of Heaven,
The Son of Heaven sits in the Splendid Hall.
He gives out promotions in twelve ranks
And prizes of a hundred thousand and more.
The Khan asks her what she desires.
“Mu-lan has no use for a minister’s post.
I wish to ride a swift mount
To take me back to my home.”
When Father and Mother hear Daughter is coming
They go outside the wall to meet her, leaning on each other.
When Elder Sister hears Younger Sister is coming
She fixes her rouge, facing the door.
When Little Brother hears Elder Sister is coming
He whets the knife, quick quick, for pig and sheep.
“I open the door to my east chamber,
I sit on my couch in the west room,
I take off my wartime gown
And put on my old-time clothes.”
Facing the window she fixes her cloudlike hair,
Hanging up a mirror she dabs on yellow flower powder
She goes out the door and sees her comrades.
Her comrades are all amazed and perplexed.
Traveling together for twelve years
They didn’t know Mu-lan was a girl.
“The he-hare’s feet go hop and skip,
The she-hare’s eyes are muddled and fuddled.
Two hares running side by side close to the ground,
How can they tell if I am he or she?”
hardcover: 96 pages publisher: Disney Editions (June 19, 1998) language: English ISBN: 978-0786863891 product dimensions: 7.2 x 5.2 x 0.7 inches shipping weight: 11.2 ounces