When presented with the assignment to research a fairy tale and write our own retelling, I knew that I wanted to do a tale that had both Asian and American influence. The Ballad of Fa Mulan seemed to be the perfect choice, as many people are familiar with the Disney version of Mulan, and the classic ballad is often committed into the memory of Chinese elementary students. While my research and reading of other renditions of the tale brought me diverse insights about the story’s origins and meanings, I began to see certain patterns emerge. There isn’t really a villain, like in other fairytales; instead the story follows Mulan overcoming both the limitations set by her gender and the challenges of hiding her identity amongst her fellow comrades, emphasizing the sacrifice she made for both family and country. While retellings differed in cultural values and plot details, their conclusions were mostly the same.
I began to wonder: What had happened to her father? Her mother? Her siblings? How did her decision impact their lives? Could the tale have an unhappy ending? Thus, my retelling focuses on the perspective of Mulan’s younger sister, and the idea that perhaps Mulan leaving wasn’t the best for everyone. We all have a tendency to think our actions are in the best interest of both others and ourselves, but our assumptions about what is right can often lead to unexpected and traumatic results. My retelling hopes to highlight the fact that we can’t really save everyone—that our actions have repercussions and that there’s always another side to the story. Furthermore, in order to maintain a close relationship with the classic ballad version, I adapted and altered the format of the original ballad into my tale.
HELEN LUO is a member of the College of Communication’s class of 2019, intending to major in Journalism and minor in Advertising. Hailing from Virginia and Beijing, Helen has always loved reading and writing—from documenting her travels in a journal to writing creatively. She would like to partially dedicate the publication of this paper and thank her wonderful writing professor Amy Bennett-Zendzian, who’s given helpful advice during both the writing and researching process. Furthermore she would like to thank her parents, high school English teachers, and friends for all of their support.