(A/N: First part here)
The story of Mulan begins with Imperial China being at a state of emergency following the Huns’ breach of the Great Wall. Despite being faced with an enemy whose reputation of ruthlessness and brutality preceded them, it was a time when the Chinese so strongly believed that to cower in fear of the enemy or to decline the Emperor’s summon would equate to having no sense of honour. Defending China meant defending their villages, their livelihood, and most of all their homes.
But what could Mulan do? Her ailing father, determined to honor and protect his family, had strongly forbidden her protests and commanded her “to finally know her place”. It was these final words of reprimand that only aggravated Mulan’s already broken heart. Earlier that same day, their people’s matchmaker had publicly declared her to be nothing but a harbinger of shame to her family- a word that was almost as absolute as a Prophet’s speech.
But despite her sorrow from the “verdict” on her fate, Mulan’s determination to protect her family in whatever way she could was unwavering. Her “shame” only drove her to work with whatever she had. And work she did, with all her best.
Yet at the same time, Mulan could not make it alone. And this is where the beloved character of Mushu, the once-guardian-dragon came in! (Plus a very “lucky” cricket, if you may!)
Mushu was himself an outcast, a familiar made stranger due to the one mistake he made that lead to the untimely demise of one of Mulan’s ancestors. From guardian to virtually the spirits’ alarm clock, Mushu in the beginning seemed to be sealed to his fate. However, in ingenious ways, Mushu came and indeed acted as a true guardian, but one whose character fit very well to the overly eager Fa Mulan.
Mushu gave Mulan the redirection when she needed it and the “invisible” hand that worked behind some very pivotal scenes that if they had happened otherwise, the story may have worked out very, very differently. Perhaps through his mistakes, his concern for Mulan’s safety slowly and evidently came before any self-interest he had in bringing Mulan back in ribbons and medals. The storyline welds these similar, yet at the same time starkly different characters in a very interesting way. And as it closed, the outcome was, for sure, the opposite of what was “written” as their fate.
Perhaps, it was their situation of being individuals whose minds ran differently than those around them that pushed them to work not to assimilate themselves completely, but to stand firm on their own and all the while being in harmony with the society they call home. Others would probably resign to their fate, but here we have two people struggling against the flow whenever they see it going on the wrong direction. Indeed people like Mulan, are people that you won’t just meet in every dynasty!
Perhaps, we can then surmise that our fate isn’t completely absolute in being unchangeable. Perhaps we could start to see “fate”, through the story of Mulan, in associative manner? The type of fate that awaits as a consequence of the direction of life that we chose, and the actions and choices that we take within the limits we’ve been given. Perhaps by first utilizing what we are given, we could find the purpose we should be fulfilling.
Perhaps amidst the hardships, we should start seeing these dark events that unfold in our lives as something that redirects us or shifts our footing in case we had taken the wrong steps? Or maybe these adversities are meant to unravel or strengthen traits we have, but may not have given value? Perhaps these are the imbued lessons when the Emperor told Captain Shang, “The flower that blooms in adversity, is the most rare and beautiful of all.”
Perhaps these thoughts are what the writers, who adapted the legend of Fa (Hua) Mulan, intended to stir into their viewers- that it were “strangers” that strove for principle and selfless dreams that have always moved the mountains throughout history, despite the “norms” set about by the times and places they lived in.