Tag: stories

The Origins of Mulan

Mulan is a fascinating figure of legend and folklore. From the ballad, to books, and then to film, Mulan has gone through several iterations and changes throughout the years. There is so much to discuss and delve into when it comes to her story.

Let’s talk about the origins of Mulan.

 

So where do we start?

image via pinterest

Let’s start with what we know based, upon what we have been told. Since our first interaction with this story was probably through Disney’s 1998 animated film. We know the Mulan is a young woman who disguises herself as a man when she learns that her father has been drafted into the army. She runs away from home, donning her father’s armor and blade, and she joins the army in his stead. She trains, she grows as a person, and she saves China.

First, it should be established that there is a possibility that Mulan was a real person. However, this isn’t necessarily something that we can currently confirm. I, personally, love the idea of a woman gaining such prestige and adoration that she is canonized into a ballad and that tale then echoes across the centuries. With that being said though, legends aren’t always kind to their real life subjects, so perhaps it’s a mixed bag. The fact remains that, when someone becomes a legend, they become fictionalized. With that being the case, we are always going to battle with what is real and what isn’t when it comes to stories like Mulan’s.

For the sake of this article, we’re going to focus on the legend of Mulan and how ir’s developed. We’re going to focus on three iterations of the story, but it should be addressed here that there are many versions of this tale that can be explored. I should definitely give credit to Jon Solo’s youtube video on Mulan, as it helped me find a good chunk of the sources and material used for this article as well.

 

some historical background

While we can’t confirm if Mulan was a real individual, we can gather that the Ballad was set during the time of the Northern Wei Dynasty. This was a time where the region of Han China was often invaded by the Xiongnu (who are also referred to as the Hun). A war did take place between the Northern Wei state and a Mongolian state also referred to as the Rouran (source).

 

“the ballad of mulan”

image via pinterest

While we cannot say with all certainty that The Ballad of Mulan is the first time that Mulan’s story was ever told, we can say that it is the oldest surviving version of her tale that we have. In all likelihood, an oral tradition that precedes this ballad.

Much like what we see with Disney’s Mulan, The Ballad of Mulan tells the tale of a young woman who dresses as a man and joins the army to spare her aging father from the war that is tearing China apart, and the very real possibility that he will die. She hides her identity for over twelve years from the other soldiers in the army, and decides to tell them that she is a woman.

When the war is over and the emperor is gifting the soldiers of his army with gifts, Mulan rejects the offer to become a minister, and she returns home, where her parents, now much older, lean on one another for support as they go out to greet her. Mulan’s elder sister dresses in beautiful clothing and paints her face with makeup to welcome her sister home, and Mulan’s younger brother begins preparations for a feast in his sibling’s honor. Mulan reemerges dressed in civilian clothing, and she greets her comrades, who are shocked to discover that she is a woman.

This is the basis for Disney’s version, but there are other variations of Mulan’s story.

 

“the fierce and filial girl from northern wei”

image via pinterest

The Fierce and Filial Girl From Northern Wei introduces Mulan as a gifted young woman who is engaged to a scholar. Much like in The Ballad of Mulan, the emperor issues a draft that includes her father, a former battalion commander. Mulan takes her father’s place, much like she does in the ballad.

After she demonstrates her capacity as a warrior, Mulan is promoted in the Chinese army. Niu He, one of the vanguards in the army, comes to resent Mulan because of her skill and her unwavering bravery. In one instance, the army encampment is attacked. While Niu He flees, Mulan leaves to rescue the soldiers taken captive by the attackers. His incompetence loses him his leadership role, and he almost loses his life to the bandit leader, the Earth Master. Mulan steps in and defeats the Earth Master, who flees, and shamed by his failure once again, Niu He grows all the more envious of Mulan.

This culminates in Niu He suggesting that Mulan be sent with a letter of amnesty to meet with the enemy forces. Niu He put this idea forward purely out of dislike for Mulan, and he had every hope that this would end with her death. Mulan, aware of the fact that this mission might end with her dying, agrees to deliver the letter of amnesty to the Earth Master.

The Earth Master recognizes Mulan from their battle several years prior, and due to the Earth Master’s brother being in danger if the Earth Master kills Mulan, he holds off on causing her harm. Instead, he decides that he will marry Mulan, who is still disguised as a man, to the Princess Lu Wanhua.

Lu Wanhua discovers that Mulan is a woman, but instead of reporting this information to the bandits, she helps Mulan escape. Upon returning to her army’s encampment, Mulan is named as acting Supreme Commander.

Ultimately, Mulan returns home, and both she and Princess Lu Wanhua marry Mulan’s betrothed. Mulan gives birth to a son who becomes a minister.

This is a more complicated one, and the source video has more information.

 

“ROmance of sui and tang”

image via lee & low blog – lee and low books

This is likely the version of Mulan’s story that you have heard if you’ve ever listened to something that discusses the darker version of the tale. I want to emphasize that this is one of several versions of this story, and I also want to emphasize that this is one chapter in Romance and Sui and Tang with a distinct anti-Imperialist message. As stated by this source, “The author includes Mulan’s story as a subplot of a novel which condemns imperialism. Mulan is heralded as a hero who fiercely resists a cruel tyrant. Chu Renhuo concludes Mulan’s story with a tragic ending to comment on the wrongdoing committed by the Manchu under whom he was forced to serve.”

Much like in the other tales, Mulan’s father is conscripted, and in order to save him from an untimely death, Mulan volunteers to take her father’s place in the army.

The enemy army is quickly defeated, and Mulan rescues the khan. However, she is then captured by Princess Xianniang, who is such a kind captor, Mulan eventually reveals her true identity to her. They swear an oath of sisterhood.

The princess and Mulan do forge a friendship together, and this friendship is so strong that, when Princess Xianniang asks Mulan to deliver a letter to her betrothed, Mulan agrees to do so. Since Mulan is able to deliver this letter when she returns home to her family, she sets out for home.

However, unlike in the previous two stories discussed, this tale ends on a more somber note.

Upon returning home, Mulan learns that her father passed away and that her mother has remarried. When the khan who Mulan previously saved learns that she is a woman, he demands that she become his concubine.

Mulan requests that she be allowed to visit her father’s grave for one last time, and while she is there, she takes her own life.

The story continues on by following Mulan’s sister, Youlan, and the story ends with her.

 

To wrap up…

This is by no means a conclusive discussion of all the iterations of the stories told about Mulan (if it were, this article would be much, much longer); however, my hope is that this will encourage you to consider looking deeper into the tale of this warrior who laid down her life to protect the ones that she loved.

Featured image via the Guardian

Country Queen Dolly Parton To Read Bedtime Stories to Kids

On Thursday, April 2nd, Dolly Parton will air her first installment of Goodnight With Dolly, a video series that will feature Parton reading children’s stories through Imagination Library’s Youtube Page. Parton wants to read to children to ease them of their worries during the COVID-19 pandemic. On a video posted through her Facebook page, she states that ‘Goodnight with Dolly’ will give children “a welcomed distraction during a time of unrest.”

 

 

Parton did not mention a schedule for the days she would be reading stories, but she did provide a list of books selected from Imagination Library. Stories such as; The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper, Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney, and Partons own books I Am a Rainbow and Coat of Many Colors will be read during the ten week series.

 

 

For all my parents out there, take this time to snuggle up with your children and enjoy some hot cocoa. I know I’m in my twenty-somethings, but I wouldn’t want to miss a bedtime story, especially from Dolly Parton!

Featured Image Via Deadline

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5 Ghost Stories to Read on Christmas Eve

Though we might not readily associate ghost stories with Christmas Eve and winter celebrations, it was actually a very common practice to tell scary tales during the 19th century and even earlier on than that. For a number of reasons, some of which can be cited back to Puritan ancestry, this story telling tradition fell out of practice in America.

I, however, am a horror story buff, and I will look for any excuse to spin a scary yarn with friends and family.

 

Here are five ghost stories to read on Christmas Eve.

 

 

1. A Christmas Carol

 

image via Amazon

 

This is most definitely the longest ghost story on the list, but it definitely fits with the season. Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol is a culturally significant tale that has countless adaptations credited to it. This narrative follows Ebenezer Scrooge, an embittered old man who doesn’t just hate Christmas, but he just hates people in general. Yet out of everyone, he despises individuals who would dare to ask him for his time or, even worse, his money. He intends to spend Christmas Eve alone, as he does every year, but his plans are uprooted when the ghost of his former business partner comes to him and says that three more phantoms will be visiting him that night. Scrooge is forced to confront the ghosts of his past, and he is urged to change his ways. If he doesn’t, his actions won’t only result in ruining his life, it will also harm those directly impacted by his decisions.

 

 

2. The Turn of The screw

 

image via goodreads

 

Henry James‘s novella, The Turn of The Screw is an eerie tale that spans roughly seventy pages. The story begins with the narrator and his friends telling each other ghost stories one Christmas Eve, and the narrator claims that he is in possession of a one hundred percent real account of a haunting. What follows is the story of a governess who is hired to teach and care for two children. While her employment begins without incident, the governess soon begins to see strange, ghostly figures from a distance. She soon learns that these phantoms have sinister plans for the children, and she must do everything in her power to protect her two pupils.

 

3. The Kit Bag

 

image via literawiki

 

Written by Algernon Blackwood, The Kit Bag is a short story that follows Johnson, a lawyer’s secretary. Johnson is set to go on Christmas vacation after his boss wrapped up a case where he defended a man convicted of murder. He borrows a kit bag from his boss, but there is something very, very wrong with it. Johnson begins seeing images and hearing voices near the bag. This story is suspenseful and frightening, and it is definitely an excellent ghost story to read this winter.

 

 

4. The Canterville ghost

 

image via Alma books

 

This one is most definitely a breath of fresh air after the last two stories on this list. Oscar Wilde‘s The Canterville Ghost is a comedic story that plays with the tropes found in English ghost stories. This narrative follows an American family who moves to England and takes up residence in a haunted house. Try as the ghost may to frighten these new tenets, his efforts are in vain—the family just isn’t scared of rattling chains and random bloodstains. Unlike the previous two entries on this list, this story also has a happy ending. *Spoiler Alert*: This story begins as a playful ribbing of English ghost stories and ends with redemption for the ghost.

 

 

5. Oh, whistle, and i’ll come to you, my lad

 

image via pinterest

 

So many of the images for M.R. James‘s short story Oh, Whistle and I’ll Come to You, My Lad, are terrifying. This one is pretty tame by comparison to a few that I found. Professor Parkins, the story’s main character, goes on a golfing vacation. While on vacation, he comes across some old ruins and, and in these ruins, he finds a small whistle. Almost immediately after finding this item, Parkins begins to see a figure, have visions, and experience an oppressive energy. This all culminates in the final chilling encounter, where the figure that Parkins has been seeing in the distance appears in his bedroom.

 

Featured Image Via Den of Geek

 

 


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5 Books Inspired By Greek Mythology

Greek mythology has a very special place in western culture. We see it in architecture, in art, and in the stories that inspire us. Terminology like a person’s “Achille’s heel” is so commonly accepted in the English vernacular that we don’t often give it a second thought. This mythos is ever present, and it acts as a creative muse (pun intended) to writers everywhere, and when there are stories that showcase Greek mythology in new and fun ways, those stories should be shared and explored.

 

Here are five stories that resonate with Greek mythology:

 

 

1. Circe

 

image via amazon

 

Written by Madeline MillerCirce was selected in 2018 as a Goodreads Choice winner. This book follows the titular character Circe, daughter of the sun god Helios. Though she didn’t inherit the her parent’s powers, Circe learns that she, in her own right, can rival the gods. For this very reason, she is banished to a deserted island where she continues to practice her magic and learn more about herself. She is ultimately forced to make a decision: will she ally herself with mortals, the individuals that she often sought solace with, or will she reunite with the gods, the group from which she originated?

 

 

2. Great Goddesses: Life Lessons from myths and monsters

 

image via goodreads

 

Great Goddesses is a collection of poems written by Nikita Gill, who is known for her poetry collections Fierce Fairytales and Wild Embers. Applying a feminist’s lens to these old myths and legends, Gill presents a new rendition of Greek mythology. As stated by this collection’s Amazon page:

With lyrical prose and striking verse, beloved poet Nikita Gill…uses the history of Ancient Greece and beyond to explore and share the stories of the mothers, warriors, creators, survivors, and destroyers who shook the world. A few examples of poems from this collection are Chaos to Nyx, Athena’s Tale, and Athena to Medusa.

 

 

3. AntiGoddess

 

image via goodreads

 

Antigoddess is the first book in Kendare Blake‘s series: Goddess War. The story begins with the goddess Athena growing feathers under her skin and inside her lungs. Hermes has a fever that is consuming his flesh, and the other Greek deities are suffering in similar ways. In order to find out why they are slowly dying, these two Greek immortals seek out Cassandra, a woman who was once a prophetess. They learn that Hera has joined with the enemies of Olympus in a bid for revenge, and these enemies are also falling victim to the same corruption that the Greek deities are.

 

 

4. The Goddess of Buttercups and Daisies

 

image via goodreads

 

Written by Martin Millar, The Goddess of Buttercups and Daisies follows the playwright Aristophanes, who is having a really tough time of it. He’s trying to create a comedy that will convince Athens to not go to war with Sparta for another ten years, but one inconvenience after another continues to hinder his efforts. To make matters worse, Spartan and Athenian generals have released Laet, a spirit of foolishness and poor decisions on Athens with the intention of sparking war. Athena, in an effort to stop this chaotic force, sends the Amazonian warrior Bremusa and the nymph Metris into the fray. This book has been described as a “witty and comical romp for readers of all ages.”

 

 

5. Till We have faces

 

image via amazon

 

While I try to find books and stories that have been published more recently, I couldn’t pass up adding this text to the list. Author C.S. Lewis wrote Til We Have Faces with the intent to retell the famous “Cupid and Psyche” myth from the point of view of Psyche’s sister, Orual. Orual is described as being physically disfigured, bitter and obsessively in love with her sibling. When Cupid falls for Psyche and takes her away, her sister is forced to reevaluate her moral stance and decide where, exactly, she will go. It should be noted that this book is allegorical, and there are some distinct theological undertones attached to it.

 

Cover Image via Newsela

 

 


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7 Nostalgic Spooky Stories to Put You in the Halloween Mood

One of the major themes of books and movies this year seems to be nostalgia. Everyone is constantly looking for a hint of that childhood magic and mystery, and with Halloween coming up, it’s a perfect time to revisit some of our favorite scary stories reminiscent of elementary and middle school Halloween parties. Here’s a list of seven of our favorite childhood spooks.

 

1. The Black cat by edgar allan poe

 

theblackcatcadabrabanner1200x627 - Exclusive: Cadabra Records is Back With Edgar Allan Poe's THE BLACK CAT

Image via dreadcentral

 

There are so many perfectly disturbing Poe stories that are suitable for Halloween, most of which feature themes of delusion, madness, and all-around creepy vibes. The Black Cat is one such story about a normally docile man who lashes out at his pet cat in a fit of rage while under the influence of alcohol. Poe describes the man cutting out his cat’s eye in horrific detail, and after the man comes back to his senses, a combination of alcoholism and guilt continue to drive him to madness. The man finally snaps and attacks his cat once again, but his actions lead to an even more gruesome, unexpected death. In typical Poe fashion, the man tries to bury his guilt until it returns to him in the form of the supernatural. This one’s sure to send shivers down your spine and may have traumatized you as a kid. It’s definitely not for cat fans!

 

2. The Monkey’s paw by w.w. jacobs

 

Image result for the monkey's paw

image via comingsoon.net

 

If you remember The Monkey’s Paw from elementary or middle school, you probably remember being seriously spooked. The monkey’s paw is a charm from India that has the ability to grant three wishes to three different people. It had two other owners, the first of which used his final wish to take his own life before it ended up in Mr. White’s hands. But every time the White family makes a wish on the monkey’s paw, there’s a horrible catch. Their first wish for money results in the death of their son, Herbert, and the White family receives money as compensation for his death. In the midst of her grief, Mrs. White demands that her husband wish her son back to life. Just after he does, there’s an ominous knocking at the Whites’ door. This creepy story reawakens our childhood imagination and teaches us the ultimate lesson: Be careful what you wish for.

 

3. The Legend of sleepy hollow by Washington Irving

 

Image result for headless horseman

image via fantasy & world music by the fiechters

 

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is a classic short story that tells the tale of Ichabod, a teacher living in smalltown Sleepy Hollow. Hoping to win the hand of Katrina Van Tassel, the daughter of one of the richest farmers in Sleepy Hollow, he goes to her father’s farm to win her over. But Brom Van Brunt, one of Katrina’s other potential suitors, is known for physically imitating anyone who tries to woo Katrina. Brom plays pranks on Ichabod until he gets frustrated, and as he’s heading home he runs into a creature far more terrifying than Brom. A dark figure riding a horse begins to follow Ichabod on his path home, and Ichabod notices—with utter horror—that the man’s head is detached from his body. The Headless Horseman throws his detached head at Ichabod, knocking him off his horse. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is spooky in a comforting kind of way. The world can’t be all bad as long as we have Sleepy Hollows with legends of Headless Horsemen. Or middle school legends of Bloody Mary hiding in the bathroom.

 

4. In a dark, dark room and other scary stories by Alvin Schwartz

 

Image result for in a dark dark room

image via the paris review

 

In A Dark, Dark Room is a book to be read and chanted aloud, classroom-style. In the title story, things just keep getting darker and darker and spookier and spookier. Another memorable story in this collection is The Green Ribbon. It’s about a little girl named Jenny who always wears a green ribbon around her neck. When she grows older, her husband, Alfred, asks about the ribbon but she refuses to tell him. Once Jenny had grown old and was nearing her death, she removed the green ribbon and her head fell off. Jenny and her green ribbon are absolute proof that we pretended to be the bravest children ever (even though most of us were probably terrified.)

 

 

5. High beamS (Scary Stories To Tell In the Dark by Alvin Schwartz)

 

High Beams

image via scaryforkids

 

Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark is possibly the most nostalgic collection of spooky short stories of all. The movie was released this past month, but it’s worth revisiting the short stories and the movie in celebration of Halloween. There are three stories in the collection that are particularly terrifying, one of which is “High Beams,” a story about a woman driving home and paranoid about a man following her and flashing his headlights behind her. Once the woman gets home and runs inside calling for her dad, the man who had been following her explains he was trying to warn her about the person hiding in her backseat and holding a knife. This story is definitely shiver-inducing for anyone who’s ever driven alone in the dark.

 

6. “The red spot” (Scary Stories To Tell In the Dark)

 

 

“The Red Spot” is serious children’s—or adults’—body horror. In it, a girl gets a red boil on her face that turns out to be a bunch of spider eggs that hatch. Anyone will arachnophobia or a general disgust of eight-legged creatures has to shudder at that one, not to mention the horror movie-level illustration included with it.

 

7. “Harold” (Scary Stories To Tell In the Dark)

 

Image result for scary stories to tell in the dark harold

image via refinery29

 

Finally, we have “Harold,” which might be the creepiest of all. It’s about two cowherds who hate a particular farmer and create a scarecrow imitation of him to taunt and spit at only to find that the scarecrow comes to life at night. One of the cowherds goes missing and when the other goes looking for him, he sees a giant version of Harold stretching out the bloody human skin of his friend. Serious childhood trauma right there.

 

 

Featured image via Dread Central