The story of Mulan is one of my all-time favourite things. Chances are pretty good that it’s based at least loosely on a real person. There have been female warriors and generals in Chinese history since the earliest records. But all the extant versions of the Mulan story can be traced back to “The Ballad of Mulan,” a poem of uncertain authorship that was included in a collection published by Guo Maoqian during the Song Dynasty. This poem is so wonderful. It’s also the perfect length to be adapted into a short comic, so when I was asked to submit a story to the Cautionary Fables and Fairy Tales anthology series, this was of course the story I picked.
Classical Chinese poetry is difficult to translate into English at the best of times, and I couldn’t find a translation that was rights-free (or that I liked well enough), so, um, I wrote my own. It was important to me that I preserve the original wording of the poem as closely as possible, since it’s those phrases, images, and emphasis that make it so much better than any modern adaptation I’ve ever seen. That’s the entire poem right there in the first panel, by the way. This is a story I didn’t write, and can’t take credit for, nor would I try. But I’ll take full credit for the translation (good or ill). And I hope I can convince you of just how important a story “The Ballad of Mulan” is. It’s important to me, at any rate.
The latest Cautionary Fables and Fairy Tales anthology, which includes my Mulan comic, is on Kickstarter right now!