Pocahontas, the Disney movie, is about Pocahontas, the daughter of a Chief, who makes first contact with a bunch of colonists who have come to her homeland in search of gold. With a soft spot for John Smith, she confronts their xenophobic beliefs and basically brokers peace between the her people and his when she throws herself between John Smith’s brains and the big stick that’s about to bash them in. In the ensuing scuffle, John Smith winds up with a gun shot wound (ie, friendly fire) that can only be treated by going back to England. He asks her to go back with him, but she chooses to stay with her people. She paints with all the colours of the wind and she has a cute raccoon sidekick. Voices include Irene Bedard, Christian Bale, Mel Gibson, Billy Connolly.
Pocahontas is the first Disney princess to have a tattoo, and the first to have an interracial relationship (what a hipster!). She is one of two to be American-born. Do you know the other one?
In real life, Pocahontas was indeed the (10 year old) daughter of a chief when she met John Smith. She often went to the Jamestown settlement to play with the boys there. When they were in danger of starving, she’d bring food and provisions. John Smith, in a letter to Queen Anne, wrote that, having been taken prisoner, Pocahontas risked her own life to save his, laying her head on his own to prevent her father from executing him. This is probably a made-up story told by Smith to curry favour. He did get a gun powder wound that took him back to England, and Pocahontas believed him to be dead. She likely married a Kokoum, a man in her tribe, and bore a daughter. But then she was kidnapped by the whites, and held captive for several years, during which time she married John Rolfe. Rolfe was a pious widow (his wife and daughter shipwrecked on the ride over), who worried about marrying a heathen, so Pocahontas converted to christianity and took the name Rebecca. They had a son, Thomas. The Peace of Pocahontas, 8 years of trade and friendly commerce between her tribe and the colonists, followed. The London Company then brought Mr. and Mrs. Rolfe to England to show Pocahontas off as the “tamed savage” they’d converted. Which is how she discovered that John Smith was alive and well in England. And then she died, overseas, age 20 or 21. No happy ending.
As for Mulan, the Disney version has her prepping for a match maker and hating every minute of it. But then life takes a serious turn as the Huns, led by Shan Yu, invade China by breaching the Great Wall. The emperor conscripts one man from each family to join the army, but Mulan’s family has only her elderly father Fa Zhou, already crippled by previous war experience. Worried for him, she dons her father’s old armor and, disguised as a man, takes his place in the army. Her ancestors send a little dragon named Mushu to be her guardian and watch over her. She makes a surprisingly good soldier, but there’s just one little catch – she falls in love with her platoon leader, which makes for some awkward chemistry, and when her drag is revealed, he’s going to feel awfully betrayed. Voices include include Pat Morita, Eddie Murphy, Donny Osmond, George Takei, Ming-Na Wen.
Mulan is not a princess in the movie or in the legend, but she is nonetheless deemed a “Disney Princess”, one of only 2 who wear pants (can you guess the second one?). She is also only the second to have both parents alive and present during the movie (can you name the first?).
Mulan probably never existed in real life, but she is the stuff of legends. In the Ballad of Mulan, Hua Mulan, circa 420, is said to be a legendary warrior who took her father’s place (and her brother’s, who is just a child) in the army by dressing as a man. Already skilled in martial arts , sword fighting, and archery, she fought for 12 years and earned high praise but refused all rewards and simply asked for a camel to carry her home, where she retired, shocking her comrades when she finally reveals her true identity. Whether or not she ever existed, it’s pretty impressive that we’ve recounted her story for 1600 years, and I guess that’s about as happy an ending as real life often gets.
Tiana of The Princess and The Frog is the second American-born Princess.
Jasmine of Aladdin is the first Princess to wear pants.
Aurora of Sleeping Beauty was the first Princess to have both parents living; Rapunzel from Tangled was the third, and Merida of Brave the fourth.