Author's Note for Fa Mulan by Robert San Souci
Over the years I have retold many stories of courageous, clever, and resourceful young women. There are many of these wonderful tales in storytelling traditions all around the world. I did a collection of 15 stories of some of this country's extraordinary women in Cut From the Same Cloth: American Women of Myth, Legend, and Tall Tale. And I have done many picture books featuring a variety of heroines, such as Brave Margaret: An Irish Adventure, The Samurai's Daughter, Young Guinevere, Kate Shelley: Bound for Legend, and A Weave of Words: A Tale from Armenia.
One of my favorite stories of a heroic young woman comes from China, where it has been told for over 2,000 years. I thought there would be a wonderful picture book in the story of the young woman who took her father's armor and went to war under his name, because he was too ill to go himself. Failure to obey the command of China's ruler would have meant disgrace for her family, and possibly death of her father. Well, while I was working to turn the story into a picture-book narrative, I got a call from Walt Disney Animation Studios in Burbank, California, (near Disneyland). People there had read many of my books and thought I might be able to write a good story for the movies.
When I said I would be very interested in working on an animated film, they flew me from my home in San Francisco to Burbank. I brought them a lot of ideas, but it turned out they had been looking for just the right story from China for a long time. I was the first to bring them this ages-old tale; they were immediately taken with the possibilities, and I was asked to write the story for the movie screen. This was, of course, the beginning of the animated feature Mulan. It was exciting to work on the movie story, but I was especially pleased when the Disney people decided to publish my telling of the traditional way the story is told in China as the book Fa Mulan. A special husband-and-wife team of artists, Jean and Mou-Sien Tseng, created the illustrations for the book. Anyone who likes the film can go back, through the story and pictures in our book, to discover the world of ancient China and the earliest account of brave Mulan, who has inspired people — especially young women — for thousands of generations.