Hearing the words ‘Once upon a time’ is always magical, isn’t it, conjuring wonderful images of fairy tales and stories and lands far away and of many, many years ago. They also bring back childhood memories for me – of listening to stories from my parents and grandparents, of reading many that began with ‘Once upon a time,’ and of reading them to my own children (so yeah, also childhood memories for my kids!).
But today’s post is taking a detour to ‘once upon a rhyme’ and instead of wondering what I am talking about, read on. It is also magical in its own ways. Words are always magical…
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Poetic Sundays: Once Upon a Rhyme in Disney’s Mulan
This week, I’m shifting gears a bit from my usual poetry exploration to something different: poetry inspired movie magic! And in particular, I want to shine a spotlight on a single magical movie with roots in poetry – Disney’s Mulan. Why Mulan? Well, there’s a special reason. As we approach the 5th of December, the birthday of the original dreamer himself, Walt Disney, I thought it fitting to pay tribute to his legacy.
The Poetic Origins or Once Upon a Rhyme of Mulan
Mulan, the animated classic (and also the live-action version) we all know and love, is based on an ancient Chinese poem titled “The Ballad of Mulan.” This sixth-century folk song weaves a tale of bravery, sacrifice, and filial piety as a young woman disguises herself as a man to take her father’s place in the army. Disney’s adaptation beautifully captures the essence of this timeless narrative, adding its own enchanting touches while staying true to the spirit of the original poem. So, here’s to Walt Disney, the visionary behind the magic, and to Mulan, a cinematic masterpiece with a poetic heart.
You can read the ballad here. This rhyming translation starts with these beautiful lines (with that feeling of familiar for those who have seen the movie)
Sigh after sigh she sadly sighs
While weaving near the door—
No sound of spinning loom that flies
Just Mulan feeling poor.
More About the Ballad
This ballad does make the ‘once upon a rhyme’ true, for it is the oldest known version of Mulan’s story. Dating back to around 400 AD during the Northern Wei era, this ancient poem has inspired countless retellings across centuries (source).
It uses the Yuefu style, which has its roots in the folk-ballad tradition. The name is derived from the Yuefu (“Music Bureau”) established in 120 BC by Wudi of Han (an organization of the imperial Chinese government responsible for collecting or writing the lyrics). Over time, the term applied to other poems/works inspired by the Music Bureau’s collections.
Writing in the Yuefu Style
If you are inspired by the ballad and want to attempt writing using the yuefu style (not really a poetic form in the strictest sense), then here is me introducing a poetic form/style once again this week after all with the yuefu! These guidelines will help you (inspired by the definition on Britannica):
- Syllabic: you could either pick a line length of five syllables or have lines of varying length
- Stanzaic: while I don’t see any place where they mention stanza length, I am just using the most often seen stanza length in ballads (also used in the translated version above) of four lines per stanza. The poem itself can have any number of quatrains as needed.
- Rhythmic: since most original yuefu were sung to music, try to keep a musical rhythm within your lines, however you choose. Maybe with rhyme schemes (ABAB like in the translated version above) and similar 5 syllable length lines, or when varying lengths, then with other ways to add the rhythm (for example, the translated version above has an 8/6/8/6 syllabic pattern)
- Experiment with different rhyme schemes to enhance the musicality of your verses.
- Themed: ballads often tell one story, of heroism, love, or well, your choice!
On My Blog And the Homefront
Here are the posts that made their way out into the world this past week on my blog:
- From Kitchen Confidential to Grand Dishes and More
- Little Women Retellings and More
- Five Things That Needed List Making Today and Now!
- 13 Hidden Gems By Better Known Authors
- Have Yourself a Merry Little Women Christmas: And Here is How to Do it!
- 10 Amazing Nonfiction Picture Books For Music Lovers and More
- Sunday Scribblings #167: Lamps for Prosperity and Love, Ends & Starts
On My Blog and On the Homefront
A few posts hopefully and quiet on the homefront this week
This Week’s Celebrations
Literary Celebrations (close-to-it also!)
- Literary birthdays this week include: Rainer Maria Rilke on Dec 4th; Walt Disney, Hanif Kureishi, Christina Rossetti, Joan Didion, and James Lee Burke on Dec 5th; Jason Reynolds, Joyce Kilmer, and Garth Stein on December 6th; Anne Fine, Willa Cather, and Noam Chomsky on 7th December; Horace, Bill Bryson and James Thurber on the 8th of Dec; John Milton and Tishani Doshi on Dec 9th; Cornelia Funke, Emily Dickinson, Mary Norton, Nelly Sachs, and Helen Oyeyemi on the 10th December
- It is National Crossword Solvers Day on the 7th of December..
- followed by Christmas Card Day on Dec 9th
- Start this week with National Cookie Day on Dec 4th
- Followed by National Sacher Torte Day on the 5th of Dec
- Then it is National Gazpacho Day on December 6th
- while the 7th is National Cotton Candy Day
- Dec 8th happens to be National Brownie Day
- while it is National Pastry Day on December 9th
- end the week on December 10th with National Lager Day
Other Observations and Celebrations
- World Wildlife Conservation Day and International Cheetah Day are on Dec 4th
- The 5th is International Ninja Day, as well as World Soil Day and Krampusnacht!
- Apparently it is Microwave Oven Day on December 6th.
- National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day is on the 7th of December.
- Then it is time to do some time travel or at least Pretend To Be A Time Traveler on December 8th!
- Weary Willie Day is on the 9th.
- While the 10th of December is Nobel Prize Day, Human Rights Day, International Animal Rights Day, and Dewey Decimal System Day
- World Choral Day and Worldwide Candle Lighting Day are observed on the 2nd Sunday of December each year.
Related Reads and More:
- For Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, here is a book you can read – On the Horizon by Lois Lowry. My review of the book is here.
- If you have a Mulan and/or funko dolls fan, then this Funko Disney Mulan Pop Vinyl Figure will make a great stocking stuffer/gift!
- Another great gift idea (the crossword puzzle day reminded me of this one) is the New York Times Daily Crossword Page-A-Day Calendar 2024. Perfect for everyone from beginners to pros!
Wrapping up my Sunday Scribblings Once Upon a Rhyme
So dear reader, you have reached the end of this Sunday Scribblings! As always, I welcome your thoughts, comments, and suggestions about this post. Have you begun your planning for your holiday season, whatever and however you plan to celebrate? Will you attempt to write the yuefu? Or maybe watch a Disney movie? And do let me know if you plan to celebrate any of these mentioned celebrations this coming week/month?