Sun. Jun 23rd, 2024

Pocahontas: the true story of the Disney princess

Natasha Kumar By Natasha Kumar Jun7,2024

After studying the Arthurian legend by comparing it with the Kaamelott series, and having taken the same step with the Vikings series to see what she tells us about Scandinavian civilization in the Middle Ages,I suggest that you study together the relationships between the colonists and the Native Americans, by comparing History with the animated filmPocahontasfrom the Disney studio.

Pocahontas: The True Story of the Disney Princess

Pocahontas, an Indian legendis the 33rd animated classic from the Disney studio, released in 1995 (between The Lion King and The Hunchback of Notre Dame). We are therefore in the middle of the New Golden Age of the Disney studio. No wonder then if Pocahontas possesses the qualities which made the success of the animated films released during this period: wonderful drawings, humor, one of the greatest Disney heroines ( she would easily get on the Podium with Esmeralda and Ariel), songs that we continue to sing years later (L'air du vent), etc. But this film has another interest: it takes certain distances from the real story of the real Pocahontas. These differences, both like Kaamelott or Vikings are not simple errors due to; a significant lack of research, quite the contrary. 

1# Who inspired the character of Pocahontas?

The character of Pocahontas in the Disney animated film is inspired by the historical figure of Matoaka, who is better known by her nickname Pocahontas. This nickname means little wanton in the Powhatan language. It gave rise to many legends about its existence. But that's not all since the animated character; is also inspired by a celebrity. known who was a hit in modeling, it's Naomi Campbell, this is also one of the different reasons why she is certainly one of the sexiest characters at Disney.

2#  What is the country of Pocahontas?

You should know that Pocahontas was a Native American, and she belonged to her family. the Powhatan tribe. It originated in what is now Virginia in the United States. She notably played played an important role in the history of the English colony of Virginia and became a legendary figure in American culture.

3# How old was she? Pocahontas?

In the animated film Disney, Pocahontas is depicted as a young woman. But in historical reality, this differs greatly since Pocahontas was about 12 years old when she met John Smith.

Disney therefore chose to age the character in order to make her more mature and to adapt the love story that existed between these two people.

4# Who was Pocahontas?

Pocahontas is the princess of the Powhatan Confederacy, led by its leader, Wahunsonacock, better known as Chief Powhatan. Two elements can already be used. arouse our interest. First of all, Pocahontas is a nickname. Princess Pocahontas was actually called Princess Pocahontas. Mataoka and Amonute. Her nickname, Pocahontas, given to her by his tribe and later adopted by him. by the English, means “little mischievous”. A mischievous person is a lively and mischievous person, without malice. The Larousse dictionary tells us, however, that this adjective is said mainly to characterize a child. Because yes, unlike; Disney's Pocahontas, Mataoka was about 12 years old when she met her. John Smith, and that she saved her from being put away. death pronounced by his own father. Why did the creators at Disney prefer make an older Pocahontas? Several hypotheses can be made. The first, the most obvious, is that a love story between a man and a twelve-year-old girl is average! The second reason is that the screenwriters preferred put aside the mischievous character of Pocahontas: we only see her play a prank once (when she overturns her best friend's boat). If Pocahontas appears to us as a person who is indeed as lively and free as the wind, she is not devoid of a certain wisdom, wisdom which will allow her to open the eyes of others. the Englishman John Smith. And a mischievous kid who gives life lessons to everyone. an adult, if it passes more than a pedophilic marriage, it remains less convincing than a young (but nevertheless wise) adult who gives an existential lesson to her. another adult. The third hypothesis is that making Pocahontas a splendid adult is respecting the tradition of Disney princesses: adult princesses with generous measurements and splendid features.

Pocahontas: the true story of the Disney princess

We can ;also be interested in the fact that in the Disney, the Powhatan people call Chief Wahunsonacock “Chief Powhatan”, while if we are to believe the Historian Dee Brown in Bury My Heart at Home; Wounded Knee(chapter 1), this nickname was given to him. given by the settlers. Severe; still, we can only speculate on the reasons which made the character of the Father never change. like his daughter, will not be called other than by his nickname. We can therefore assume that for children, it is much easier to say Chief Powhatan than to pronounce the name Wahunsonacock (even an adult would have difficulty!). We can also argue that the story of Pocahontas is today as much a legend as a historical fact (which Disney makes clear by naming the film Pocahontas, a legend). ;Indian genre), and that its characters have become myths mainly known by their first names. Anyway, let’s get back to the story of Pocahontas. So, Pocahontas was twelve years old when she met her. John Smith. She saved her from her father, by throwing herself at the English colonist when he was to be put to death. dead. It should be noted, however, that this fact, relayed by by John Smith himself ten years after the event, was &àgrave; repeatedly contradicted by historians: some think that John Smith misinterpreted an indigenous ritual, and that it was in no way put into practice. death; still others think that Smith simply invented it. this event. Thus, the beginning of Pocahontas, her entry into legend, is found at the beginning of the story. the end of the movie. Why? For two reasons: first of all, a love story where one of the two lovers saves the other, it's classy! Then, because the story of the film is as much the love story between Pocahontas and John Smith (an invented love story) as it is an indictment against racism and the lack of communication between men .

Pocahontas: the true story of the Disney princess

Pocahontas and John Smith are the two offspring of two peoples who do not understand each other. Remember the song “All Savages”. The English settlers are racist, and underestimate the Indians, and the Powhatans only see the settlers as greedy racists who destroy their forests without even thinking that peace is possible. This peace, however, can exist, as demonstrated by the love which unites Pocahontas and John Smith, a love which will cause Pocahontas to interpose herself between her father's weapon and her doomed lover. &àgrave; dead. Once again, this scene is today denied by some historians, and today belongs to the realm of legend. Nevertheless, it seems proven that the fact that after his meeting with John Smith, the mischievous Mataoka, often visits John Smith. his friend, the colony of Jamestown. One day, she learned from the English of the death of John Smith, and stopped her visits. Until the day when she is captured by a privateer, helped by a privateer. by the Patawomecks, and she is taken to another colony. Wait… Patawomecks… Does this name mean nothing to you? But yes! Remember the beginning of the animated film! Chief Powhatan returns home with his warriors, and declares that he has defeated the Patawomecks! Yes, the Patawomecks betrayed Pocahontas, by helping a determined corsair to take over. &àgrave; make it a bargaining chip against English captives.Since the animated film only deals with his meeting with John Smith, the Patawomecks did not enter the story, despite their importance. Disney's genius will be to give them another role, that of enemies of the Powhatans, thus allowing to grasp a fact about the Native Americans that some may ignore.

Pocahontas: the true story of the Disney princess

When we talk about Native Americans, we tend to see a unique people there. If we know certain tribes (the Sioux, the Apaches, the Comanches, the Cheyennes, the Navajos, the Araphos, etc.), we especially know their fights against the colonists, responsible for the biggest genocide in History. Thus the Native American peoples, because they are united in the same suffering, a suffering that colonialism and greed have destroyed. Europeans have inflicted on them, we sometimes find it difficult to cope. suspect the fact that before our arrival on the American continent, there was already a geopolitical situation, and the Native American peoples had relationships with each other, often warlike relationships. In this new English colony, Pocahontas will be “well treated”: she will be converted to Christianity, will be baptized Rebecca, and will be married to an Englishman called John Rolfe. She will travel with her husband to England, meet King James I, and will be used to promote the colonies to the English. But at the age of 21, when she gave her a son to John Rolfe, named Thomas, and she had to return with her husband to America, she died of pneumonia due to the disease. pollution, even before leaving the Thames.

When I learned of his tragic fate, the song L’air du vent came back to my mind, one of the most beautiful Disney songs. This sentence banged in my head like a boomerang: “Can you paint the air of the wind in a thousand colors?” As the words of this magnificent song came back to me, I understood the tragic significance of this poetic phrase: it is a polluted wind, very different from the pure air that Pocahontas breathed when she lived among her people, who rotted her lungs and were responsible for her death. In short, not cheerful… This part of Pocahontas' story (her trip to England) is told in Pocahontas 2, but I admit not having seen it: I I have always had a certain repulsion towards the second Disney opuses (repulsion transformed into hatred since I saw The Hunchback of Notre-Dame 2). However, the first name of Pocahontas and John Rolfe's son interests me: Thomas. Pocahontas' son has the same first name as another Disney character, that of the young colonist whom John Smith saves from the storm. Underestimated by his comrades and his leader, he appears as puny and adores Smith at home. like a child. Although he killed Kocoum (this scene is invented, and Kocoum will be Pocahontas' first husband), he seems proven a lot of sadness and compassion towards Pocahontas (therefore an Indian) at agrave; the end of the animated film. This evolution, which closely resembles that of John Smith, can make Thomas (we don't know his last name, so why not Rolfe?) appear to us as the spiritual son of the Pocahontas/John Smith relationship. >

Pocahontas: the true story of the Disney princess

5# What can we say about John Smith?

We already have a lot has been said about this character, yet I feel like I have left out the essentials. John Smith was the leader of the Jamestown colony. In the animated film, he is just a captain, under the orders of a greedy and evil leader. Why not make him the leader? For an obvious reason: because the film needed a great villain (Disney tradition requires!). And John couldn't be the big bad guy in the film… So, Disney created the movie. Governor Ratcliffe. By making John Smith rebel against greed, and English colonialism, Disney makes Pocahontasone of his most overtly political films. Beyond even this praise of living together, this indictment against racism, Pocahontasbecomes a particularly current film (it is still relevant today). The animated film was released in the middle of the 90s, a decade where The United States embarked on the Gulf War (1990-1991), in order to exploit oil from the Middle East. But Oil is also called oil. “Black gold”. And what is Governor Ratcliffe looking for in Pocahontas? Gold! We can see a parallel between the colonialism which led to the worst of the genocides, and American military actions in the Orient. 

Pocahontas: The True Story of the Disney Princess

But the story of John Smith as told to us by Disney contains a real reality. historical: despite After the massacres committed by the colonists, several Europeans became friends with each other. with the Native Americans. Remember John Dunbar in Dances with Wolvesby Kevin Costner, or Nathanael in The Last of the Mohicansby Michael Mann! Dee Brown, in Bury my heart at home Wounded Knee, speaks to us about several times of these settlers who became friends with the Native Americans, such as the Bent family, who became friends with the Native Americans. with the Cheyennes, until become members entirely part of the Cheyenne people.

6# Funny clouds…

After speaking with Grandmother Foliage and listening to the Spirit of the Wind, Pocahontas climbs to the top of the weeping willow, and sees the great sails of a European ship, which she interprets as being great clouds. The year is 1607. That is 115 years after Christopher Columbus' discovery of the American continent and his first contacts with the American natives (in this case, the Tainos). In Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee(read this book, really!), Dee Brown writes: “Less than ten years after the arrival of Christopher Columbus on a beach in San Salvador on October 12, 1492, entire tribes were killed. res – hundreds of thousands of people – I'll let you do a brief mental calculation to realize the extremely high number of Native Americans who had been massacred until 1607, the year when begins our story. We can therefore be surprised that the Powhatans have not heard of the whites, and that Pocahontas confuses the sails of an English ship with clouds. However, it is almost a proven fact. Communications were very slow between Native American peoples. Dee Brown explains to us that the vast majority of peoples “found themselves conquered and invaded by the Europeans before even having heard of the atrocities they had committed.” But the Historian tells us that the Powhatans had heard about the invaders from the East They therefore expected the arrival of the Whites, unlike the Disney characters.

Pocahontas: The True Story of the Disney Princess

Why in this Should we, at least at the beginning of the animated film, make characters unaware of what will happen to them soon? No doubt to give the Powhatan people a symbolic value: the Powhatans were almost an exception, since unlike the other peoples of the New World, they had heard of the Whites and their massacres. By making sure that they ignore the imminent arrival of the whites, the Powhatans represent the other indigenous peoples. Thus, the arrival of John Smith's settlers resembles the arrival of John Smith's settlers. all other colonial landings in America. However, we can assume that when they saw these “funny clouds” arriving on their land, the Powhatans were far from imagining that their people of 8,000 inhabitants would only number 1,000 inhabitants. barely 1,000 people after the passage of the White Man.

7# L'air du vent

It is undoubtedly the most beautiful song of the film, and perhaps one of the most successful songs in Disney history (as beautiful as The Bells of Notre-Dame, Infernal, The Cycle of Life or Like a Man). The French version is worth its weight in gold, and it is on it that we will focus our study (I prefer it to the English version, no doubt out of nostalgia). Because in fact, this song can reveal to us some interesting information about Native American peoples. First of all, it is about an Indian woman who compares her vision of seeing the world to that of hers. a settler, showing him how ignorant he is. When we read Barefoot on the sacred earthby T.C. McLuhan, an anthology of the oral and written literature of the North American Indians, we understand that the Native Americans had a way of thinking about the world that was much more humane, and perhaps much more reasonable, than the white settlers. Their respect for nature would have saved us a lot of suffering if we had imitated them (remember how Pocahontas died…). This respect for nature was linked to a respect for the Living. “Do you understand the song of hope of the wolf who dies of love/The cries of wild cats at dawn/Do you hear the spirits of the Mountain singing/Can you paint the air of the wind in a thousand colors.” The Indians respected the living, hunted for food and clothing. If you don't believe it, if you doubt it, reading T.C. McLuhan's book will perhaps convince you of the truth. ;racity of these allegations.

Pocahontas: the true story of the Disney princess

The otter and the heron are my friends ” sings Pocahontas. This phrase reminds me of Meeko, the raccoon from Pocahontas. Not only is he one of the favorite characters of fans of the film, but he also has a very large cultural interest Did you know that the main predator of the raccoon is Man? Indeed, for many centuries, this particularly cute animal was hunted by people. Native American peoples for their flesh and fur Remember Chez Powhatan, Pocahontas's father: we see him wearing raccoon tails on his clothes.We can be surprised by the fact that Meeko stays with Pocahontas, without fear of knowing the same fate as those of her species whose tail hangs from her father's coat. .. This trust between Meeko and the young Indian symbolizes this harmonious relationship which unites Native Americans and the living. The presence of the hummingbird Flit can be explained by the symbolic importance of this animal in Native American myths.

Towards the end of the song, Pocahontas sings these words “and we all turn together through the days/in a circle of a round to infinity.” A Native American spoke at length in Barefoot on Sacred Earth about the importance of the circle motif in Native American civilization: As keen observers, Native Americans noted that everything in nature “tends to become a circle”: whether it's the shape of the Earth, the cycle of the moon and the Sun, the cycle of the seasons, the shape of the base of the teepee, the circle of the Indian Nation. It's interesting that this motif of the circle is integrated into this song. Proof that the writers did a lot of research to make the film.

I hope you enjoyed this article. I'll see you soon to study the crusades by comparing History with Kingdom of Heaven by Sir Ridley Scott!

Natasha Kumar

By Natasha Kumar

Natasha Kumar has been a reporter on the news desk since 2018. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Times Hub, Natasha Kumar worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my 1-800-268-7116

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