Xianniang Dies to Save Mulan
Mulan and Xianniang pick up where their previous confrontation in the geothermal valley before the avalanche. Mulan has clearly revealed her true self, but Xianniang nonetheless finds it “impossible” for a woman to be leading a man’s army, since she has lived a life of exile. She tells Mulan she never wanted to live a life of darkness and destruction, but was forced to by the way she was treated by society. Mulan tries to appeal to the inherent goodness within Xianniang, and the conversation continues over the rooftops of the imperial city, calling back to Mulan’s childhood at the beginning of the film.
In the end, Xianniang sees more in common with Mulan and seems regretful of her own life, showing Mulan the way to Böri Khan and the Emperor. Xianniang tells her former master that Mulan has done the impossible: a woman leads this army. He dismisses that as impossible and calls Mulan a girl, which Xianniang corrects: “woman.”
When Böri Khan sees he has been betrayed, he notches an arrow and shoots it at Mulan, using what appears to be his greatest skill (other than catching arrows.) While we’ve watched Mulan use her qi to defy many arrows throughout the movie, Xianniang must know that Böri Khan’s archery skills are too much for her, because she flies to intercept the arrow, falling out of the sky. Mulan catches her in bird form and she transforms back into a person, dying in Mulan’s arms, having sacrificed herself for the woman who could do what she could not. It’s unclear why Böri Khan doesn’t simply shoot another arrow at Mulan.
Mulan Uses Her Qi To Kill Böri Khan
Mulan fights Böri Khan on bamboo scaffolding above some molten lava pits that he created just for the occasion? Sadly, Mulan loses her (father’s) sword, which falls into one of the pits and melts down. Throughout the fight, the emperor encourages her to tap into her qi, and at one point the ancestral phoenix reappears, as it has in all her times of greatest need throughout the film, to help her fight.
Böri Khan and Mulan fight on a beam high above the ground, suspended by a rope. Mulan eventually cuts the rope, sending the beam and Böri Khan falling to what appears to be a typical Disney bloodless, morally sound death. She quickly jumps onto the rope that holds the beam up, and swings to the emperor’s side, where she frees one of his hands. But Böri Khan isn’t dead after all, and he shoots an arrow at the emperor, who uses his free hand and his qi to catch it. Mulan uses her qi as well and redirects the arrow, to kill Böri Khan, who tries to catch it as we’ve seen him do earlier in the film but fails, dying. It all makes for a rare Disney death where the hero takes an active, direct, intentional role.