Friday, 21 October 2016

Myth Vs Mouse: Pocahontas

Another tail from Disney based on history or myth is that of Pocahontas. A Native American princess who befriends English settlers in the new world. How accurate is this portrayal? Well here are three things that history tells us, that Disney doesn't.

1. John Smith Romance

A romance was fashioned around these two much later by fiction and has no bearing on the facts. When John Smith came to the new world, the young Pocahontas was around about the age of eleven. A most they could be called friends, as she used to bring supplies of food to him when the James Town rations were thin, helping him to survive through difficult times. When he was injured, much like he is in the movie, Pocahontas was not there and he was aboard a ship back to England before she knew of his accident. The James town settlers in fact told her that he had died and she stopped coming to the settlement altogether.

2. Saving John Smith from Death

John Smith was captured by the Native American chief Powhatan and held captive for several months but in his first account of this, his life was never in danger and sometime later he was let go. It was during his capture, about a couple of months in that he actually met Pocahontas and befriended the girl. Much later, when he was alive and well, living back in England and heard that Pocahontas would be coming to England, did he change his story to make a hero that saved his life. It was a possible publicity move to ease her into English society.

3. Romance with John Ralph

Her romance with her real life husband was the subject of a second straight to DVD to movie in which she is sought out by John Ralph, to return with him to England to convince the king that they were not savages. This is not the case. John Ralph was a tobacco planter whom she married after she was captured by the English during a period of hostility in 1613, after her conversion to Christianity. Can we say Stockholm syndrome? The couple do travel to England, once already married and she is presented as the civilized savage becoming quite the celebrity. However she never returned to the new world, the location of her grave is unknown in the district of Gravesend, England.

It is also worth a mention where Disney portrays her as a princess and vital to the tribe, this was not in fact the case. Although she was a favourite of her father, she was far, far at the bottom in the line of succession. It favoured Powhatan's brothers first, then his sisters and then the children of his sisters. Unless there was some sort disease that wiped out most of the tribe, Pocahontas would never have taken over.

I hope you have enjoyed this look at the real story behind the Disney classic.

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