Aloha my wonderful merfolk!
It’s well known that this Disney movie is based on true events. However, the film came under fire from some saying that the story was completely historically inaccurate and showed Native Americans in a bad light. However, there were plenty of Native Americans or those of descent who worked on this movie and say it’s a wonderful telling of the story.
Today, I am going to discuss the historical accuracy and inaccuracies of this Disney movie.
In the original story of Pocahontas, she was only 10 or 11 years old when she first met John Smith, who was 27. Her age in the movie is never discussed but it is noticed that she is significantly older. This was because Disney wanted to follow the romance route and of course did not want a child bride to be a part of the story.
Pocahontas’ real name was Matoaka, the former being her nickname. Matoaka can be translated to ‘playful one’ or ‘the naughty one’. Perhaps Disney thought Pocahontas was easier for children to pronounce?
John Smith was a well-travelled explorer according to the original story. He did also work under a man named John Ratcliffe. This is one thing the Disney film got accurate. John Smith did also sail to American, from England with the Virginia Company of London. This means the song ‘The Virginia Company’ were also not far from being truthful. It’s also a very catchy song.
In the movie, John Smith and Pocahontas cross paths very soon after the English boat docks in America. However, in the original story, The English did not come across the Native American’s for some months. Pocahontas first came across John Smith when he was captured and held prisoner.
Towards the end of the film, Pocahontas saves John Smith from execution because she loves him. The way it happens is very similar to John Smiths account of the events. In the movie, Smith is made to put his head onto a stone, whilst the chief raises a club ready to smash his head in. Pocahontas rushes up and places her head over Smith’s in order to stop the execution. This is how Smith’s account of the events was written.
For his return to England, the original story claims it was due to a gunpowder wound, two years following his first meet with Pocahontas. Following this, the tribe were told he had died on the ship during the journey. This was of course not true and Pocahontas met him during her trip to England. In the Disney movie, Smith returns to England after Pocahontas saves him from execution.
In the original story, as previously mentioned, Pocahontas was only about 10 years of age, therefore there was no real romantic relationship between her and John Smith. Their relationship was however a close one as she played liason between the British the Powhatan tribe.
On the other side of the romance story line was Kokoum. In the film, he was murdered by Thomas, however, in the real story, Pocahontas married her fellow Native American a year following John Smiths return to the UK.
Three years from John Smiths departure, Pocahontas was captured and married to John Rolfe, following her conversion to Christianity. John Rolfe of course, features in the sequel.
In the time period this movie is set, the Native Americans wore very little clothing. It can be taken by this historical fact that Pocahontas was naked or close to, when she first met John Smith. This, in theory, reinforced the idea that there was no romance between the two as he could only ever see her as a child.
The English set sail in 1607 from England, flying the new Union Flag which was designed in 1606. Governor Ratcliffe has a pet pug named Percy. Pugs were brought to Europe from China by Dutch traders in the 16th century, becoming fashionable in the early 1600s.
The Disney film has both it’s accuracy’s and inaccuracies. Of course, they would always change certain aspects of the story in order to make it family friendly. I do agree however that children should be taught history and perhaps there was a need for this story to be a little more accurate?
I love Pocahontas as a film, no matter the inaccuracies.
a mermaid be waiting for you, in mysterious fathoms below