Disney's "Pocahontas" is based on the true history of an Indian princess who saves the life of a British settler named John Smith during the onset of the 17th century. Pocahontas used herself as a shield to protect him from her tribesmen. She was credited with bringing a tentative peace between the settlers and her native people in Jamestown, Virginia. Disney's 1995 animated version glamorizes some of these events, including the fictional ending of the film, where Smith's character leaves to return to England, leaving Pocahontas behind.
The story of "Pocahontas" is the love story between Pocahontas -- the daughter of Chief Powhatan, who is engaged to be wed to an Indian warrior named Kocoum -- and John Smith, a British captain commissioned by the Virginia Company to lead a gold expedition in the New World. Other important characters include Pocahontas' noble yet domineering father, Chief Powhatan; her good friend, Nakoma; as well as the greedy and corrupted Jamestown leader, Governor Ratcliffe.
The story begins with Captain John Smith voyaging to the New World in search of gold. When he settles in Jamestown, Smith meets and quickly falls in love with Pocahontas, who already is engaged to Kocoum and forbidden to interact with the settlers. One day, Nakoma spies the two kissing in the forest and runs and tells Kocoum, who, enraged, attacks Smith, only to be killed by another settler. This causes Chief Powhatan to wage war against the Jamestown settlers and capture Smith. Pocahontas arrives moments before his execution and saves his life. Meanwhile, Governor Ratcliffe takes this opportunity to kill the chief, but Smith rushes to take the bullet. Because of his injuries, Smith must return to England; however, the chief tells him he is welcome to return to the tribe.
Pocahontas has two animal friends who are smaller, nonverbal side characters. Meeko is a chubby yet playful raccoon, and Flit is a small, wise hummingbird. Together, they share a playful rivalry for Pocahontas' affections, yet ultimately help her by giving her a compass to find Smith's location. Meeko also is particularly irked by Governor Ratcliffe's spoiled pug, Percy, but they eventually find their peace and get married. Pocahontas also regularly consults Grandmother Willow, a spiritual talking tree, which often shares insights, guidance and warnings with her.
Many of the controversies of the Disney film deal with the falsely portrayed relationship between the British settlers and the Indians. The settlers and natives never became friendly with each other; rather, the colonizers enacted a genocide against the Indians, which would wage on for centuries. Up to 90 percent of the native population was killed by either genocide or foreign disease. Another major fallacy is Pocahontas' age and relationship with John Smith. While it is generally believed that Pocahontas did rescue John Smith, they did not develop a romantic relationship. Pocahontas was, in fact, kidnapped as a teenager and forced to marry another settler named John Rolfe, who wanted to convert her to Christianity. Pocahontas returned to England with Rolfe and died in her early 20s.