Miriam first appears as a child when she, Aaron and their mother Yocheved try to save Moses from the genocide that Pharaoh Seti I has enacted against the newborn boys born to the Hebrews. Yocheved places Moses in a basket and sets him adrift onto the river Nile; young Miriam then follows the basket down the river.
Miriam is a compassionate, beautiful, and brave young woman who has never lost faith that Moses would come back to liberate the Jews with the help of God, though the rest of her people seem to accept their fate as slaves. Through her wisdom and her gentleness, she is often able to lift Moses out of his frequent moments of despair and inspire him to keep his mission going; in "When You Believe" it is implied that Miriam fills the same role for the rest of the Hebrews. She is the representation of hope in this film.
On the flip side, Miriam's concern for her people sometimes brings out the most flawed parts of her personality. She can be headstrong and impulsive; the incident on the scaffold where Miriam tries to intercede for a fellow slave getting severely whipped shows that when something cruel or unjust is happening, she lets her emotions drive her actions and doesn't stop to think things through. She also clashes frequently with her brother Aaron, whose desire to keep both of them safe is more important to him than taking any risks for their freedom, even if it means keeping Moses in the dark about his true identity.
Role in Film
Miriam is the older sister of Moses and Aaron. In the prologue, she, Aaron and Yocheved send Moses down the river in a basket. She witnesses the basket's near-destruction and Moses being adopted by the Queen of Egypt. She sends up a prayer he will be safe and eventually come back to deliver the rest of Hebrews out of slavery.
Later, after growing up, she and Aaron are getting water when Tzipporah appears and begs for water for her long journey. Miriam gives her water saying "may God protect you" and watches her go. When Moses appears, she blocks his view of Tzipporah and hides nothing about his past, though Aaron tries to excuse her as sick and mentally ill. Moses thinks she is lying and flings her to the ground where she sings Yocheved's lullaby, a song that Moses remembers but can't place. Miriam gives a horrified Moses a tearful smile as he recognizes the lullaby and he runs away in shock and confusion.
When gathering straw, Miriam sees an Egyptian beating an older Hebrew and tries to help, but Aaron restrains her. Because she is unable to do anything, Miriam cries out for somebody to intervene; Moses overhears it and, in trying to stop the Egyptian overseer, accidentally knocks him off the scaffold to his death. Miriam is shocked at this and tries to speak to Moses, possibly to calm him down, but Moses runs away into self-exile.
When Moses returns to Egypt, Miriam interrupts Aaron's rant and welcomes Moses back, forgiving her brother for his previous cruelty. She tells him that she still believes he will set them free, and this speech is what gives Moses the courage to keep confronting Pharaoh on behalf of his people. Miriam watches the ensuing plagues in devastation and keeps Moses in her house when the last plague comes. She is the main comforter to Moses as he is devastated with the death of his nephew. It is in trying to console Moses that Miriam initiates "When You Believe," the redemption song that eventually is taken up by the entire nation of freed Israelites (and it is also the film's most memorable song).
During that song, Miriam leaves Egypt with the Hebrews, appearing to have become close friends with Tzipporah. The Egyptians arrive to kill them, but Moses splits the Red Sea so the Hebrews can walk across; Pharaoh's pursuing soldiers are drowned when God merges the divided waters. On the far side of the sea, Moses pulls Miriam aside and embraces her, thanking her for the unshakeable faith that she has had in him and his mission. And it is Miriam alone who notices Moses mourning Rameses, the Pharaoh as well as Moses' adoptive brother, who is presumed to have died in the closing of the sea. Miriam is last seen leading her people in song with her signature tambourine.
- Director Brenda Chapman briefly voices Miriam when she sings the lullaby to Moses. The vocal had been recorded for a scratch audio track, which was intended to be replaced later by Sally Dworsky. The track turned out so well that it remained in the film.
- She is seven years older than Moses and four years older than Aaron.
- Her husband was either named Caleb or Hur. Her son's name was also either Caleb or Hur. It's still unknown who is exactly who. But Hur is usually portrayed as her son and Caleb as her husband.
- In most adaptations of the Moses story, the queen spots Miriam after finding Moses and is kind to her. Miriam then asks if the queen will need a nurse for her new child, offering the aid of Yocheved. The queen accepts the help, seemingly not knowing that the two are related.