The Lion King was the first movie I ever saw in the cinema. At its heart, it is a story of the relationship between a father and a child–a bond that continues to grow even after Mufasa’s tragic and untimely death.
Fathers play a huge role in our lives. To me, the concept of family goes beyond the people who we are related to by blood. In The Lion King, Mufasa and Scar are perfectly juxtaposed against each other. Scar is a power hungry tyrant willing to kill his own kin to advance his political agenda whereas Mufasa is a brave and exemplary leader who will stake his own life to protect the ones he loves.
“There is more to being king than getting your way all the time.” -Mufasa
Leadership and Tyranny: A Tale of Mufasa and Scar
As a former teacher, I am no stranger to absent fathers and dreadful parenting. I know of fathers who physically abuse their kids. I know of fathers who are alcoholics and emotionally unavailable. I know of fathers who cheat on their wives and set a terrible precedent for both their sons and their daughters. I know of fathers who are financially irresponsible. I know of fathers who are simply not there when their children need them.
Over the years, I have heard many people lament that family is everything–but for those who deal with abuse and neglect on a daily basis–family is a battlefield. A source of pain that masquerades as love. An ongoing cycle of abuse with no escape in sight. Father’s Day is a source of longing for a bond that one will never have–not an occasion to celebrate.
“I am the king, I can do whatever I want.” –Scar from The Lion King
Under Mufasa’s leadership, Pride Rock is a thriving animal kingdom where the Circle of Life is respected. Under Scar, it deteriorates into a drought-stricken wasteland where personal petty ambitions take priority over the collective good of all.
A father and king is someone who takes responsibility and sets a good example for those under their care. They understand and forgive childish foibles. After all, they were young once and not immune to the brashness that comes with inexperience. Leaders guide you and teach you as you become who you are meant to be. They do not abuse their power but understand that with power comes responsibility.
“It’s the lionesses’ job to do the hunting.”―Scar to the hyenas when they complain about their hunger
Theft and Injustice
Motivated by envy and greed, Scar sets a trap for Simba by luring him into a stampede. Scar proceeds to inform Mufasa of Simba’s predicament, knowing that the king will rush to save his son. Mufasa saves Simba but ends up hanging off a cliff in the throes of life and death. Scar refuses to help Mufasa and sends him falling to his death.
For children who do not have a strong father figure, life can feel like driftwood out in the sea with no strong anchor. That person who was supposed to mould you and groom you has instead let you down repeatedly. I know parents who would rather throw their children under the bus than take responsibility for their well-being. If that isn’t bad enough, I have seen countless instances of parents blaming their children for their own shortcomings.
In the movie, Scar convinces Simba that Mufasa’s death was Simba’s fault. Scar advises Simba to leave the kingdom and never return. Simba goes into exile burdened by the misplaced guilt of Scar’s wrongdoings. During that journey, Simba tries to forget who he is, but he simply cannot.
“A king’s time as ruler rises and falls like the sun. One day, Simba, the sun will set on my time here, and will rise with you as the new king.” -Mufasa
The Circle of Life
There is a running theme of birthright in The Lion King. Simba was born to be the king of the Pride Lands. At the same time, Simba’s place on the throne is earned–not simply by the virtue of his birth, but through the perilous journey that moulds his character before he rightfully takes the throne. As a young cub, Simba is brash and desperate to prove himself. He has no understanding of responsibility and ‘just can’t wait to be king’.
I believe the ‘Scars’ of this world are not to be hated, but rather forgiven and pitied. In coveting what is not his, Scar loses everything and so much more. The Circle of Life eventually corrects itself, returning everything to its rightful order. Mufasa teaches Simba to respect nature’s cycles because its power is even greater than that of a king’s.
“Everything you see exists together in a delicate balance. As king, you need to understand that balance and respect all the creatures, from the crawling ant to the leaping antelope.”–Mufasa
The Lion’s King may be a children’s movie, but it speaks volumes about adult issues. It is a tale of power and politics, leadership and tyranny, and of remembering and never abandoning who you are.
“You have forgotten who you are and so have forgotten me. Look inside yourself, Simba. You are more than what you have become.” –Mufasa from The Lion King
The 2019 Retelling
I’m not a big fan of watching movies on the small screen, but bring me to a theatre and I will gladly sit there with popcorn that I will finish during the advertisements before the movie even starts. In 2019, Disney released a photorealistic computer-animated remake of the 1994 Lion King movie.
I’m an adult in my 30s. When I asked my friends and family to go see the movie with me, there were no volunteers. They wrote it off as a children’s story. One fine day, I finally found a brave soul willing to go with me. I won’t lie–I cried during the movie. As an adult, I was able to read between the lines and see the deeper meaning behind what is seeming a fairytale.
The Lion King warns us of the dangers that inevitably exist in life and reveals deep truths on the impact that unrelenting greed has on society.
But the heart of the movie is Simba’s relationship with Mufasa. It is a bond of love that survives death and will never perish. It is a tale that reminds us that those who love us are forever by our side and will never abandon us. They are always with us, their teachings and sayings travelling through the universe and reaching us exactly when we need them. We are all part of the Circle of Life.
“Simba, let me tell you something my father told me. Look at the stars. The great kings of the past look down on us from those stars.” -Mufasa
What was your favourite moment from The Lion King? What did it teach you about the father-child relationship? On this Father’s Day, we look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments below.