Having recentley been granted more time with my son, I have become more familiar with Disney. I always liked the Lion King, but I’ve always had my suspicions about it’s content. ‘What?’ I hear you say. ‘Its the Lion King, what are you suspicious about?’
Well, I’ll tell you. And while I do, I’ll assume you’ve seen it….
On one level it’s simply a metaphore of the passing of the seasons. We begin the film in the summer, when the sun is at its highest, and all is well on Pride Rock. We then move into Autumn, with the death of the King and the casting into the wilderness of his heir. To winter, as Scar takes over the pride and all is barren. On to Spring, as the young King grows, and back to Summer as he returns to cast out Scar, and bring back plenty to pride rock. The end. Lovely.
But there are far more deep and profound notions hidden in view in this pretty little flick. Shall I tell you? Ok.
The battle of light/dark, or good/evil, is a well told and known story. Which is exactly what the allegory of the passing of the seasons is. One of the best known versions of this is the Ancient Egyptian myth of Osiris and Set. Osiris (light/good) is murdered by his jealous brother Set (dark/evil). There are different versions of this (as there are in every myth), but the jist is that Osiris’ son, Horus, returns and kills Set and becomes King. The best one I’ve come across is where Osiris is killed by Set and his remains scattered across the heavens. In grief Osiris’ wife, Isis, searches for the bits of her dead husband. She manages to find them all, except one bit- his penis, which she then proceeds to recreate out of stone, as you would. She then goes on to have sex with her dead husband and his reconstructed manhood and becomes pregnant, and gives birth to Horus. The original ‘immaculate’ conception. In the ensuing battle with Set, Horus loses an eye. Symbolised, funnily enough, by the eye of Horus. And Osiris’ penis, is now symbolised by the ‘Obelisk,’ the stone pillar in pretty much every city centre in the Western world. The eye of Horus and the Obelisk are two symbols which we pretty much see every day. Maybe it’s just coincidence, but in the Lion King everthing centres around Pride ROCK (Obelisk), and the defeat of Scar, who, boasts a scar across his EYE (Eye of Horus). But I digress. Or do I?
In the Lion King Mufasa’s Jealous brother Scar, orchestrates his murder. Scar takes over as King, only to be defeated by Simba, Mufasa’s son, who then becomes King. For Mufasa read Osiris. Scar, Set. And Simba, Horus. Yes, yes, the details don’t quite fit in some places, but the themes do, and I did say there are different tellings of every myth…
At the beginning of the Lion King, we see the animals (population) gathering to be present at the announcement of the birth of the future King, a Lion (monarchy/elite). As each animal stands (according to its kind/class), the future King is presented to the masses, not by his parents, but by the mad Baboon (the shaman/priest). The animals (population) bow to thier future King (monarchy/elite) and pay homage. With me so far?
This is the bit where we now meet the Lions’ (monarchy/elite) philosophy on life. Which is much like a circle. It goes something like, ‘Look Son, we eat them, we shit on the grass, the grass grows, they eat the grass, they grow, we eat them….’ And so Mufasa imparts his knowledge upon Simba. ‘Everything the light touches is ours (illumination/light/good), but not that dark bit.’ You see for the Lions (monarchy/elite), even in thier perfect balance (control) there is danger in the darkness (ignorance/dark/evil). Illumination= those who know. Darkness= those who don’t. And here is the battle, the eternal struggle, betwixt the two. And the danger is, that those who don’t know, will find out.
And we meet Scar, Mufasa’s jealous brother, who wants to be King. Mufasa is hard, but Scar is clever, so he tricks Simba into going into the darkness in the hope he will get it. So off the kid trots, with Nala and Zazu. Now, what happens here is immense. It is so multi layered as to be rendered too complicated to express. Because in with our Osiris/Set analogy, we come to the next stage. Which, I’m afraid to say, will become the Judeo/Christio line of messiahs and Kings.
Simba and Nala, here, become Adam and Eve. Simba has been warned not to venture into the darkness, or not eat of the fruit of knowledge. Encouraged by impressing Nala, they all go off. Zazu in tow. They ditch the bird (eye of the King) with the help of the animals (masses) and get to the Elephant graveyard (darkness). There, they discover all is not as it seems and scary. And would have been eaten (consumed by the darkness), but the King (the light) turns up and saves them. Again, details and themes.
The three paragraphs above occur at the same time(ish). Its a montage of events that culminate into Simba being tricked into thinking he killed his Father, Simba being exhiled and Scar assuming the throne. Darkness ensues…
(just as an aside, the names of the characters, at least the main ones, are significant I think. I will do no more here, but let you work your own assumptions. Mufasa means ‘King’ in the African Language of Manazoto. Simba means ‘Lion’ in Swahili. Sarabi (Simba’s Mother) means ‘Mirage’ in Swahili. As for Nala and Zazu, I’m at a loss. Rafiki (the mad baboon) is interesting as it is both the Swahili masculine and feminine term for ‘Friend.’ Timon and Pumbaa to follow.)
So, Simba is in the wilderness. Just like many a biblical prophet, and Jesus before him. He nearly dies, but for Timon and Pumbaa, survives. Timon (could be etymologically tied to the Hebrew Tamin- ‘righteousness’, or equally to the greek for ‘esteem), and Pumbaa (which in the African Yoruba language means both ‘big’ and ‘strong’.)
Anyhoo, the three (always a three), grow up,have a laugh, then all of a sudden, a girl appears. She reminds him of his duties/responsibilities etc, but he doesn’t like it. He goes off on one, where he meets the mad baboon, who shows him who he is. Where he comes from. The the Lions, the race of supreme beings, who hold the circle of life at thier grasp. He then returns to take his place as King, with his righteousness, stength etc, and defeats Scar.
At the end of this lovely little flick, the cycle begins Again.
The lions are a supreme race, who lose power to those who do not believe in thier ‘circle of life.’ They then live in despair, until the mad monkey declares the King has returned. There is a war, the messiah prevails, order is returned.
And this is out in 3D tomorrow.
All credit to Karl Thompson.
(Rip it off for free, but credit where its due.)