The Lion King is another movie that needs no introduction. Like Toy Story and Mary Poppins, it is a staple which holds together the childhoods of millions of people around the world. Based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the Lion King has launched two sequels, a remake, and a hit Broadway and West End musical that is still going strong today. It is also a great film that focuses on mentoring the young and moulding them into future leaders.
Heir to the Throne
The protagonist of the film is Simba, a young lion cub born to the king and queen of the pride. Being a child, Simba is of course impatient, hyperactive, and is easily distracted. His father, Mufasa, teaches Simba about his future role, claiming that “everything the light touches in our kingdom” and that one day “the sun will set on my time here, and will rise with you as the new king.” When Simba inquires on a patch of shadowed land, Mufasa orders his son never to go there.
Naturally, Simba is excited about being king and believes it means he can do whatever he wants, though Zazu, Mufasa’s right-hand bird, tries to correct him. Simba also disobeys his father and ventures into the shadowy land, the Elephant Graveyard, earning him a strong ticking off from Mufasa afterwards.
Straight away, the film shows that although his elders are teaching him valuable lessons, Simba chooses to not listen to them, instead listening to his uncle, Scar. Easily manipulated, Simba places himself in dangerous situations that later lead to a very dramatic event.
A Life of Lies
Tricked by Scar into a gorge, Simba is faced with a stampede of wildebeests that ultimately ends in Mufasa dying after Scar betrayed him. Simba is traumatised by this and believes himself responsible, fleeing the pride lands, and getting found by Timon and Pumbaa, two best friends living in a jungle paradise and who teach him to let go of his worries. Unfortunately for him, Simba meets his childhood sweetheart Nala again and learns the tyranny Scar is imposing as king.
Although some might criticise how quickly Simba seemingly recovered from his father’s death, the fact he refuses to return and stop Scar shows how deep the event has effected him, damaging his mental state and is torn between doing what is right for him and right for the lion pride.
Simba is an echo of those who experience loss, especially at a young age. People will often chose to block out the harsh reality by throwing themselves into happier activities and distractions. However, not everyone can do this and fall into sadness and depression. It would be interesting to see what would have happened if Timon and Pumbaa hadn’t found Simba.
Long Live the King
With Rafiki the baboon’s assistance, Mufasa’s spirit comes to Simba, telling his son he has forgotten who he was and therefore forgetting his own father. Simba is more than who he currently is and must take his place as the rightful king. Simba is left now determined to face Scar, but he is also scared of his past. Rafiki offers some wise words; Simba can either run away from his past or learn from it.
This relates to many of us. All of us have made mistakes in the past, some bigger than others. They can be hard to accept, but learning from them can lead to success, because people learn from their mistakes, allowing them to become more confidence and intelligent. Simba’s mistake was that he fled, when he should have stayed.
Having learnt from his mistake, and with his new found courage and help of his friends, Simba topples Scar and claims the throne, leading the pride into a hopeful future and becomes a father, continuing the Circle of Life.
The Lion King is a film that has created not only wonderful mentors, but also a brilliant young person (or should that be animal?). Simba’s adventure from childhood prince to adult king captures the experiences many go through in their early years.
It teaches us to always listen to your elders (apart from evil lion uncles), to never give into your mistakes, learn from the past and use it for the future, and never forget who you are or where you come from. Too many people fail to confront these lessons and this sets them up for failure.
But if you choose to forgive yourself, be proud of who you are, and take the advice of others and heed their warnings, you can become a leader the likes of which Mufasa and Simba were and are.