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Disney studios gives us a distorted view of the story of the Lion King. Simba’s politics are clearly in alignment with its writers – it is well known that history is written by the victors. But what was the true ambition of Simba’s uncle, Scar, and were the ‘Pride Lands’ truly degraded when Simba returned to reclaim the throne? I hope to set things straight in this blog.

Simba’s father, Mufasa, was an arch-conservative who justified order in his kingdom through archaic philosophy. He continually repeated the mantra that, ‘everything has its place’. He used this philosophy to repress the hyenas who were forced to scavenge as outcasts in the unproductive lands of the ‘elephant graveyard’. When Simba asked the reasonable question to his father, ‘why do we eat the antelope?’, Mufasa answered: ‘we eat the antelope to survive, but when we die we become grass and the antelope eats us, thus the circle of life continues’. What he failed to tell Simba is having your throat ripped out by the high-pressure jaw mechanism of a lion is a lot more painful than your decomposed body being masticated in the form of grass.

Scar: a misunderstood visionary.

Scar: a misunderstood visionary.

Scar (actually pronounced Sear) on the other hand was a diplomat; an intellectual who believed in discourse and a more harmonious kingdom where the outcasts, hyenas, would be embraced in a greater Utopian community. Mufasa would never agree to this break in tradition and used his brute strength to keep Scar subjugated. Having no choice, Scar eventually orchestrated the death of Mufasa by organising a stampede of wildebeest that crushed Mufasa. He then banished Simba from the Kingdom when Simba made it clear he would never support his Uncles desire to found a new community based on equality. While this act of murder and banishment is portrayed by Disney as an act of deceit, it was in fact an act of strategic brilliance that was the beginning of a new age of enlightened order in the pride lands.

On taking power Scar immediately invited the banished hyenas into the kingdom. All animals were now able to live as equals within the Pride Lands. Liberated from the conservative rule of Mufasa, some of the herds choose to move on and start their own communities, a move unfairly portrayed in the film as the herds escaping from Scar’s mis-rule. Lionesses were considered equals and were able to hunt for food alongside the males. Herds were encouraged to establish communal gardens in which their own food could be gathered. Dead animals were offered to the carnivores and simultaneously carnivores were encouraged to develop a vegetariain diet.

There were those in the kingdom who were opposed to the revolutionary overturning of the old order and set about undermining Scar’s new order. In particular the baboons, warthogs and meerkats (loyal to the ways of Mufasa) worked as agitators for the old ways and continually undermined Scar’s new utopia in preparation for the return of the exiled king, Simba. It is they who  eventually encouraged the inhabitants of the new order to support Simba’s return, paving the way for the counter-revolution that saw the murder of Scar, the return of the repression of the hyenas and the reestablishment of Mufasa’s conservative rule through his son, Simba.

The Pride Land inhabitants could not cope with the de-centralised utopia achieved by the visionary Scar, and choose instead the order of the old ways where thought and participation were not required. The antelope, it appeared, would prefer to be crushed by the jaws of lions than graze in peace. Of course the Disney account of history presents a land lost to degradation under the leadership of Scar; and the hyenas, in keeping with Mufasa and Simba’s propaganda, are presented as evil rouges. What we are not shown is the brief period of equality and communal living that thrived in the pride lands after the daring revolution instigated by Scar. Instead we are emotionally manipulated by music and imagery that suggests a brief departure from peace and tranquility in the form of Scar’s ‘evil rule’.

It is time the world remembered the extraordinary period of decentralised control and communal living achieved by the work of the visionary, Scar.

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