Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Lion King (1994)


     Today’s article is going to be a little weird. You see, after re-watching “The Lion King” a couple years ago for the first time since I was a kid, I noticed something about the movie that I never would have thought of when I saw the movie as a boy. I made a connection to a well-known story in Scripture. I haven’t read any other critics talk about this, so I’m just going off of my own comparison. So this article is going to probably be a little weird for most of you who have seen this movie repeatedly and probably not thought of the connection. But hopefully, we can look at it together and see something cool.

     Most of you reading have probably already seen “The Lion King”, so I won’t go into too much detail here. In the beginning of the film, following the iconic scene of Simba’s baby dedication of sorts, young Simba is taught by his father Mufasa (voiced by James Earl Jones) all the ways of the Circle of Life. (I’d explain it, but there’s already a song about it, so go take a listen.) Simba is heir to the “kingdom” of that land in Africa following the death of Mufasa. This is upsetting to Mufasa’s brother Scar (Jeremy Irons), who wants to be king and thus hates Simba.

     So one day, Scar sends a group of hyenas stampeding through the Pride Lands, and he ends up running into Mufasa, who is running with Simba for safety. When Simba is not around, Scar lets Mufasa fall from a cliff to his death among the stampeding hyenas. After the stampede, Simba finds himself alone and fatherless, and Scar tells him that because he is still alive, the pride will now blame him for Mufasa’s death. Grief-stricken, Simba runs away and disappears from the Pride Lands for many years.

     Soon, he meets Timon (Nathan Lane) and Pumbaa (Ernie Sabella), a meek rat and warthog in a jungle who teach him their own way of living: the laid-back way of “Hakuna Matata.” (I’d explain that, too, but there’s also a song about this, so go listen to it.) After several years, Simba (Matthew Broderick) grows up to be a mature lion himself. Then one day, he finds another lion there in the jungle: his childhood friend, Nala (Moira Kelly). She tells him that Scar told the pride that he and Mufasa were both killed in the stampede, and being re-acquainted, the two start to fall in love. (Again, there’s a song, so I won’t go in much detail.)

     But Simba, though Nala tells him that he must go back to the Pride Lands, is fearful, angry, and hesitant to return home. He doesn’t want to face his dark past, but Nala tells him that it is his responsibility to go back home and reign as the lion king. Then that night, Simba runs into another familiar face: Rafiki (Robert Guillaume), the monkey that performed Simba’s baby dedication. Rafiki, it turns out, has spiritual connections and tells Simba that he can still speak with his father. Simba then looks into a pool’s reflection and eventually sees Mufasa: it seems that Mufasa’s legacy (or something) lives in Simba still. And afterwards, Rafiki tries to teach Simba by whacking him in the head with his staff.

SIMBA: What was that for?!

RAFIKI: It doesn’t matter. It’s in the past.

SIMBA: Yeah, but it still hurts!

RAFIKI: Oh yes, the past can hurt. But the from way I see it, you can either run from it, or... learn from it.

     Long story short, Simba returns to the Pride Lands, faces off with Scar, reveals the truth of what happened to the pride, and the film ends with Rafiki dedicating the lion cub of Simba and Nala as the future lion king after Simba’s reign.

     So yeah, you’re probably wondering where this Bible story connection comes in. Well, maybe it’s just me, but I immediately started thinking of the story of Moses. After Moses kills an Egyptian and it is made known among the Hebrews, he flees his home in Egypt and tries to start a new life. But after an encounter with God, he decides to go back to Egypt and tell Pharaoh, “Let my people go.” It’s sort of like the situation Simba finds himself in. He’s accused of killing his father, flees for a time, and then has to return home to face Scar after his father’s image appears to him in a pool. Not quite unlike how God made himself known to Moses in the form of a burning bush!

     And along with that, Simba had doubts about returning home in the same way that Moses had doubts about returning to Egypt. But in Exodus 4, the Lord revealed to him that he had nothing to fear: “‘Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.’” (4:11-12) With the help of the Lord, Moses had nothing to fear.

     I love being able to watch a movie and then out of nowhere make a comparison to a story in Scripture! That’s the reason I started “Reel Christianity”, and I’m thankful that God blessed me with this discernment. My prayer for you today is that if you feel God wants to take you in a direction you do not want to go in, you would be at peace knowing that the Lord will be with you always.

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