A Lion’s Quest for Destiny
In Walt Disney Pictures’ movie, The Lion King, many principles can be derived from the childish semantics and clever dialogue. This movie can be perceived as a source of family entertainment, but upon analysis it holds a number of moral questions and responsibilities. One consistent subject throughout the entire motion picture is the subject of fate. Fate is alluded to and directly spoken of throughout the songs, character dialogue, and the events within the movie. A fatalist would infer that through music and events presented to the movie’s viewers, a statement is made: No one can escape from what is predestined.
Fatalism is “the view that the future is fixed, irrespective of our attempt to affect it” (“Fatalism”). This means that fate, which is a word also interchangeable with destiny, is a divine providence “that we are powerless to do anything [about]” (Allers). Our actions can’t possibly affect the outcome because those actions are part of the predestined path. Thus, a fatalist would dispute the existence of free will or choice. Because every choice and action is designated before hand, the illusion of choice is presented; but a fatalist is conscious to this faćade and “entails submission to fate” (“Fate”). Therefore when analyzing a text, a fatalist looks at how events or characters of the story fit into a predestined plan. Fatalists also look at roles characters are destined to fill and how they accept or deny their inherent destinies. In short, fatalists look at dimensions of the story as pieces to a puzzle that are designed and tailored to fit together.
The Lion King’s music is a subtle gateway into its attitude towards fate. The movie provides lyrics that both condone fatalism and explain features of it. For example, the movie opens and concludes with the song “Circle of Life,” which is also the theme song of the movie. The song starts with chanting in Swahili, then transposes into English singing:
From the day we arrive on the planet
And blinking, step into the sun
There's more to see than can ever be seen
More to do than can ever be done
There's far too much to take in here
More to find than can ever be found
But the sun rolling high
Through the sapphire sky
Keeps great and small on the endless round. (Rice)
Fatalists would see this stanza as a representation of the complexities of destiny. The sun would be seen as a symbol of destiny or fate. The song provides evidence of this when it states “From the day we arrive on the planet / And blinking, step into the sun.” The song is implying that the moment “we arrive on the planet,” our paths are already predetermined. The “blinking” while “step[ing] into the sun” then represents the illusion of free will. It would seem that the blinking is a result of consciousness or reaction, however it is actually due to the sun’s light, therefore making the statement that fate (the sun) is directly controlling the events (blinking) that partake in the future. These lines also repeatedly refer to the complexities of life. For instance when the song says, “There’s more to see than can ever be seen,” or “More to find than can ever be found,” this provides evidence that life can’t be understood no matter how closely someone looks at it. There is more to the events of life than anyone can comprehend and not even all these events are recognized, therefore the existence of fate. Fate is something that exists to keep the world balanced, because no one can understand all aspects of life. The fact that fate exists and keeps the world going is illustrated when the lines of the song say, “But the sun rolling high / Through the sapphire sky / Keeps great and small on the endless round.” The sun again representing fate is continually moving throughout the sky making transition from day to day possible. This is seen as the divine feature that keeps life, no matter the size or importance, continuing on day in and day out. The Fatalist interpretation of the song is even more evident within the next stanza of the song “Circle of life.” The next stanza of the song states,
It's the Circle of Life
And it moves us all
Through despair and hope
Through faith and love
Till we find our place
On the path unwinding
In the Circle
The Circle of Life (Rice).
A Fatalist would interpret “The Circle of Life” as the interconnections of everyone’s destiny. This is evident because through a Fatalist perspective, the cause of all action is fate, and the song states, “it [the Circle of Life] moves us all.” The “it” is referring to the predestined path illustrated by the Circle of Life. It is the entity that moves and manipulates the rest of us as if we were pieces of clay, molding and placing us wherever it’s plan dictates. The song also alludes to the balancing of characteristics of life included in predestination. It says, “Through despair and hope / Through faith and love / Till we find our place / on the path unwinding” in The Circle of Life, which provides evidence that through the balance of things like hope and despair, and other aspects of life, the path to destiny is forged. The movie’s attitude towards fate can be comprehended even before any actual dialect takes place between the characters. However, when the events of the movie take place, the beliefs represented in this song are made even clearer.
While Simba is still a cub, Mufasa tries to explain the role Simba is destined to fill and the natural order he will have to uphold while overlooking the Pridelands. This conversation serves to educate Simba about the fate to which he must succumb. Mufasa says to Simba, “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” (Allers), which alludes to the fact that Simba can’t escape his destiny. This shows that Mufasa understands and accepts that his destiny is to rule over the Pridelands until the day he dies, which is the day Simba’s destiny is to be fulfilled by taking his father’s place as king.
Fate is also addressed in the movie from a predator vs. prey perspective. Mufasa also demonstrates to Simba his understanding of the correlation between the fates of other living parts of Africa by telling him, “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” (Allers). This is then questioned by Simba when he asks, “But, Dad, don’t we eat the antelope?” (Allers). Simba’s lack of knowledge about the roles every creature has in the Circle of Life shows that he is not yet capable of fulfilling his destiny as the heir to Mufasa’s throne, but Mufasa again tries to educate his son. He replies by saying, “Yes, Simba, but let me explain. When we die, our bodies become the grass. And the antelope eat the grass. And so we are all connected in the great Circle of Life” (Allers). This explains to Simba the same concept presented in the song, that all living beings have fates that are tied to one another and cannot be escaped. Viewers can then see from a biological standpoint, that fate is behind laws of nature, explaining how the origins of the food chain. The Lion cannot escape death even though he has no natural predators. He is then destined to decay into the ground providing fertilizer to grow the grass the antelope eat. Then the antelope are destined to survive off the grass long enough to be eaten by the lion. The two animals are conjoined by fate in a delicate balance. Thus “The succession, to occur in some distant future, is already determined” (Schwalm) and inescapable.
Fate is not only addressed from a predator/prey standpoint, but also as an element of love. Simba and Nala provide evidence that events are predestined even if they seem like results of free will. While both of them are cubs, Zazu comments on the relationship that seems to be developing by saying, “Oh, just look at you two. Little seeds of romance blossoming in the savannah. Your parents will be thrilled …what with your being betrothed and all” (Allers). Zazu is speaking of how proud the cub’s parents will be because Simba and Nala seem to be fulfilling the destiny that “One day [they] are going to be married” (Allers). Needless to say, this is an appalling idea to the lion cubs, and as such is an opinion strongly expressed by both. Nevertheless, Zazu retorts by saying, “Well, sorry to bust your bubble, but you two turtle doves have no choice. It’s a tradition…” (Allers), which helps to illustrate the fact that there is no such thing as free will, or choice; just destiny exists. No matter the lion cub’s feelings for each other as their age’s progress, they will still be forced to wed, which cements the fact that destiny is inescapable.
By now, Simba is starting to get a basic understanding that he is destined to assume his father’s role. This is seen as an epiphany in the movie when Simba is following his father out to a grassy hilltop and steps in Mufasa’s paw print. At that instant, Simba realizes the role as king he is destined to assume. However, because his understanding of fate is elementary, he believes Mufasa as his father will always be right there beside him. This is illustrated when Simba asks Mufasa, “we’ll always be together right?” (Allers). As a result, Mufasa has to further Simba’s understanding of his father’s fate by saying:
Simba, ... Let me tell you something that my father told me ... Look at the stars. The great kings of the past look down on us from those stars ... So whenever you feel alone, just remember that those kings will always be there to guide you ... And so will I. (Allers).
This again illustrates Mufasa’s insight about fate and destiny. It shows that he knows when it comes time for Simba to fulfill his destiny; Mufasa will be there to guide him from the sky, along with the other late kings. He is showing Simba that every king before him has become a guardian in the sky after death, which means that Mufasa too will become subject to the same fate. This concept shows Simba and viewers of the movie alike that fate is again inescapable.
Although fate has been portrayed as something that only has positive outcomes thus far, Scar provides evidence otherwise. Scar believes he is the one destined to the throne, and he thinks he deserves nothing less. In an attempt to claim the throne, Scar stages a Wildebeest stampede that kills Mufasa and cons Simba into thinking it is his fault. With the death of his father weighing heavy on his mind, Simba runs away which is the only thing that saved him from being killed by Scar. This shows that even evil has a role in fate. Scare, who is portrayed as immoral and ill-favored by his black hair and sunken strut, is included in the overall path of destiny, despite his moral efficacy.
Simba then grows up with Timon and Pumba, content with the life he is living. Then Nala appears and urges Simba to “take his place as King” (Wong). In the process of explaining what has happened to the Pridelands, Simba and Nala fall in love as illustrated by the song, “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” After all these years apart, the two lions fall in love, which cements the idea that fate cannot be avoided. However, this encounter with Nala has another effect on Simba; it causes him to question most all aspects of life that his Father taught him. He then sprints through the grassland and runs into Rafiki, who helps him connect with the late Mufasa. Simba calls to his father and Mufasa appears formed by clouds. Mufasa’s voice then echoes,
You have forgotten who you are, and so have forgotten me. Look inside yourself, Simba. You are more than what you have become. You must take your place in the Circle of Life. Remember who you are. You are my son, and the one true king. Remember... (Allers).
With this message, Mufasa once more provides Simba with an explanation of his destiny. Mufasa stresses that Simba must take his place in the Circle of Life to restore balance and that he mustn’t again forget who he is, and what he is destined to do. Because of this intervention, Simba returns to Pride Rock to fulfill his destiny as king. This shows that even after Simba tried to run away from his destiny, fate brought him right back to his predestined path, which provides strong evidence that no one can escape destiny.
When Simba returns to Pride Rock, a battle ensues with Simba and his Lionesses facing Scar and his Hyenas. Simba is forced into the same position in which his Father died, dangling from a cliff, with no one but Scar. However, Simba does not suffer the same fate as his Father. Simba overcomes Scar and vanquishes him from the Pridelands, to be dealt with by the Hyenas he has so cleverly used and betrayed. Rain begins to cleanse the land and Rafiki looks at the pedestal of Pride Rock, then tells Simba, “It is time” (Allers). Rafiki is referring to the fact that it is time for Simba to finally fulfill his destiny and become king. Mufasa’s voice is then heard softly echoing the word “remember” as Simba strengthens his stance and roars to display his dominance over the Pridelands, proclaiming himself king. Then the movie switches to a summer scene in which Simba and Nala are standing on Pride Rock with a newborn son. The song “Circle of Life” is playing in the background. This shows that because of Simba fulfilling his destiny, balance has been restored to life, completing the circle. It also provides evidence that no matter how much someone tries to stray away from destiny; no one can escape from his or her predestined path.
As the song “Circle of Life” points out, “Everything is interrelated and everybody has some sort of responsibility to someone else” (qtd. “Product Information”). This responsibility is determined by fate, as proven by numerous events throughout this movie. It is interesting that a movie geared towards childhood entertainment would entail such a serious subject that contradicts the primary teachings of parents. The “you can do anything you set your mind to” motto echoed by parents is completely contradicted by the “no one can escape fate” theme that is presented by this movie. As a result, viewers are left with a conflict between trusting ability, and trusting to destiny. However, Simba shows that it doesn’t matter the viewers beliefs, because fate delegates how the universe unfolds, therefore every event that is destined to happen, happens regardless.
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