Author’s Notes on The Lion King 3: Tanabi's Return, After the Union, Cracks in the Ice, and Simba's Pride: The Road Less Traveled
Akril here, writing to you more than four years after my first TLK fanfic ever, The Lion King 3: Tanabi’s Return, was released into the wilds of the Internet. I’m writing this to give people who are new to the TLK fandom (or new to TLK fan fiction) a better understanding of my stories, and the fan mythos they are based on.
Let’s get one big thing out of the way first: The Lion King 3: Tanabi’s Return (TLK3:TR for short) is old. Positively ancient. I wasn’t the same person I am now when I wrote that story. I had just stumbled into the fandom after seeing “The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride” with a renewed passion for drawing in the TLK “style”, and a feeling of amazement upon discovering an entire world of TLK fans.
However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that SP wasn’t that hot. Something was seriously wrong with Simba, in both appearance and behavior, and Nala’s eyes…what were they thinking?? Not only that, but a whole troop of strange-looking anti-Simba lionesses magically materializes out of nowhere, headed by a lioness who is apparently Scar’s widow, who wants her son (who isn’t Scar’s offspring) to “take his place”. Changing the entire ceremony that took place at the end of TLK and having the cub with the golden color that only appeared on two of the males in TLK turn out to be female was just the tip of the iceberg when it came to all the things in SP that struck me as being terribly wrong.
So what did I do? First, I read most of the TLK fanfic that was already out there (which, believe it or not, there was a great deal of), including Chronicles of the Pride Lands, by John Burkitt and Dave Morris. Most of these stories were written before SP, and I found some of them very interesting. I was especially intrigued by the character of Tanabi, Simba’s son, who would appear in one or two stories, but never having much of a personality or a major part.
I started thinking about him, as well as about all of the oddities in SP…Nala’s blue eyes, the differences between not only the presentations of the cubs at the end of TLK and the start of SP, but the cubs themselves (the SP cub is really big compared to the TLK one), Simba’s paranoid, overprotective behavior around his daughter, his exiling Zira and her minions for no real reason, and his neglecting to select a male heir and/or have Kiara betrothed to one.
With a stretch of the imagination, I felt that all these things could be connected to one major, yet undocumented event: the disappearance of Simba’s son. I quickly whipped up a plot in which he was kidnapped shortly after his presentation by a close friend of Zira’s, whose longing for a cub of her own drove her to kidnap the king’s only son. It seemed like a great idea to me at the time, one that would give Simba a very good reason to exile Zira and the ones that supported her (since they would certainly be the first on his list of suspects), explain Simba’s over-protectiveness and how Nala’s eyes that changed from green to blue with grief, as well as a few other minor things. A more dramatic, tragic theory would be that Tanabi was simply killed by Zira, but that was a little too woeful a path for me.
Since I was planning a story that focused on Tanabi, I also was intent on giving him a personality and a physical appearance, so that the reader could really picture what he looked like. I made him nearly identical to Kiara, with a swept-back, red mane like Mufasa, and ears that, unlike his father’s, didn’t lose their dark rims as he reached adulthood. His personality was everything that Kiara wasn’t, thoughtful, calm, controlled, and very confused when it came to love. Just the thing, I thought, to bring balance to the Pridelands.
I might’ve gone a little over the top by making Tanabi a “demigod”, but I must admit, a character that can see auras makes for some interesting situations. I got the idea from a “true story” about a boy who could see auras and ended up saving his mother’s life after he saw a red spot in her aura that turned out to be a tumor on her lung. Tanabi’s optical ability is both a blessing and a curse, since he can never see living things as others do.
Monah, the lioness who kidnapped Tanabi, also had a palpable personality. I never was sure why I put an “h” on the end of her name. It might’ve been to make the name look more “balanced” or possibly more “exotic”, but whatever my reason was, her name has been spelled that way ever since its conception. I made her color even darker than Scar’s, which at first glance, can lead one to believe that she has a “dark” nature, which is only partially true. I made her a secretive, mysterious, and at times, puzzling character. Her infertility and longing for offspring were enough to eventually cause her to steal Tanabi from his family and flee the Pridelands. Though I originally had her leave with several other lionesses, it seems more appropriate if she had left alone, since solitude is also a major element in her personality.
Being the impulsive youngster I was back then, I wasted no time in cranking out this great “masterpiece.” Unfortunately, I still had some “problems” with some of the SP characters, Kiara and Kovu in particular. Kiara struck me as an airheaded flibbertigibbet, and Kovu was even worse. He goes from scheming killer to all-around nice guy in the space of a few hours (in the movie’s timeframe), who, in spite of being brave enough to rescue Kiara from a raging fire, when he is being exiled he can’t even summon up enough courage to tell Simba that he loves his daughter, let alone stand his ground and plead his innocence.
Yes, I had issues with Kovu, which more or less explains why I treat him the way I do in TLK3:TR. I’ve gotten over my blind hatred of him now, but I’m still anything but crazy about him, and I still don’t like the idea of him being Simba’s heir. Now that I look back on it, I’m sorry I treated him so badly, and I’m even more regretful about having Simba and Nala die at the end of TLK3:TR. I’m not entirely sure why I did that (I might’ve had issues with Simba too because of the way he behaved in SP). It might’ve been to add closure to the story, but it’s still a bit much (as is the manner of their death. TLK has always been a bit mystical, but the way I did it was overkill). And I’m still not sure why I had Kizazi and Nani (Kovu and Kiara’s son, Tanabi and Vitani’s daughter) be betrothed. (I think I might be able to blame CotPL’s family tree for that, since it makes Mufasa and Sarabi cousins as well.)
Some time after TLK3:TR, I decided to write a “companion story” called After the Union, which was told mostly from Monah’s POV. It acts as a prequel, a sequel and an “interquel” all at once, since it begins and ends after TLK3:TR, but it is mostly Kiara and Monah talking and reminiscing about events in their past. Since the only backstory TLK3:TR got was a lengthy synopsis at the beginning (with the pre-TLK material borrowed from the CotPL stories), it seemed appropriate to write something to “fill in the gaps”, touching on Monah’s relationship with Zira and Kiara’s limited knowledge of her brother. I admit there’s a bit of Kovu-bashing in this story too, but it’s much more subtle (except when Monah goes on her tirade).
A few months later, I wrote Cracks in the Ice, which is basically a tale that tries valiantly to explain how Vitani wound up bearing Tanabi’s cub, and not much else, except showcase another one of Tanabi’s “powers”, which was originally created just for this story. It’s not that bad, though.
The next story that I wrote was quite different from its predecessors. It doesn’t take place after or during TLK3:TR. In fact, it takes place in a completely different world. It’s a story where Tanabi DOESN’T get kidnapped, Kiara has an equally bratty brother to contend with, Nala’s eyes are the same color they were in TLK, Zira and her minions aren’t exiled for no reason, Nuka doesn’t die before his time, Kovu’s behavioral changes are credible, Vitani gets some serious character development, and best of all, Simba gets some reliable babysitters.
Simba’s Pride: The Road Less Traveled is basically a revamped SP where a lot of things are different from the film, but many of the scenes parallel the ones in SP. Sure, it’s hardly perfect, but it’s a heckuva lot better than TLK3:TR and its two companion stories in many ways. I made sure to treat all the characters better in this story (yes, even Kovu), and give some of them the attention they deserved. Monah is still part of the cast, but her relationship with Tanabi is still a close one, even though she has let him stay with his family…in this world.
So if SP:TRLT is so good and the other three stories are a bit of an embarrassment for me, why don’t I just delete them and be left with a proverbial blank slate consisting of nothing but my latest work? Well, I want to give everyone who comes across my stories an idea of how I started out as an author of fanfic. We probably all had awkward starts on the Internet, and I’d like to keep work from my “early days” intact, so that I might remind myself of it at times when pride starts getting the better of me.
In conclusion, if you really want to get an idea of my earlier flawed, impulsive work, go ahead and read The Lion King 3: Tanabi’s Return and its “companion” stories, After The Union and Cracks In The Ice. For those of you who aren’t as eager to read fan fiction where Kovu isn’t treated very kindly, ATU and CITI are quasi-standalone stories that can be read without reading TLK3:TR beforehand, although you might miss a little. However, if you want to read what I consider my best work, give SP:TRLT a try. But remember, there are many, many other stories out there based on The Lion King. If my story isn’t your cup of tea, you will certainly find another story that is.