In the first scene of The Lion King where we see Prince Simba as a juvenile lion, he runs off to go wake his father. In the process, we get a look at the sleeping pride... and two mystery cubs: The Mystery Cubs of Pride Rock.

In this above picture, we can see Simba leaping across the sleeping leonines to try and reach his father. If you move your mouse over the image, you will see that two cubs have been circled in red, to bring greater focus to them. Though only seen for a matter of seconds in the film, this reveals that when Simba was a cub there were at least three other cubs at Pride Rock, including Nala. In total, this means that Mufasa's pride consisted of:
  • Lion King - 1
  • Lion Queen - 1
  • Adult Lionesses - 10
  • Adult Lion - 1
  • Juvenile Lionesses - 3
  • Juvenile Lion - 1
We know some names of the pridal lions - Mufasa, Sarabi, Scar, Sarafina, Nala, and Simba. But who are the two other cubs spotted on screen? The cub in the forefront is being held by a lioness (picture right), which the viewer then assumes is Nala when they see her and Sarafina during the Bathing scene. However, there are a number of important differences. Firstly, and most distinctly, Sarafina and Nala have their paw toes coloured the same as their paws. The pictures females here have their toes a lighter shade from the rest of their body (put mouse over the image to see).

The second factor is that during Scar's eulogy when the hyenas come to take over Pride Rock, no other cubs but Nala are shown. This can be explained away by them simply not being present, for one reason or another. However. During the eulogy, there are nine lionesses, excluding Nala. By the time Simba returns from exile, there are seven lionesses, including Sarabi and Nala. This means that two cubs and three lionesses disappeared between Scar's ascent to the throne and the true king's return. The most likely explanation for this is that, as in real life, when a male lion takes over another's pride, he will kill the cubs that are not his so the lionesses will come back into heat.

In an interview with the creators of The Lion King in 2004, Brian Tiemann asked the directors, Rob Minkoff and Roger Allers, who Nala's father was. After a discussion, they acknowledged that her father was either Scar or Mufasa. The fact that the two mystery cubs disappeared after Scar took the throne adds further suggestion that they were cubs of Mufasa and that Scar is Nala's father; she was left alive, unlike the cubs other cubs. The lack of lionesses could be down to death by starvation, dehydration, or them simply fleeing the Pride Lands. But that's not the subject of this essay, so I'll move back on track.

I have researched into who these cubs may be, and I have a likely candidate for either one of them: the lioness cub Babu, from The Lion King: Six New Adventures series, book three (The Vulture Shock). Click the image to on the right to see the full picture; this one has been cropped in order to give her focus. There's not much known about Babu as she only has one line, though it seems she has a giggly sort of personality from both the picture and the text. However, the assumption that Babu is one of the mystery cubs in itself leaves a problem. The Lion King: Six New Adventures, while a nice set of books, are not considered canonical in the grand scheme of things. At the very most, they would count as sub-canon. To those not familiar with such terms, I will demonstrate the ranking order as is widely accepted below:

  • The Lion King, The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride
  • The Lion King on Broadway
  • The Lion King 1/2: Hakuna Matata, The Lion King: Six New
    Adventures, some deleted scenes, all licensed books
  • Fan Fiction
  • Non-Canon, The Lion King's Timon and Pumbaa

1. At the top of the list we have the first two Lion King films, being the primary source and released by Disney themselves.

2. The stage adaption of The Lion King comes in at number two, as only a few minor elements from the film are changed (Rafiki being female, for example) but a lot of non-contradictory content has been added. (On a more personal and off-topic note, do go and see it, especially if you live in the UK. It's well worth every penny.)

3. Following them are any and all Lion King books licensed by Disney, such as The Lion King: Six New Adventures, and book adaptions of the films. Here we also have Hakuna Matata, which is not grouped with the first two films as Hakuna Matata is primarily a satiracal spoof and also contradicts The Lion King in a number of occasions (the Circle of Life fart, the I Just Can't Wait to be King scene, Be Prepared, and the Stampede as examples). Deleted scenes Certain parts that do not contradict the film are (or can be) classed as 'canon', or have the same ranking as the films do.

4. At this position, we have what is known as Fan Fiction; these works either derive from or build upon the world created by The Lion King and Simba's Pride. They are set before the movies, during, or after, they are scenes that explain and elaborate, they show what the author happened at X moment of time. The most well-known fan fiction, Chronicles of the Pride Lands, starts with the birth of Mufasa and Taka, culminating... well, I won't spoil the plot, ending about a year after The Lion King. Or fan-fics can be as simple as Simba and Nala playing about by the waterhole. As a group, fan fiction has no official standing in what 'really' happened, though it doesn't stop them being a good read.

5. Lastly, with no canonical ranking whatsoever, we have the TV series The Lion King's Timon and Pumbaa, as well as all non-canon works. Non-canon works are those that directly contradict any part of The Lion King or Simba's Pride. Generally, it is also considered that any Lion King fan fiction that contains anything to do with humans (lions walking upright, spears, humans themselves, etc) is non-canonical.

Now that is out of the way, things are now summed up in preperation for the big question - who are these mystery cubs?

The most we can do is make an educated guess. For mine, it is that they are the offspring of Mufasa and a Pridelander, they were born around about the same time as Simba (in a pride, when one lioness goes into heat, all capable go into heat also, meaning that the cubs would have to be born soon before/after the young prince), and that they were most likely killed after Scar took the throne. However, there is a more optimistic outlook; the cubs and their mothers could have fled after Scar's eulogy and returned after Simba became king, which explains why the grown-up cubs and adults are absent from the Battle of Pride Rock AND why, in Simba's Pride, there are more lionesses.

In my opinion, this thought is the least likely of the two, but at least there is some hope for the mystery cubs of Pride Rock.