Reddit is a perfect breeding ground for Disney theories (a fact previously proven true with The Frozen Theory).
This time the proposal comes from reddit-user, OstrichMadeOfClay:
‘In The Lion King, Mufasa is responsible for the drought.’
I thought this was worth exploring in more than 57 words, and the longer I looked, the more sense it made. So I present to you:
The Lion King Theory
Anybody who has been at least semi-concious since the mid-90s will know that the message at the heart of The Lion King is to respect the ‘Circle of Life’ and the life-cycles of nature.
During a classic early scene, Mufasa tells Simba that ‘a king’s time as ruler rises and falls like the Sun’ and that one day ‘the Sun will set on my time here, and will rise with you as the new king.’
He (of course) also says that when lions die they become food for the grass, which is eaten by the antelopes, so they ‘are all connected in the great Circle of Life’.
This is one of two ways Mufasa hints at what he will become when he dies.
The another is after Simba’s eventful trip to the elephant graveyard, when Mufasa show him the night sky and explains that ‘the great kings of the past look down on us from those stars. So whenever you feel alone, just remember, those kings will always be there to guide you, and so will I.’
But when Mufasa dies he doesn’t follow the traditional path.
Instead of going to join what Timon bluntly calls ‘a bunch of royal dead guys watching us’ he stays a bit closer to Earth to right the imbalance caused by Scar’s treachery. And he does this in four ways.
Mufasa causes the drought
Mufasa’s tragic death is followed by a crippling drought.
This has two results: first, it punishes Scar for his betrayal and makes it near-impossible for him to rule in place of Mufasa; second, it eventually causes Nala to widen her search for food, which is how she finds Simba.
Which brings us to two:
Mufasa manipulates the clouds
When Nala’s tale of how bad things are at Pride Rock doesn’t convince him to return, Mufasa pulls out the big guns.
First Mufasa appears to a certain loyal baboon, who offers to take Simba to his father.
Rafiki then shows Simba a reflective pool and teaches him a metaphorical lesson about Mufasa living within him. The irony is that Simba also sees the clouds above him, which is how Mufasa truly appears to Simba.
It’s worth noting that Rafiki acknowledges that this is not how ‘kings of the past’ normally bow out, as he walks up to Simba and semi-flippantly declares: ‘The weather! Very peculiar.’
But it has the desired effect, and Simba himself sees the thematic importance of weather as he says: ‘The winds are changing.’
Indeed they are, because at three:
Mufasa brings the thunder (OK, lightning)
Simba’s dramatic showdown with Scar is accompanied by violent bolts of lightning, which punctuate heated moments of tension in the scene.
It’s almost as if Scar has angered someone, because every lie and threat that comes out of his mouth is answered by a vicious bolt from the sky; and when Scar attacks Simba, a fork of lightning flies incredibly close to them, but redirects towards the dry bushes below, starting a brush-fire. (Of course, lightning is usually attracted to a highest point, so there must be some interference for it to miss a big lightning-rod like Pride Rock.)
Of course, the fires caused by the lightning provide an appropriate backdrop to the film’s climactic scenes; but once the fighting is over, they do requires a fourth act to set things right again:
Mufasa makes it rain
As soon as Scar is defeated, a heavy rain begins to fall; both quelling the fires that engulf Pride Rock, as well as providing nourishment to the now barren landscape.
Perhaps this is Mufasa attempting to compensate for Simba’s task of rebuilding his dry and inhospitable kingdom. Still the rains don’t fall forever, as Simba takes his place as the king of Pride Rock and roars at the heavens…
And balance is restored…
Of course, there are such things as visual metaphors and pathetic fallacy, but I find it amazing that The Lion King is such a rich text that new readings can continue to be pulled from it.
Personally I think it’s a smoother concept than Tarzan being Elsa’s brother or even my own invention that the Disneyverse is one big computer, but what do you think? Was this an intended narrative or is this a through-line being drawn between unconnected dramatic elements?
Is it all just part of the Circle of Life?
(What, like I wasn’t going to play the song?)