Disney’s The Lion King: Sundiata in Disguise?
Over the course of this semester many of the literary works that have been read contained some source of message designed to both teach and improve either the reader or society. Amongst this collection of enlightening literary works, there have been a particular few that have illustrated this idea as well as highlighted particular historical facts about a specific civilization. One distinct book that has met both of these general objectives is Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali. Throughout this story the author discusses the life of a young king, and illustrates unique facts about the ancient Mali society. In the process of reading this epic tale, it became clear that many of the characters and defining situations in the story greatly parallel the famous Disney movie The Lion King. Following this realization, an inquiring question arose. Is The Lion King just a reproduction of Sundiata? In focusing on this topic of discussion and comparing both the epic Sundiata and the Hollywood production, The Lion King, the areas where both works coincide with one another will be discovered, highlighted, and later utilized to conclude the origination of the movie. By the end of this analysis Sundiata will be revealed to be the basis of Disney’s The Lion King, evidently conveying the unique characteristics and customs of the ancient Mali civilization and, with the modifications of Disney, modestly raising questions about race and African stereotypes. Sundiata is an epic tale that highlights the life of Mali’s first emperor, Sundiata Keita. Son to North African Malinke ruler Naré Fa Maghan, the young prince faces debilitation, ridicule, and exile throughout the course of his life. Prophesized to be a great king of power and influence, Sundiata conquers his physical, mental, and emotional challenges, prevailing as defender of the Mali citizens when ambushed by neighboring community Sosso. His victorious triumph leads the Malinke nation into a 300-year reign of power and prosperity, establishing the great empire of Mali. Primarily categorized as a legend of both facts and mythological conceptions, Sundiata’s tale presents a number of abstract characteristics about not only his life, but the Mali civilization as well. A great deal of his legend is told from magical perceptions, highlighting a key element of African oral tradition. With much of the African community’s history passed along through the griots, historical storytellers, the mystic nature of Sundiata’s folk tale incorporates animism and mythology that overall accentuates the relation of animated film, The Lion King, to the epic Sundiata. Disney’s The Lion King is a caricature film production about a young cub’s exploration into adulthood and acceptance of his royal destiny (Blaise). Young Simba, born to the great king Mufasa and mother Saraba, starts his amicable life as the young prince of the Pride Lands, but life takes an unfortunate turn when his vicious uncle, Scar, kills Mufasa and forces Simba into exile. During his era of departure, Simba evolves into adulthood and encounters the spirit of his belated father. He is urged to return to his homeland, defeat the evil tyranny of Scar, and retrieve the purity and hope of the kingdom. Portraying much of classic mythology and ancient African folk tales, The Lion King, is a common evolutionary “coming of age” epic (Blaise). Originally the movie is stated to be based upon Shakespeare’s Hamlet and biblical tales of Joseph and Moses, but after engaging in Sundiata, it became very apparent that the resemblance in characters, situations, and even traditions of the...
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