The Lion King is a treasured movie that spans across time. The Lion King is a well-loved movie that has been a part of countless children’s childhood. Even adults to this day would still watch it. The Lion King (1994) is a classic musical film that has also been re-released as a live-action film in 2019. The Lion King is a story of love and loss. It is also a story that aims to connect with the audience’s hearts through the guise of animals. There are many things adults and children alike can learn from this masterpiece of a movie.
Many may not know of this, but one of the highest-grossing films because it is based on the African Legend- a true story. This true story is based on Sundiata Keita, the founder of the Malian Empire. The Malian Empire was the biggest in West Africa from 1235 to 1255.
Who is Sundiata Keita?
Sundiata Keita was the first ruler and the founder of the Malian Empire in the 13th century. The Malian Empire was known for their values and their wealth. Their values had been considered progressive, especially for its time. Sundiata Keita means the ‘lion prince.’ Keita was born to a noble family. When the Ghana empire at that time had tried to put in place trade restrictions, Keita did not take too kindly to it and began to revolt. Eventually, he had managed to unite West Africa’s people and go against the Ghana King at that time.
Under Sundiata Keita, the Malian empire had created one of the first outlines/ charters for human rights. As mentioned before, his values had been considered progressive and ahead of their time. In addition, Keita had established trade routes and had a significant amount of copper and gold, so the empire had grown wealthy.
The human rights charter had been passed down orally rather than written. This human rights charter was known as the Manden Charter and had talked about peace, education, abolishing slavery, and so on.
The Lion King and Sundiata Keita.
Many similarities are drawn between the film The Lion King and the life of Sundiata Keita. Of course, many aspects of their stories differ, but the primary narrative seems constant.
For example, the story begins with the father of Keita, who in comparison would be Mufasa (Simba’s father) in the movie. Keita’s father, the King, had been given a prophecy where he would learn that his son (Sundiata Keita) would grow to become a great king. As a result of this, it would seem that the King would favor his son Keita.
As Keita grew up and became more recognized, there seemed resentment brewing from the paternal half-brother and his mother because they wanted the throne. This part of Keita’s story again compares to the movie, where Simba’s uncle, Mufasa’s brother, Scar, is also seen to show resentment and wants the throne for himself.
When Keita’s father passed away, there were talks of foul play and that it had been caused intentionally. Fearful of their lives, Sogolon, Keita’s mother, runs away with Keita and her other children. As a result, the kingdom and the Mandinka people are left in disarray. The domain, therefore, falls into the hands of an oppressive King. This instance can be seen in the movie, where after Mufasa dies, Simba runs away, and Scar takes over the Pride Lands. Scar’s ruling is oppressive, and he is a tyrant to his pride, just as depicted in Sundiata’s tale.
While in exile, word had reached him that they needed their ruler back to take back his rightful place on the throne. Sundiata begins to form alliances and builds an army to take down the tyrant that is ruling his people. This again is seen in the movie as well. Though Simba is reluctant initially to come back home and believes he was the reason for his father’s (Mufasa) death, he eventually does return home. He returns home with allies of his own to help take back his land from Scar.
As mentioned above and with various instances, the main narrative has been similar. While there are significant differences in the story, and a lot of the elements of the story are different, we can see where the inspiration has come from. Simba and Keita share their similarities; though minimal, it is easy to see how they are the main heroes of their story. One of the differences that we can also notice is how their sentiments have differed. This has more likely to do with how the story of the movie is constructed.
Scar has been portrayed as a tyrant of the Pride Lands who has killed his flesh and blood to take the throne. While the familial relations differ between the film and the tale, we come to understand how resentment has created these situations and led to the breakdown of a once pleasant land.
Mufasa and Keita’s father also share the same similarity but have their differences as well. Mufasa, known as the benevolent King, is seen through the movie teaching Simba the ways and life. On the other hand, Keita’s father has shown favor towards Keita after learning about the prophecy.
The Lion King and the life of Sundiata Keita are similar in many ways, but their distinctions are made quite clear. The kind of sentiments evoked while watching the movie may not be the same when reading the story of Sundiata Keita. The Lion King is a movie that was initially meant to entertain children and hope to learn something out of the film along the way. Therefore, while there are instances that are similar to the story of Sundiata Keita, the movie may not be entirely based on him. Having mentioned this before, the film’s inspiration (or even slightly based) can be seen clearly because of how the story was structured.