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Theology in "The Lion King"

Updated on June 15, 2018
revmjm profile image

Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She posts many articles online that are really Bible lessons.

Disney's long-running Broadway musical "The Lion King" is still a favorite. It has a lot of theology in it, but most people don't recognize it.

"The Lion King" is a coming of age story of Simba the lion cub who grows up before our eyes. In fact, the production has three Simbas: a young Simba, a teenage Simba, and an adult Simba.

Each show has superb acting, elegant costumes, beautiful music, precision dancing and many theological themes.

What is theology?

"Theology" is the study of God and things relating to God. There are many theological references in "The Lion King" from the beginning to the end, in the middle and surely in the final scene.

Whether intentional or unintentional, the theological themes include the following:

  • references to God
  • creation
  • the Bible
  • Christian values and beliefs
  • circle of life (birth, death, and the spirit of the dead)

The Lion King: Circle of Life

The Nativity Scene

The very first scene can be compared to the nativity scene when Jesus was born. All the animals are summoned to Pride Rock to see the newborn cub, much like the animals witnessed the birth of Jesus.

  • The land animals represent the shepherds in the fields.
  • The birds of the air represent the angelic host in the air.
  • The wise baboon lifting up the baby cub represents the wise men.

All the animals bowed down and worshipped and honored the newborn prince because one day he would be king of Pride Land.

Satan in The Lion King

Mufasa was the reigning king, but his jealous brother, Scar, wanted the throne himself. Therefore, he plotted to rid the two people who stood in his way: his brother Mufasa and his nephew Simba.

One day he got Simba alone telling him he had a surprise for him. He told Simba to wait and practice roaring while he went to get his father. In the meantime, Scar planned for Simba to be attacked by hyenas. When Mufasa came to protect his son, Scar pushed the king over the cliff and he was killed. However, he told Simba that it was Simba's fault. Evil Scar instructed Simba to run away and never return. Scar also told the hyenas to go after Simba and kill him, but Simba ran ahead of the hyenas and escaped.

With the two heirs to the throne out of the way, Scar usurped the throne and began to reign himself.

The Prodigal Son in The Lion King

Simba ends up exhausted and sleeping in a wasteland. He is awakened by a meerkat and a warthog who befriends him for years. They live a carefree life called "Hakuna Matata" which means "no worries." Simba is instructed to eat the grass and straw from the ground and live a carefree life like the meerkat and warthog.

Simba puts his past behind him until his friend Nala shows up and convinces him he is king and insists that he return to reign because Scar had allowed Pride Land to become desolate with no food and no water and the people were starving and dying.

At first, Simba refused to go back until he saw an image of his deceased father who told him to acknowledge who he was. Like the prodigal son, Simba "came to his senses." Something rose up in him and he took on a new demeanor. He suddenly realized he was king. So, like the prodigal son, he returned home.

Leaving Home Like Jacob, Joseph and Moses

In the Bible three Old Testament characters fled from their homes like Simba.

  1. After tricking his father to bless him, Jacob left home because he was afraid of his twin brother, Esau whose birthright he had just stolen. He lived in a far away place for many years. He later returned home.
  2. Joseph did not flee from his home, but at the age of 17, his jealous brothers sold him into slavery and he ended up in Egypt. Joseph never returned home, but at the age of 33 when he was second in command, he sent for his family to join him.
  3. Moses killed an Eygptian and fled to Midian to tend Jethro's sheep. He was away from home until God met him at the burning bush and told him to go back home to Egypt to deliver the people out of slavery.

Like Simba, Jacob and Moses returned home. Joseph died but had requested that his bones be returned home.

Do you agree with the theological references that have been pointed out?

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Have you ever seen "The Lion King"?

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Comments

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    • profile image

      Jess 

      3 years ago

      This is an interesting analogy; but I believe the theology in Lion King is more of seeing the beauty in returning to the Earth and the life that ensues. That, and also it's a direct reference to Hamlet.

    • profile image

      Betti 

      3 years ago

      Stands back from the keyboard in amanemezt! Thanks!

    • peanutroaster profile image

      peanutroaster 

      6 years ago from New England

      All of these stories get told over and over...

    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      6 years ago from Richmond, VA

      Peanutroaster, thanks for reading and commenting on "Theology of The Lion King." You, too, have done a great analogy. Consider writing a hub about it and we can link the two articles.

      I saw that The Lion King has some similarities to Shakespeare's "Hamlet." However, I decided to stick with the bibical similiarities.

    • peanutroaster profile image

      peanutroaster 

      6 years ago from New England

      Saw the play in Ft. Meyers Florida excellent. Lion King retells the tale of the young soon to be king who tries to shirk his destiny just like Shakespeare's King Henry IV. In Shakespeare's version the character of Falstaff is interchangeable with the fun loving mere cat and hog characters.

      Disney makes no secret of the fact that TLK is very similar to Shakespeare's "Hamlet" in a large number of instances. Some parallels include:

      A self-doubting, sorrowful hero

      The hero's father, the rightful king, murdered by the hero's evil brother, who then usurps the throne

      Exile of the hero when he realizes his life is in danger (from his uncle in one case, from the pride in the other)

      Company for the hero in exile in the form of two comic, buffoonish characters

      The ghost of the hero's father appears to him and commands him to take back what is rightfully his

    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      6 years ago from Richmond, VA

      Thanks, Dave, for reading and commenting on "Theology in The Lion King." The Broadway production was here in Richmond for two weeks for 32 sold-out shows. I went with my family and enjoyed it very much.

      Yes, I have been quite busy writing for other sites and loving the experience, but I never gave up my Hubpages account.

      I guess you could call me the "prodigal daughter." (smile)

    • Dave Mathews profile image

      Dave Mathews 

      6 years ago from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA

      revmjm: It's been a long time since I've read from you in Hub or in comments. Guess you've been busy with other things. Welcome Back!

      Thank you for showing the analogy between the Lion King and the various stories of the Bible. Not everyone could make the various distinctions in the show as you have.

    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      6 years ago from Richmond, VA

      Thanks, Matt, for reading "Theology in The Lion King" and for voting UP!

    • Matt Stan profile image

      Matt Stan 

      6 years ago from Colorado

      Great hub, voted Up! Thanks

    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      6 years ago from Richmond, VA

      Thanks a lot SubRon7 for your kind remark. I enjoyed "The Lion King" very much here in Richmond, VA.

    • SubRon7 profile image

      James W. Nelson 

      6 years ago from eastern North Dakota

      Very beautiful hub, Revmjm, and the costumes were very believable as animals, even though the people were obvious too. Long time no see, my friend, you were one of my first followers.

    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      6 years ago from Richmond, VA

      Reginald, thanks for reading "Theology in The Lion King." I saw the play Wednesday night. I enjoyed it very much and have been reflecting on it since then.

    • Reginald Boswell profile image

      Reginald Boswell 

      6 years ago from Alabama

      Enjoyed reading this Hub voted up!

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