The Lion King: The Past Can Hurt

Saturday night my husband and I finally got to see the new version of “The Lion King” at the drive in to fulfill our tradition of at least one drive in movie during the summer.  We typically see kids movies at the drive in and “The Lion King” in particular is one that’s close to both of our hearts and we were very excited.

I remembered more of the movie than I thought I would, and we were actually pretty happy that they stuck pretty close to the original script.  Pretty much our only disappointment was that Rafiki didn’t wack Simba over the head with his walking stick when he’s trying to literally knock sense into him.  But I digress, this post is about the grief aspect of the movie so if you have never seen either version of “The Lion King” this is your notice for spoiler alerts.

Are you gone if you haven’t seen it? Ok here we go.

Some sort of grief theme seems to be a part of every Disney movie, which I love.  Grief is such a non-topic in our society, so I enjoy that they try to integrate it to normalize it. I’m not sure that they do this on purpose, but right now I’m choosing to give them that much credit. In “The Lion King”, Mufasa dies early in the movie due to his power hungry brother wanting to get rid of Mufasa (the king) and Simba (the future king) so that he could be king.  Scar in turn tells Simba that he is to blame for Mufasa’s death and Simba runs away from the pride.  WHAT? How horrible do you have to be to put that on a person? But as I was thinking while watching the movie that kids often blame themselves for people dying.

Kids are still egocentric in development so they truly believe that their simple actions affect the whole world.  I remembered that I often blamed myself for my dad’s death as a child.  It was not my fault, and my rational brain knew that, but as a 9 year old, this is where my brain was able to process to try to input where this information should go as I tried to make sense of what happened.  This was my thought process: My dad had his first heart attack after he had shoulder surgery because he had broken his shoulder when he fell in the shower getting ready for my dance recital.  So obviously, if he had not been getting dressed for my dance recital he would have been fine.

Another point that kept resonating with me during the movie was that the past can hurt. Timon and Pumba decide to deal with this by just forgetting the past and they teach Simba this slightly negative coping skill.  Simba earlier in the movie had been taught by his father that the past has an affect on the future.  You can see Simba struggling with this when Nala finds him in his desert oasis and tries to get him to come home.  Rafiki even works his tree magic to try to remind Simba of his past and to get him to go back to Pride Rock.

While Simba is with Rafiki, Mufasa speaks to Simba in this always awesome cloud storm Disney magic.  In the original movie, Mufasa says to Simba that he has forgotten his father.  Simba disagrees but Mufasa says back to him, “You have forgotten who you are, therefore you have forgotten me.”  It’s not in the remake which I was upset about, but the theme of the conversation was still there.  Mufasa was reminding Simba that remembering these things that hurt us help us in the future.  When we remember our loved ones on a day to day basis we continue to grow and learn who we are.  They stay tucked into our daily lives and sometimes, yes it hurts.  But we can learn and grow from the things they did or said to us as we walk through our lives.  So here, we learn that leaning into the pain, allowing it to come when it needs to, remembering our loved ones even when it hurts, can make a large impact on our life.  For Simba, this was gaining the courage to return to Pride Rock, face his Uncle Scar, and well you know the rest.  I also think about the courage he had to have to face his mother and other pride members again knowing he was carrying so much shame with him thinking he had been the one that had killed his father.


If you haven’t seen the remake yet, I recommend it fully! There are several grief themes I think this movie touches on, and I hope to hear about what your favorite parts are and what you took away from the movie’s message.

Published by Bryna Talamantez

LMFT specializing in grief counseling for children, teens, adults and families.

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