THE LION KING (1994) is a Disney animated film about a young lion’s quest to become king.
12/08/09 | Film

The Lion King

by Steve Himmer

None of us remembers the how or the why of the lion’s arrival. None of us remembers the when. Did his gleaming marble temple rise first, erected in anticipation, or did we build it by his command? There is only this to go by: the lion’s teeth are bone white, his temple white, too, and each is as fierce as the other.

We’ve lined up each morning forever to offer him our bloody tithes—a cat or a dog, a fresh side of beef, a meager and mangy rat from those willing to risk the admonishment of bitten-off fingers (never hands, never limbs, never those parts of ourselves we might need to deliver his next day’s meat). Spent our lives drawn up short at the feet of the lion on our ways to work or to school or to wherever the lion allows us to go after renewing our weakness before him.

Who was that butcher a few years ago, the one who refused to bring meat to the lion? His name escapes us already but we remember the lion at work on his body, his face, those teeth and those claws tearing into his flesh and we remember the cat later cleaning his paws with a long lazy tongue, licking himself on the sidewalk outside that poor, dumb, devoured butcher’s shop. The lion napped in the sun as we crossed through his hot cloud of digestion, and the next morning we lined up as always to offer our offerings as if he could be hungry already after eating so much of a very large man.

And the mother who proffered her child to his slavering jaws while the rest of us watched, more guilty for not being surprised than for not intervening. She’d lain awake night on night the way all parents do, afraid the lion’s yellow gaze would fall on her child some morning and swallow their plans for the day, disrupting birthdays and doctor’s appointments and unexceptional trips to the store, and she couldn’t wait any longer. Her wan, washed-out face stared off empty as she extended the babe in her arms, so defeated and devoured already that it almost meant nothing when the lion ate her instead of the child, left the infant wide-eyed on the sidewalk and quiet until someone else carried him or her off.

Or the troublesome stranger who asked why we suffer the lion, lose our pets and our pinkies and un curfewed kids when he takes to roaming our streets, when he lurks behind laundromats and newspaper boxes and sleeps under our porches where his snores set our houses to rumbling, and why we don’t simply dispatch him. You asked and we answered with whispers and hush and tomorrow we’ll carry your butcher-twined body to the gleam of the blood-darkened dais, an extra large offering in case one of your questions was gathered by the lion’s large ears, because we don’t know what worse appetites might take his place.