The Lion King and Ancient Egypt

In this post, I would like to compare Mufasa, Simba, and Scar from The Lion King to a popular old myth from ancient Egypt involving Osiris, Horus, and Set. But before even drawing this comparison, I will explain just how much of the Disney movie is based on ancient Egyptian mythology.

At the very beginning of the movie, we’re shown a baboon-like character called Rafiki holding up Simba, the newborn cub, to the Sun. In ancient Egypt, Thoth was depicted as either having the head of a baboon or an ibis. Thoth is also the god of magic, and Rafiki possesses both magical and spiritual abilities in the movie. He’s also portrayed as a lunatic, which is interesting because “lunatic” comes from the word “lunaticus” meaning “of the moon,” and Thoth is known as a lunar deity. Zazu, the bird who acts as a vizier to the king, also plays a similar role to the bird-headed god Thoth. In ancient Egypt, Imhotep was the vizier of the Pharaoh Djoser and was the architect who built the first step pyramid, similar to how the magician Djedi helped the Pharaoh Khufu construct the Great Pyramid of Giza. Imhotep and Djedi were both associated with Thoth.

OK, so now that we’ve safely identified Rafiki and Zazu as Thoth, let’s return to Simba. Firstly, the act of Rafiki holding Simba up to the Sun is symbolic of the the Sun god Ra giving his blessings to the newborn prince. Simba was the son of Mufasa who was destined to one day take over his father’s role as king of the Pride Lands. This made Scar, Mufasa’s brother, jealous because Simba’s birth meant he was no longer in line to become heir to the throne. In ancient Egyptian mythology, Osiris was the primeval king of Egypt in a role similar to Mufasa, while his brother Set murdered him so he could usurp his throne and become king himself. This is exactly what happens in The Lion King when Scar devises a scheme to have Mufasa murdered, but in a way that leads Simba to believe it was his fault. Scar convinces Simba to leave the Pride Lands and never return, setting himself up to become the new king.

Simba, as Mufasa’s son, represents the Egyptian god Horus. Horus was the son of Osiris and Isis, however, he was conceived in an unconventional way. After Set murdered Osiris, he cut his body into pieces and scattered the dismembered parts across Egypt. Isis, with the help of her sister Nephthys, is able to recover Osiris’ body parts, sans the phallus, and reconstructs him with the help of Thoth’s magical powers and Anubis’ embalming abilities. The nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty may have derived from the Osiris myth when considering the parallels of having to put someone’s severed parts back together again. Isis, being a goddess of magic herself, was able to fashion an artificial phallus to complete his resurrection. She then conceives a child, the falcon god Horus, from the newly revived Osiris. Osiris assimilates himself into his son and becomes resurrected in the same way that Nimrod/Baal assimilated himself into Tammuz, the offspring between he and Semiramis. The pharaohs of Egypt were believed to be the living incarnation of Horus, while Osiris, as the god of the underworld, became equated with the deceased king.

In ancient Egyptian mythology, there are two Horus’: Horus the Younger and Horus the Elder. Simba as a cub represents Horus the Younger, while Simba the lion personifies Horus the Elder. After Simba is visited by Mufasa’s ghost, who tells him he must take his rightful place as king, he returns to the Pride Lands and confronts Scar. Scar admits to Simba that he killed Mufasa and the two scuffle until Scar is forced to tell everyone in the Pride Lands the truth. Simba then banishes Scar from the kingdom and tells him to never return just as Scar had once told him. He then takes his rightful place as king. Horus also participated in several contests with Set, in which he was eventually declared the winner and rightful heir to the throne. Horus then banished Set from Egypt and told him never to return, making the tale of Simba and Scar a retelling of this ancient myth. In the end, justice is served and the death of Mufasa/Osiris is avenged by his son.

If we are to compare this myth to the gods of Mesopotamia, Osiris would be Enki, Set would be Enlil, and Horus would be Marduk. Horus would also be Enki, since we said Osiris assimilated himself into his son. In “The Man Who Broke Free,” I said that Marduk is Enki’s alter ego and I believe that is an accurate way to describe their relationship. When considering these myths, we also must take into account that Enki is the Lord of the Earth and wants to be seen as the “good guy” while making his archnemesis Enlil look like the evil one. In reality, it’s the other way around. In fact, in the Gnostic texts, it is said that death came into existence when Yaldabaoth (Enki) became jealous of Sabaoth (Enlil) after Sabaoth was given heirship to the upper heavens, therefore displacing Yaldabaoth as the most high god. In The Lion King, death occurs after Scar (Set) becomes jealous of Mufasa (Osiris) for having a son that would one day become heir to the throne. Just like in the ancient Egyptian myth, the roles become reversed from the narrative we’re presented with in the Gnostic texts.

Speaking of Yaldabaoth, let’s not forget that he is often depicted as having the body of a serpent and the head of a lion. It should come as no surprise that he would be represented as the same animal in The Lion King. I would even argue that the lyric, “Now the old King is dead, long live the King” from Viva la Vida by Coldplay is a reference to Osiris/Enki. In fact, the song God is Dead? by Black Sabbath may also be about the same archetypal dying and rising god. As we know, however, Enki is still the Lord of the Earth and remains an influential force over our physical reality to this day.

So, in the immortal words of Ozzy Osbourne, is God alive or is God dead?

Justin

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