On this bright and sunny day, Mufasa elected to take his young son out to observe his rounds. The small cub was terribly excited, and wasted no time in bouncing eagerly about his father’s massive paws. The sun was merciful to the Lion King, and eventually beat the cub into more subdued tagging along, for Simba found the shade of his dad to be the coolest place to walk as they moved along the way.
It was not long before the sounds of a scuffle reached the pair’s ears just beyond the hill. Wary, Mufasa guarded his son as they approached and looked down to see what was going on. A large gathering of wild dogs were engaging hyenas in a bitter scuffle. It seemed like a war zone, with obvious injuries on both sides. Though the battle be between hyena and wild dog, it was obviously still within the borders of the pridelands. Simba sat down next to his father, tilting his head.
“Dad? What’s going on down there.”
“Apparently a battle,” the larger lion said, “over food.”
“Food?” Simba repeated, confused, “what food?” Mufasa leant closer to his son and motioned briefly with his paw.
“There…” The cub squinted closer from their safe spot.
“That?” Simba wrinkled his nose up at his father, “but that’s such a small scrap of meat?” Mufasa nodded his head, then motioned in the other direction.
“And what do you see over there, son?” The cub quickly went to see, tail flicking behind him as he blinked.
“Wow! That’s a whole lot of impala,” Simba licked his lips, but paused. His brow crinkled inward and he looked up at his father, “Why are they all fighting over that small scrap when there are so many other fresh kills to be made?” Mufasa smiled a little and drew Simba close into his shade. The cub purred happily and nuzzled against his father’s leg, enjoying the intimate teaching session.
“Simba,” Mufasa started, “you and Nala play ‘stick’ all the time, right?”
“Yeah!” the cub exclaimed.
“And what happens when Nala takes the stick from you and runs away?”
“I chase her for it?…”
“But why?” the lion pressed, “why chase her for that stick instead of another.”
“Well…” Simba pondered this a moment, “because it was mine, and—” He stopped, looking a little confused. Mufasa chuckled and placed a paw gently on his back, smiling.
“Son, that’s the way that that game is played. But you know it’s a game. They are fighting for what they perceive to be their lives. You know the difference between real and fake, right?”
“You mean like how that picture in the water isn’t really me, it’s just the water showing what I look like?”
“Yes,” Mufasa affirmed, “something like that. Those hyenas and wild dogs down there somehow think that small piece of meat is important, even if it would feed only one of them.”
“That’s stupid,” Simba said firmly, as only a cub could pass judgement. Mufasa chuckled.
“In this case, you are right. There is plenty else to be had if they just gave up that petty piece of meat.” The cub turned and looked up at his father expectantly.
“So, are you going to stop them dad?”
“No, son.” The Lion King answered quietly. Simba looked up at him, surprised and disappointed.
“Aww, but why? They are on our lands, right? You could just roar, and jump in there, and swat ‘em around, and they’d all run away. You could make them kiss and make up if you wanted to.” Mufasa laughed at this, eyes twinkling.
“As king, I’ve learned to pick and choose my battles, biding my time until it’s just right to do something.” He smiled briefly, “Son, there are times to rush to action, and there are times to let things settle. Should I run in there amidst a pack of wild dogs and hyenas, there is a chance for injury. But, should I wait a little longer until they have exhausted themselves…”
“Then you can go in and have less trouble because they won’t have any energy to resist?”
“Simba,” Mufasa chuckled, “you make me sound so cold blooded. Yes, something along those lines. After all, this might just be a petty thing that is more solved than it appears to be. The battle may be cathartic in some ways.”
“Cah — thahr — ?” the cub stammered,
“Cathartic, son,” the lion smiled, “it means that it releases energy in such a way that it makes them feel better at the end.”
“Ah,” replied the enlightened cub. He paused to scratch at something behind his ear before tilting his head up to his father once more, “so what happens if some of them decide to leave before you deal with them? They look pretty angry.” Mufasa shrugged.
“If there’s one thing about the Pridelands, it is hard for certain animals to stay away for some reason. Should they decide to leave, that is fine. The Pridelands will not stop functioning just because a few wild dogs and hyenas decide that its better to nurse their private wounds elsewhere. Their squabble is unimportant to the functioning of the lands, save the noise and attention they are attracting to each other.”
“Aren’t you worried about it driving the herds and others away from here, seeing this kind of thing going on?” Simba inquired.
“Not worried,” Mufasa replied, smiling to his son, “though it is something that we have to deal with sadly. Son, the world comes to balance in strange ways. Sometimes, it takes a massive effort on the part of the entire Pridelands to bring things back to normal, and other times it just takes a small slice of time on the part of one.”
“You?” the cub asked with honest innocence. Mufasa smiled.
“For the time being. But the other animals come back, there’s a security here that can’t easily be matched elsewhere.” Simba looked down upon the squabble, peering through the kicked up dust. Yips, moans, and barks shot up from the bottom of the hill, fading into nothingness as the fight became less and less interesting. After a second, the cub yawned and looked up at his dad.
“This is boring, can we go see something important?” Mufasa chuckled and nodded to his son.
“Alright, alright,” he smiled, “I just wanted to make sure you got the point of why I stopped to show you this.”
“You have to choose your battles, and know when to step in and when to stay out.” Simba repeated, giving his eyes a gentle roll, “can we go now? Please?”
“Heh,” Mufasa chuckled, “Very funny. One day, you’ll thank me for this piece of wisdom.” The two shared a nuzzle, then continued through the rounds of the day.