The great lion king stepped from the main cavern onto the stretch of promontory in front of Pride Rock. His mane whirled about in the wind quietly, brushing brusquely against his powerful frame. His chest, with its grizzled and battle worn appearance, rose and fell rhythmically with each beat of the heart and intake of breath. After a few quiet moments of silent watching, Mufasa lowered his haunches to the ground and sat with an audible thump.
He sighed. Once again the trials and tribulations of being king were taking its toll on him. Resting a massive paw against his chest, he smoothed away a wayward strand with ease and thought. The hyenas had been encroaching again, first it had been the bothersome Kaare, then the troublesome Shadow Clan. And with the introduction of newcomers such as the Eraak and Zaai, the situation was becoming more and more confusing. What’s worse, the sentiment against hyena presence and action was creating tension beyond the norm. Pride Rock was in trouble, and the only thing preventing a war was him. Once again, Mufasa sighed.
“Why do I bother?” he lamented aloud, perhaps too audible for his own good. “The world is against me, the pride does not appreciate me, my cubs are suffering, and above all, my own life is in danger.” His body heaved imperceptibly, gaze tightened into an expression he seldom used: a scowl.
“Perhaps it is because you need to be reminded about why you are doing what you are doing.”
The unfamiliar voice startled Mufasa, tearing him from his seat and turning his head around to meet the smiling gaze of an old mandrill.
“Need a little company?” Rafiki intoned softly. Mufasa glanced away and toward his paws.
“How long have you been there?” he said tonelessly.
“Long enough.” Came the well practiced answer. Taking a few tentative steps to the lion, Rafiki tapped him twice on the shoulder. “Come with me, O king. There is something that you must see.” Too tired to refuse, and too disheartened to stay there alone, Mufasa lifted his bulk from the ground and padded after the mandrill.
The pair made their way in silence. Rafiki led the lion king about the ascending sidepaths of Pride Rock. In the west, a beautiful sunset was beginning to form the reddish African gradient that makes its lands so beautiful. Fluttering about were birds of all sorts, flitting on their nightly dance before darkness. Lowing herds made their way about the lands, creating imperceptible trails. This was the view that greeted Mufasa and Rafiki as they ascended and finally peaked Pride Rock.
“Whew! What a walk eh?” chuckled the old mandrill. Mufasa hefted himself onto the top, and lay down in a heap. Although the exertion was tiring, it was apparent that something else was bothering him. The old mandrill took note of his actions, making a careful spot alongside the lion king.
“This is a trying time, old friend.” uttered the lion lowly, “It seems like I am being thwarted at every turn.”
“Yes, yes I know…” commented the mandrill in a sagely tone, “hyenas here, outsiders there, pridal matters on the inside.” Rafiki stroked his beard, speaking in an almost deferent tone,
“Makes you want to just give up everything, doesn’t it?” Mufasa turned his eyes toward the mandrill, unsure of where his strange comment was leading.
“Yeah…” he said in a weak tone, almost cub-like. Rafiki noticed the despondence of his friend and reached into the bag. Taking a small piece of jerky, he slipped it to the lion king. Although he was surprised, Mufasa quickly lapped up the relished cubhood treat, chewing it down with a pleasant purr. While he was enjoying the small pickup, Rafiki stroked his mane.
“You know, this reminds me of a little story that I think might be appropriate for right now.” The lion’s ears turned to him eagerly, not having heard one of his stories in a long time. “If…” the mandrill added quickly, “you don’t mind being a cub again for a little while?”
“What do I have to lose?” Mufasa commented. Smiling, the old mandrill scratched him fondly behind the ears.
“Imagine the beginnings Mufasa. Think about all the animals in the world. Aiheu put us here to enjoy life, and to live it to the fullest. But there was a small problem. Everyone had a different idea about how to live their lives to the fullest. As a consequence, there was chaos.
“Someone had to preserve and protect the circle, and the Lord knew it. Aiheu saw this difficulty, and had to choose how to deal with it. So, in each of his children, he put the spirit of fairness and protection in them. All have it, but to some he gave more than others. The gifts of, size, speed and intelligence to use against foes were doled to maintain the circle. Lions were one of the animals chosen, as well as others for each great region.
“More than most, lion kings have the skill and ability. It is Aiheu’s gift. So it becomes personal when there is a feeling of inadequacy, so urgent is the instinct to protect and maintain order.”
“Why are we not able to give up though?” Mufasa spoke as he lifted his head from the ground.
“Why us? There are more powerful beasts than the lion on the savanna.”
“True.” Rafiki smiled and held a single digit to the air, “But, the power and respect that a lion commands is unmmatched. When was the last time you bowed to an elephant?”
“Just yesterday.” The lion countered quickly.
“Ah, but who noticed who first?” Rafiki intoned, stroking his beard. Ahhing softly, Mufasa nodded his head,
“I see what you mean…”
“And think on this, good king,” Rafiki added, “even in outnumbering situations, a single lion can be an intimidating foe. Perhaps most of all, you have strong faith and a love for your family. If you were not there, then the world would surely slip into chaos and destruction. Look at Elephant graveyard, forsaken by lions, devastated by others.”
“I suppose that is why I never want them around to ruin the pridelands.” Rafiki agreed, uttering a lingering mm-hmm. Mufasa softly sighed, “But it is so hard to find the motivation. Is there nothing in this world that can keep me going?” The mandrill laughed at him, much to Mufasa’s surprise. Rising and giving his stick a twirl, he gave the lion king a confidential wink.
“I think that all the motivation you need is right underneath you.” And before Mufasa could even reply, Rafiki bounded out and down the side of Pride Rock, leaving the king to his surprise and thoughts.
Mufasa went quietly into Pride Rock and lay his bulk down to sleep. It had been a long day, and hardly fair. But now he had much on his mind as well. Motivation right under him? What did Rafiki mean? Or was he just speaking in circles again. For a few moments he reclined there, blinking softly as sleep began to creep up on him. Then, a warm tickle at his belly made him look downward.
“Hey dad…” uttered a sleepy-eyed Simba. Mufasa smile, lapping at him gently. Three more nuzzles came as Jespah, Kana, and Cara all got up one by one and huddled around him.
“Hello my little ones.” Mufasa whispered lovingly, nuzzling each as they snuggled close to sleep. As if by magic, Mufasa suddenly realized his purpose. Staring out of the cavern in silent acknowledgement, he knew he must fight on, even if just for the little ones that were trustingly cuddled around him. He smiled. Rafiki was right, all he needed was right there with him.