A few moons ago, we learnt of former Lion King Mufasa’s seven-year plan. The gambit was simple: safeguard his son Simba’s path to the throne by forging an unlikely alliance with King Rafiki, the baboon that had dethroned the lions.
No one in the animal kingdom predicted that Mufasa would act so hastily to implement his plans. He should have waited for the scheduled animal races, and supported Rafiki’s claim for re-anointment. However, Zazu, his horn-billed legal advisor, assured him that he could launch prematurely. But the plan was foiled, and his impatience cost him dearly.
We might recall that Rafiki had struck a deal with the elephants to defeat Mufasa and his pride. But this pact had reached its breaking point. By the time Mufasa and Rafiki announced their axis, the elephant world had become a hopeless and desolate place. Yet the premature launch of their plot breathed flesh onto the bones of these dying tuskers. They sprang to life and trumpeted a rallying call against the treachery of the king.
Much to the surprise of Mufasa and Rafiki, animals from across the kingdom gathered to protest their conspiracy. The conspirators were compelled to beat a hasty retreat in the face of such a stampede of opposition.
Perhaps they should’ve let dying elephants lie?
As the fiasco raged on, wily Scar receded into the shadows. He knew well to stay clear of his brother Mufasa’s plans, quietly hoping they would fail. So he lay in wait, silently stalking the creatures as they scrambled to restore normalcy.
When the plot finally failed, he pounced on a new opportunity. The legitimacy of many lions had been badly wounded in the scuffle. He, ironically, was left unscarred. So when the savannah dust had settled, Scar announced his intention to race for the crown.
The increasingly unpopular Rafiki is now left with little hope. His gamble to ally himself to Mufasa failed. He is once again a lonely king, atop a lonely tree, with no animal to call his friend. So he decides to swing to safety on the only rope he can find. His lifeline has a deadly noose.
The animals watch as Rafiki performs his peculiar dance, pretending to be mightier than he is, promising to bring order to the kingdom. They quietly scoff: “is he trying to ape a lion?”
The animal races are around the corner. Contenders for the crown now stake their claim. The old elephants, with a new lease of life, plan to put forward their candidate. Scar, with his restored pride, has already put his paw up. Poor Rafiki, with little choice, is poised to defend his title to the death.
As the contenders prepare to take their mark, Mufasa grumbles in the corner. If only he could run again! But the rules of the race prohibit third timers.
Mufasa is still the most powerful animal in the kingdom. So what he does next may determine its fate. His only thought is for his mewling cub. Which of the three contenders can best assure Simba’s rise? A lumbering elephant? A scary uncle? A desperate simian?
Mufasa knows Scar at the helm would be unpredictable. Rafiki’s chances are slim to begin with. So he realises that five years of elephantine inadequacy may be Simba’s best bet. Hopefully, at the end of it, he would have grown a mane, and the animals would crave a big cat again.
As long as the rules of the race remain the same, Mufasa has only one option. He must quietly sponsor an elephant victory. Once again, he is confronted with a difficult choice. But it is for a good cause, he tells himself. It is to ensure that his son one day gets the lion’s share.