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"The Lion King" and Its Communist Philosophy

Updated: Jul 11


A dejected-looking lion

See -- "The Circle of Life" song, Elton John, Martin Cook



The Pridelands -- A Communist Monarchy


The Lion King is not just a movie, but a franchise of several forms of media, including the first movie, several games, and to my knowledge, a single show. The franchise tells the story of a fictional country, led and inhabited by animals, called the Pride Lands, and about the power struggles between at least two factions: those who wish to preserve a concept called "The Circle of Life" and those who are against it.


The main theme of the franchise is food. Food is not just a way to survive, but also a source of authority. This authority can be used to justify one's kingship in the Pride Lands, and also to overthrow a current ruler.

"The Circle of Life" is both a philosophy and a fundamental principle in the Pride Lands. It states that food must be rationed. In other words, if you are hungry for fish, you need to make sure that you not only eat enough, but also leave enough for others to eat too.


"The Circle of Life" is an interesting concept because it teaches us the importance of sharing limited resources in order to make sure that everyone has their fair share of the food they need to survive. However, it is also a socialist concept, as it holds that natural resources should be under the authority of the law and the government, and not be privately owned. It's also known as central planning.


Therefore, Mufasa's rule, and later on, Simba's rule, is a socialist one, because their leadership intervenes with the food supply of their own citizens. In the Pride Lands, you cannot eat as much as you want. You need to eat as much as you need, and have enough left over for others too.


The whole kingdom is essentially one big commune of various species who need to eat each other in a way that does not discard other animals. It is not exactly a vegetarian or vegan nation, but for carnivores, it is not as easy to live there due to the "Lion King" theme of sharing and not hoarding or looting.


The Oppossing Antagonistic Force


The main "evil" animals in the franchise are the hyenas. They are often portrayed as foolish, malicious, and incompetent, but I would not call them evil just because they are very hungry carnivores.


The reason for them to be the antagonists is not only because they followed Scar, a main villain himself, but also because they defy the "Circle of Life." In other words, they are "the bad guys" because they do not care about the socialist idea of sharing your resources with others by government decree. It is because "A hyena's belly is never full".


The Hyena Clan throughout the franchise were marginalized social groups who were forced to keep to themselves, but under Mufasa's and Simba's rule, they became a disenfranchised minority who were denied access to the food they needed to survive.

As a result of this forced isolation, the hyenas were often very hungry, having to chew bones in places that were portrayed as dark and distant from the main regions of the Pride Lands.

The hyenas might have been foolish, but it was Scar, Mufasa's brother, who manipulated them into believing that they would "never go hungry again" by serving under him as the new king of the Pride Lands.



Scar, unlike the other monarchs throughout the franchise, did not care for his people when he overthrew his brother and tried to kill his nephew, Simba. As a result, the Pride Lands turned from a socialist monarchy into an anarchy ruled by an apathetic, power-hungry king.


Since Scar did not care for the Circle of Life and saw himself as the most important being than any other, the Pride Lands became chaotic and dystopian. The reason being that Scar wanted to be king for the sake of the title and for the food that follows.


In that sense, he was indeed more villainous than his hyena henchmen, because he basically manipulated them in exchange for his dream: To take what was taken away from him.


Scar was the heir to the throne, until Simba was born, and thus became the new heir. Mufasa did not care enough, not for his brother's dream, and not for the hyenas whom he oppressed and isolated from the prey they needed to survive. So, it is obvious that both of these entities would retaliate and overthrow the original king. Mufasa underestimated his own brother.


The Circle of Life: A Flawed Philosophy to Live By


"The Circle of Life" is a flawed philosophy because we are individuals who don't really like to share our own resources with others by law. That is because some of us are hungrier than others, make more money than others, and so on. In a socialist state, the collective is at a higher priority than the individualist, as individualism is about personal liberty, and as a result, your own property is not entirely of your own but in the hands of everyone else. It is faulty because you are, as a result, depraved of your basic liberties.


Communism can be seen as an extreme form of socialism, even though there are several sects of communism, and even though socialism can be applied to democracy as well.


Therefore, they are not necessarily the same thing, even though they could be regarded as parts in a bigger spectrum; a spectrum that is based on sharing private property, such as income taxes, with others.


Welfare, for example, is a democratic socialist/social democratic concept because those who live on welfare receive their money from the taxpayer and thus the income is distributed in the name of equality. However, you don't need to be an authoritarian state, like in the case of communism in some cases, in order for welfare to be served to those who need it.


The problem with "The Circle of Life" concept is the fact that it breeds antagonism from those who are hungrier than others, in The Lion King at least. It also forces you to be considerate of others whether you like it or not. If it was a perfect notion, any animal in the Pride Lands would have gotten the food they required in order to sustain themselves, and that need would be enough to surpass their selfish desires.


And indeed, the circle of life prioritizes needs over desires, and only does not mind desire as long as it does not clashes with needs. However, both are important.


This problem comes from another problem, too: The fact that resources are limited, and therefore, get smaller and smaller with every share. As more and more animals get what they need to be fed, some might not get enough, like the hyenas, who were marginalized and excluded from the rest of the country.


Imagine you have a thousand apples and need to divide them between 50 people each month. If you did the math right, every individual would get 20 apples. See how quickly a thousand apples became 20 apples, shared between a population of people who could at best form a small community. However, how are you supposed to sustain yourselves with 20 apples a month if there are at least 30 days in a month, if not 31?

And the thing is, some people have a greater appetite. Why? Because some are bigger physically, and thus need to eat more; some are children, whose food is necessary for their development; some work in physical labor so they need food for more energy. You get the idea, right?


The Circle of Life is lacking because it disregards people as individuals with their own distinctions and needs. A rhino is not a crocodile, a bird is not a lion, and so on and so forth. This is why, the Pride Lands, as a country who was mostly socialist and/or communist throughout the franchise, was vulnerable to succession wars by those who valued individualism over collectivism. It makes sense, because resources are often limited, and are even more limited when shared with others.


As much as I remember, there are only 5 countries nowadays that are socialist: China, Cuba, Laos, Vietnam, and North Korea (or the DPRK). It's reasonable that socialism and/or communist did not really work in the world as a government method, not only because of the collapse of the Soviet Union, but also because having to share your resources makes you poorer than you could have been otherwise. Thus, it is difficult for a socialist state to prosper if the benefit earned from work is constantly divided and distributed.


End Note


I will end by reminding you that there are different forms of socialism since Karl Marx wrote the Communist Manifesto, but remember a quote which I believe is his: "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs."


Should you not strive for more in life, if you are capable of doing so, you will be left with apples, and not apple pies; pies are usually more satisfying than mere fruits and require more than apples to make.


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Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosocom's Founder & Writer

I am a philosopher from Israel, author of several books in 2 languages, and Quora's Top Writer of the year 2018. I'm also a semi-hermit who has decided to dedicate his life to writing and sharing my articles across the globe. Several podcasts on me, as well as a radio interview, have been made since my career as a writer. More information about me can be found here.

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