THE CIRCULAR

IN DEFENCE OF SCAR

A lion. Image by Jelle Prins, sourced from https://www.flickr.com/photos/8650681@N04/1330793806

By Okwuchukwu Augustine Ndulue.

Scar is easily the villain in the Lion King movie. Mufasa’s evil brother and Simba’s wicked uncle, from his dry crackling laughter to the darkness of his countenance, Scar had the trappings of the devil’s favourite demon. However, that is only a part of who he was.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote that the battleline between good and evil runs down the heart of every man. For Scar, though a lion, the lines were blurred, the frontiers were overlapped, he was often too bad to be considered good, but I would say that given his circumstances, he was also too good to be considered bad.

First, there is the rule of the jungle, which is that there is no rule; kill or be killed, rule or be ruled. And particularly for ‘the king of the jungle’, Scar would not be lion enough if he did not have a kingdom of his own.

Pride Rock was Mufasa’s pride, the lionesses and cubs were all members of his harem. The monarchy under which Mufasa had become king was a strict primogeniture, Simba was next in line, and Scar was effectively outside the line. By this design, Scar’s options of making sense of his existence were slim, as slim as the pathway that led away from Pride Rock, perhaps to some distant land where he, by dint of luck or providence, could find and conquer another pride ruled by a tired or dying lion. He could as well have chosen to live out his life in Mufasa’s shadow as a good little brother, and later in Simba’s shadow as that quiet uncle, always good enough to make up the numbers at family meetings, but never good enough for the lion’s share. Mufasa’s shadow was big enough to protect and provide for Scar, but it was too small to accommodate his ambition, nay, his claim to ‘lionhood’.

The option of running off to the unknown may not have appealed to Scar but seeing that he could not defeat Scar in a fair fight, he decides to fight in the shadows. Now, one thing with the shadow is that we expect it to take the shape of the object from which it is cast. We expect that everyone in a hierarchy would just submit in silence, and that the woman in the shadow of the patriarchy, the peasant in the shadow of the feudal lord or the servant in the shadow of his master would just fall in line, quietly and peacefully staying with the program. However, the silence of the shadow is often an ally of the dark or evil frontier of our heart. It is in that silence that darkness festers, that evil intentions find partners and expression, and that plots are executed.

It was not different at Pride rock, out in the sunshine was Mufasa in the full glow of majesty and regaling in the resplendence of all that is right and proper. But in the shadows was Scar forming political alliances with the hyenas, who were themselves not just in Mufasa’s shadows but in the shadows of lions generally. To them, Scar was a friend of the masses, a man of the people who had come down to associate with the commoners, outcasts, social misfits, the marginalized, and just about anyone for whom the sunshine was blinding, and the shadow a safe space.    

In some ways everyone is a hero, including the villain, and everyone is a villain including the hero. To the hyenas, Mufasa was a villain, but to Simba his father was a hero. To the hyenas, Scar was a hero, but to Simba he was a villain. The very essence of villainy or heroism is that there is something noble about a person’s actions or personality. There was good in scar, at least in the worldview of the hyenas, which is diametrically opposed to that of the lions.

Beyond the power struggle here there are areas in which everyone is a villain. The antelopes, deer, rabbits, and other animals of prey may have no favourites between the lion and the hyena. They would not care less who is the better lion between Mufasa and Scar, or between the lions and the hyenas because for all predators they are food all the same.  

As far as characters go, Scar may have been a conniving evil genius, however, as far as the rule of the jungle stands, there are no morals, and a man has got to do what he has got to do.

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