Interview With A Lion


I recognized the lion as soon as I saw him. The black mane, dark brown coat and eponymous scar over the left eye left little doubt as to his identity. I eyed him warily as I set up my tape recorder. He simply stared back at me with aristocratic disdain. I was more than just a little nervous. Scar may be a bit on the scrawny side but he's still a lion. You just don't appreciate how big a lion is until you stand next to one. Besides, Scar doesn't have the best reputation in the world. Doubtless I was perfectly safe as long as he thought I was useful to him. Still, that didn't make me feel any better. I wasn't certain how to begin the interview. I just turned on the tape recorder and asked the most obvious question possible: "Aren't you suppose to be dead?"

"That's precisely the kind of question I'd expect Banzai to ask," Scar said mordantly and rolled his eyes.

I felt shivers run down my spine; obviously I was off to a bad start. I tried to keep the nervousness out of my voice as I asked another question, "Were you jealous of your brother?"

"Certainly not," Scar scoffed. "Why would I be jealous of him? Because of his physique? What good did his muscles do him in the end? Intellect is a far more valuable a commodity than brute strength."

"Well, he was popular," I suggested.

"And I wasn't?" he asked defensively. Then he boasted proudly, "After Nala and that fool pulled off their coup d'etat, they exiled all of the lionesses that were still loyal to me. That was half the pride! If that doesn't prove my popularity, then what does? Besides, they picked the best actor to provide my voice and they did make a movie about me."

"The movie was called 'The Lion King'," I observed dryly.

"Precisely," Scar beamed. "And I was the lion king through most of the movie. Therefore, the movie was about me."

There was something wrong with his logic, but I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was. I just let it slip and asked another question, "Did you want to be king?"

"Why would I want to be king?" Scar asked rhetorically. "As a prince, I had all of the benefits of being the monarch without any of the responsibilities. Why would I want to be king, so that Zazu could bore me to death every morning with his insipid reports?"

I decided it would be both more productive as well as safer if I asked a more general question, "Can you relate the events leading up to Mufasa's death? What happened in the gorge?"

"Shenzi approached me that morning and asked for permission to hunt on our land. I knew the lionesses weren't hunting that morning and I saw no reason to deny her request. Naturally seeing the hyenas again reminded me of their unfortunate encounter with Simba. I took my nephew to the gorge to practice his roar. It was the perfect place. In the gorge Simba would hear his own roars echo back to him. Thus he could identify the deficiencies and make appropriate corrections.

"When the hyenas stampeded a herd of wildebeests into the gorge, I immediately ran to Mufasa for help. That muscle-bound oaf rushed into the gorge without thinking at all. I sent Zazu to go get help but that little twit panicked and flew straight into a boulder.

"I ran along the top of the gorge looking for any sign of either Simba or Mufasa. Then I saw my brother trying to climb up the side of the gorge. Well, there was my brawny but not too bright brother hanging by his forepaws at the top of a shear drop. It was perfectly obvious that I would not be able to save him, but I had to try. I just wasn't strong enough to pull him to safety. I grabbed Mufasa with my forepaws but I couldn't hold onto him. So, I extended my claws to improve my grip. In retrospect that wasn't the wisest thing to do, but desperate times call for desperate measures. But I certainly didn't murder my brother. His death was a tragic accident."

"Didn't you confess to murdering your brother?" I asked.

"That was under duress," Scar countered. "That cowardly lout that Nala found in the jungle attacked me from behind and forced me to falsely confess to my brother's murder. Fortunately, my hyena friends saved me just in time."

I noticed that Scar only called Simba by name when he referred to his nephew's cub days. Whenever Scar talked about the adult Simba, he conscientiously avoided using his name. I was dying to find out why, "How do you feel about Simba?"

"He was my favorite nephew," Scar responded wryly.

"He was your only nephew," I reminded him.

"And that is exactly what made him so special," Scar said dryly.

"You speak of him only in the past tense," I observed.

"That is because my nephew died in the same stampede that claimed my brother's life," Scar said solemnly. I had the distinct impression that he practiced that line. "I had Shenzi, Banzai and Ed search the gorge for him after the stampede. Shenzi assured me that Simba was quite dead. The lion that Nala brought back with her claiming to be Simba is an imposter."

"Everyone else seems to think he's the real Simba," I said.

"Indeed," Scar intoned ominously. A strange glint appeared in his green eyes that made me feel distinctly uncomfortable. "Nala had been betrothed to Simba. I refused to release her from that betrothal out of respect for the memories of my brother and nephew. Naturally the trollop's hormones got the better of her judgment and she ran away. Nala's lying to protect her own reputation. Doubtless she already had his bun in her oven when they decided to return.

"Rafiki overindulged in narcotics when he was younger. He babbles incoherently and snorts milkweed floss every chance he gets. Zazu was obviously bribed. I fired the idiot for incompetence and then imprisoned him for seditious activities. Nala and the imposter freed him and restored him to his old post. I should have let Shenzi eat him after all."

"What about Sarabi?" I asked.

"She hit her head, the poor dear," Scar said.

"I heard you smacked her," I said.

"I did not," Scar said indignantly. "She slipped and fell. I tried to grab onto to her to steady her but I was too slow. I was tending to Sarabi when the imposter attacked me."

"Is that when the battle for Pride Rock began?" I asked.

"There was no 'Battle for Pride Rock'," Scar said derisively. "The imposter fled when the hyenas rose to my defense. About an hour later a brush fire mysteriously broke out. I wisely decided to abandon Pride Rock. The hyenas followed me willingly enough, but the lionesses hesitated. The lionesses were all like Sarabi, too set in their ways to want to change no matter how pressing the need for change. The hyenas on the other hand, were always more open to change. Now I'm convinced that Nala and the imposter set the fire."

I wanted some more insight into how Scar felt about Simba, whether he had any remorse at all. I looked into his eyes intently as I asked my next question, "What was your role in the Elephant Graveyard incident?"

Scar sat impassively but his eyes darted back and forth nervously for a moment before he answered, "He came to me after Mufasa had shown him the kingdom. Simba had noticed the Elephant Graveyard from the top of Pride Rock but Mufasa didn't tell him anything about it. Unsatisfied curiosity is a bad thing in a young cat. I explained to Simba what it was and told him explicitly never to go there. I even made him promise never to go there. It certainly isn't my fault he broke his promise."

"Maybe you shouldn't have told him about it in the first place," I said boldly.

"I was between a rock and a hard place," Scar complained. "He was already curious about it. If I had said nothing at all, he probably would have gone there anyway. I thought that if I told him about it his curiosity would be satisfied enough that he wouldn't go there at all."

"What was the relationship between you and the hyenas, did they work for you?" I asked.

"We were friends," Scar explained. "They never worked for me. They did favors for me out of respect and I did favors for them in return."

"Why does Banzai call you boss?" I demanded.

"How on Earth should I know?" Scar responded irritably. "Ask him."

"Why did Mufasa want to be informed whenever hyenas entered his land?" I asked.

"So he could greet them personally," Scar explained. "We never banned hyenas from our lands, we just required them to coordinate with us. So they wouldn't interfere with our own hunts."

"When Simba and Nala visited the Elephant's Graveyard, were the hyenas trying to kill them?"

"No, if the hyenas had wanted to kill the cubs then Simba and Nala would not have survived the encounter," Scar replied. "Rather they were trying to scare some sense into them."

"Then why did Mufasa attack the hyenas?" I countered.

"Mufasa was simply playing along for Simba's sake," Scar answered. "If Mufasa had thought that the hyenas were trying to harm the cubs, he would have torn them apart."

"Zazu thought the danger was real enough," I observed.

"Zazu is an idiot," Scar said dryly. "Babysitting is about the only thing he's good for and he couldn't even do that right."

"Were you attracted to Nala?" I asked. I had hoped the sudden change of subject would rattle him.

"Why yes," Scar confided, he wasn't even embarrassed by the question. "I certainly felt what any red-blooded male would feel around such an attractive female as Nala, but I never gave in to my urges. She had been betrothed to my nephew; it wouldn't be decent. Even though my nephew was dead, I was still obligated to honor his memory."

"Were you a good king?"

"I was the greatest king ever to rule from Pride Rock," Scar boasted. "The hyenas accepted me as their king. I accomplished what no king before me had even dreamed of doing. I accomplished the impossible, I brought lions and hyenas together in harmony."

"What about the drought?" I asked pointedly.

"What about it?" Scar asked rhetorically. "I fail to see how the drought could reflect negatively on my rulership. On the contrary, it showed my managerial skill. After all, no one died during the drought."

"The drought ended when Simba returned," I stated.

"Purely a coincidence," Scar said.

"Machiavelli once wrote that the intelligence of a king is shown by those with whom he surrounds himself. You surrounded yourself with hyenas. How does this reflect on you?" I asked.

Scar glared at me for a moment before answering. I don't think I ever felt more frightened in my life. Then he smiled good-naturedly and answered, "Hyenas are highly intelligent and perceptive creatures.."

"Hey boss!" a hyena loudly interrupted.

"Not now, you blithering idiot," Scar yelled. "Can't you see I'm busy?"

"It's important," the hyena countered.

Scar made a slashing motion across his throat with his forepaw. I took the hint and pressed the pause button on the tape recorder. Scar demanded irritably, "What is it, Banzai?"

"Shenzi wants to know what you want for dinner," Banzai said.

Scar rolled his eyes and pressed his forepaw against his temple, "I don't care, surprise me."

"But," Banzai continued.

"Just go," Scar snarled.

"Don't complain if you don't like it," Banzai warned.

"Get out!" Scar roared. Banzai gave me a strange look before he trotted away. Scar heaved a sigh and said wearily, "My apologies for the interruption. Shall we continue?"

I released the pause button and asked, "Is Kovu your son? Both Zira and Kovu himself have denied it."

"Absolutely," Scar said. "Zira is dead, so Disney can put whatever lies they desire into her mouth. As for Kovu, it wouldn't be politically wise for him to admit to my paternity right now. Kovu's marriage to Kiara was a stroke of genius. Whatever happens now, my son will be the next king of Pride Rock just as his mother and I always wanted."

"Well," I said. "I really don't have anymore questions. Do you have anything else you'd like to add?"

"No," Scar said. "Other than to thank you for the opportunity to allow me to tell my side of the story."

"You're welcome," I said as I turned off the tape recorder. "It was quite insightful." When I picked up the tape recorder and turned to leave, I was quite surprised to find a large hyena standing directly behind me.

"What's the hurry," the hyena said. "We'd love to have you for dinner."

"Now, now Shenzi," Scar admonished gently. "He won't be able to write that book for us if you eat him."

I looked back at Scar and asked intelligently, "What?"

"That was the reason for this interview," Scar said pleasantly. "To relate my side of the story so that you could write a book based on this interview."

"And if I refuse?" I asked. I don't know why I asked, I was quite certain I wouldn't like the answer.

"Have you ever seen hyenas make a kill?" Scar asked with a malevolent grin. "It's not a pretty sight."

I looked at Shenzi again; she was smacking her lips in a very disconcerting way. I swallowed nervously and said, "Yes, of course. It makes an excellent idea for a story."

"Naturally, we expect to receive half of the royalties," Scar added.

"Naturally," I agreed. As I walked away, I thought that Scar would make an excellent godfather.