"Hmph, I never get to do anything. I could fight hyenas, too. They're not so tough." Simba snorted, kicking a pebble along the ground.
Two cubs came jogging up to him. He lifted his head, recognizing his friends Kula and Chumvi. Well, Kula was more of Nala's friend, but he liked playing with Chumvi. Some adults said Chumvi was a bad influence. Simba didn't think so. "Hey Simba! Where's your dad?" said Chumvi.
"I don't know, doing king stuff," he mumbled, feeling bitter.
"Oh..." Chumvi looked faintly hurt. Fortunately, the ruddy cub had thick skin and quickly brushed it off. "So what did he show you? Did you get to do anything cool?"
"Not really," Simba grumbled. He was so upset at being left behind that he completely forgot about their trip to the peak of Pride Rock earlier that morning. "We went down to the savannah and talked about the Circle of Life."
Simba hesitated. "It's kind of complicated. King stuff, you know."
"Come on! You know I could be just as good a king as you."
"Well... it's kind of like... um..." Chumvi waited on him. "It's like our moms always say. You're supposed to treat others how you want to be treated. 'We're all connected in the Circle of Life.' Kings have to treat all animals with respect."
Chumvi arched a brow skeptically. "Even the plant eaters?"
His ears turned back uncertainly. He asked his father the same question, but Mufasa's answer only left him more confused. Something about lions turning into grass. Weird. "Y-yeah..."
"Pfft, that's stupid. Everybody knows lions are way better than plant eaters."
"No it's not! You're just not smart enough to get it," Simba snapped, tail bristling. Just because he didn't understand what his father meant didn't give Chumvi the right to call his dad an idiot.
Chumvi smiled slyly. "Oh really? Then explain it to me."
"You wouldn't understand."
"I think you're just saying that because you don't understand," Chumvi teased. He poked Simba in the shoulder. Simba swatted at him in annoyance.
"You guys, stop fighting!" Kula spoke up. "Let's go ask Nana Uru. I bet she knows all about the Circle of Life."
"That sounds like a great idea," Simba chimed, starting in the direction of Pride Rock. Chumvi and Kula trotted after him. Simba knew that Nana Uru would set the record straight. Truth be told, he was just glad to have someone else explain it for him. This Circle of Life stuff sounded way too complicated. Who knew being king would be so hard?
They three cubs found Nana Uru relaxing on a shady rock. At first they thought she was asleep. Kula looked nervous. Simba knew they shouldn't disturb her if she was sleeping, for Nana Uru was the oldest lioness in the Pridelands and his grandmother. His mother and father always seemed concerned for her health. This seemed strange to Simba. Even though Nana's eyes were too foggy to hunt anymore she was as spry as a cub and still loved to play games with him. As they approached Nana Uru stretched her front legs and yawned. She blinked her cloudy green eyes, twitched her nose, and smiled. "Good morning, cubs. How are you today?"
"Good morning, Nana," said all three cubs at once.
Kula explained the situation quickly. She seemed to expect Simba and Chumvi to say something obnoxious unless she took control of the conversation. "Nana Uru, are lions more important than other animals?"
The old lioness flicked her tail thoughtfully. Her old eyes settled gently on Simba. The young prince blinked tellingly. How did Nana Uru know the question had anything to do with him? She took a deep breath. "That's a complicated question for a young cub. All animals have their place in the Circle of Life: the plant eaters, the meat eaters, and the death eaters." Noticing the cubs wrinkle their noses, she repeated, "Even the death eaters."
Chumvi puffed out his chest and stood in front of Simba and Kula. "But lions are the most important of all, right? That's why we get to be kings and tell all the other animals what to do. We're the smartest, strongest, best animals in the world."
"That's not exactly true," Nana replied patiently. "The mysteries of the Circle of Life are difficult to understand, even for adults. This is why our ancestors gave us stories - to help us understand our place in the world. Now listen closely..."
Long, long ago, before the stars shined, when the world was darkness and black water, the Great Spirit looked upon the cold emptiness with sad eyes.
The Great Spirit swam to the bottom of the black ocean and gathered soil, which She brought to the surface to make land. There were two pearls in the earth, one golden and large, the other silver and tiny. She threw these into the sky - creating the sun and moon. But there was still nothing alive. Her desire to create living beings was so strong that tears spilled from Her eyes. As Her tears splashed upon the ground vegetation sprung from the earth and the first animals were born. The Great Spirit rejoiced with the animals, for their world was perfect.
But perfection never lasts forever. The animals born from the Great Spirit's tears could only eat plants. As time passed the first animals mated and made more and more plant eaters until their hooves covered most of the world. This is where the great plains come from. Their hooves trampled the plants and made it hard to eat, because even if they could get their heads down to the ground to feed another plant eater would eat what was right in front of them. Everyone was overcrowded, hungry, and unhappy. "Please help us, Great Spirit!" cried the plant eaters.
The Great Spirit was greatly distressed by the plant eaters' suffering. First She created Death so that the very old animals would die and leave food for the young animals. When this was not enough, She gathered the bones of all the animals that had recently died and put them together again in different shapes, creating the leopard, the cheetah, the wild dogs, the hyenas, and many other meat eating animals. At first the plant eaters were terrified of the Great Spirit's new creations, but once they realized how much space they had to eat and play they rejoiced again. For a short time the world was perfect.
However, so many animals died that the meat eaters did not have room in their stomachs to eat all the meat. As the carcasses rotted the air began to stink and many animals got sick. None of the animals knew what to do. "Please help us, Great Spirit!" cried the plant eaters and the meat eaters.
Even the Great Spirit did not know what to do. She was so frightened because she knew that nobody could live if the world filled up with dead things. When all seemed lost, the hyenas and wild dogs stepped forward. They prayed to the Great Spirit to bless them with the power to eat the dead. The Great Spirit warned them that the other animals would shun them for eating dead things, but they did not care.
Just as the Great Spirit foretold, the other animals looked down on the death eaters for their disgusting ways. Soon the death eaters regretted their decision and begged the Great Spirit to take back her blessing, but she could not. They were so ashamed that they covered themselves with dirt until their coats turned black and spotty. For most of the animals, the world was perfect.
Then one day, Anansi the Spider was building his web in an acacia tree, but every time he tied a thread to a branch it shook because Giraffe and Elephant were eating from it. Anansi was a clever spider. He knew he needed to come up with a plan to get rid of both of them so he could build his web and eat his breakfast. "Elephant," said Anansi, "why do you let Giraffe eat from the same tree as you? Clearly you are greater!"
Giraffe overheard what Anansi said and took great offense. "Elephant is not greater than I! He is stout and grey and I am tall and elegant. He should be honored to have the privilege of eating with me."
Giraffe and Elephant got into a big argument. They were so angry with each other that they completely lost their appetites. Anansi was very pleased and went on building his web. Meanwhile, Giraffe and Elephant decided to settle their disagreement once and for all. They went to the watering hole and spoke to Leopard.
"What a ridiculous question!" Leopard laughed. "You two are wasting your time on trivial pursuits. We all know that I am much, much greater than you two in every way, for I am fast and strong and cunning."
The three animals argued loudly. Suddenly, Hyena overheard the commotion. "You're both wrong!" Hyena interrupted. "I am the greatest animal in the world. I do thankless work all day and night for no rewards. Without me, everyone would be miserable."
More and more animals joined the debate. Finally, their arguing got so loud that the Great Spirit came down to see why the animals were so upset. The plant eaters insisted that they were the Great Spirit's greatest creation, because they were made first and graceful. The meat eaters disagreed; they thought that they were the best because they were smart and strong. The death eaters thought they were the greatest because they did all the hard work. The only animal not present was Anansi the Spider, who had just eaten a big breakfast of flies and was too busy napping in his comfy web to notice the commotion. When the animals noticed the Great Spirit among them they ran to Her and demanded to know once and for all which species was best.
The Great Spirit was confused and upset. She tried to tell the animals that they were all equals, but the animals were too arrogant to listen. After many hours the Great Spirit finally had enough of all the fighting. She promised to tell the animals which one of them was the greatest if they gave her one whole day to think it over. The animals unanimously agreed.
The Great Spirit knew that no matter what animal she chose none of the others would agree and the chosen animal would only be more arrogant. She decided the only thing to do was create an all new animal. First, She collected a huge bundle of grass from the plains. It was the dry season so the grass was golden. Then She went to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro and carved two handsome animals out of stone and covered them with the golden grass. To make their eyes She reached up into the heavens and borrowed some of the light from the sun. Unfortunately, She used so much grass on the first animal that there was barely any left for the second. To make up for this, she blessed the second animal with the skills of a master huntress.
These were the first two lions. The Great Spirit named the first lion Adhama and the second Ashki. When Adhama and Ashki came to life, the Great Spirit explained Her dilemma. She said that she would name Adhama and Ashki her greatest creations if they promised to always uphold the truth, which is that all animals are equal and important in the Circle of Life. Adhama and Ashki promised.
The next day, the Great Spirit came down from the mountain with Adhama and Ashki. She said to the animals, "These are my greatest creations. They are the stewards of the Circle of Life."
All the animals gathered around Adhama and Ashki. They were so impressed with the Great Spirit's newest creations that they made Adhama and Ashki king and queen of the world. In time, Adhama and Ashki gave birth to the first pride and their children spread around the world, never forgetting their promise to the Great Spirit. For their whole lives, Adhama and Ashki treated all animals with respect, even the tiniest bugs. When Adhama and Ashki died She was so proud of them that She gave them everlasting life among the stars. Finally, the world was perfect.
"See? I told you, lions are the greatest!" Chumvi grinned.
"Wait, that doesn't seem right," Kula interrupted, puzzled. "The Great Spirit told Adhama and Ashki that all animals are equal."
Chumvi scoffed. "That part doesn't matter. The animals all agreed that Adhama should be king. That makes him the best, right Nana?"
The old lioness looked to her grandson. Oblivious to the eyes on him, Simba stared at his tawny paws, the reddish tip of his tail bobbing up and down in deep thought. "What do you think, Simba?"
He glanced up and pawed at the ground anxiously. "I don't know... I guess Chumvi is kind of right."
"Told ya so! I'm always right." Chumvi stuck out his tongue at Kula, who rolled her eyes.
"Ugh, whatever. You wanna go play on the Western Ridge?"
"Yeah, I'll be there in a minute," said Simba.
"Okay. Thank you for the story, Nana." Kula and Chumvi headed for the Western Ridge. Once they were out of earshot, Simba turned to his grandmother.
"Chumvi's wrong, isn't he?" he said. Nana Uru smiled at him and nodded.
"If we spent all our time arguing about who is right and who is wrong we would never stop fighting. Sometimes its better to let a stubborn animal think he knows best. Chumvi's not hurting anyone. When he's older, he'll understand. We just have to set a good example for him."
Simba smiled. "Yeah. Thanks, grandma."
AN: As if this fic I have now published over 100,000 words on FFN. Thanks for all the faves and reviews! :)
Anansi is a trickster spirit in West African folklore. He's usually portrayed as a spider. Simba, Chumvi, Kula, and Uru are all canon to The Lion King and The Lion King: Six New Adventures book series.