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Archetypes of the Lion King Essay

The “unconscious” is a psychological concept that is interpreted differently by many psychologists. Sigmund Freud interprets the unconscious as a place where thoughts, feelings and memories are kept, and cannot easily be brought into the conscious mind. However, some neo-Freudians, such as Carl Jung, thought differently. Jung believed that there was not only a personal unconscious, which is what Freud describes, but a collective unconscious as well. The collective conscious contains universal human memories, ideas and patterns of thinking called archetypes.

Some archetypes include the anima/animus, (which is the feminine side of a man/the masculine side of a female), the “hero” and the “villain”, among many others. The characters in the movie, The Lion King display a diverse variety of archetypes through their own character traits. Simba, the main character and protagonist of The Lion King, shows a number of archetypes throughout the course of the film. The film starts at his birth and shows his experience as a lion cub.

His behavior as a youth attributes to the child archetype, in which he is many of the things a young child is. Simba is outgoing and curious and explores wherever he can, even going places as dangerous as an elephant graveyard. He is also tricky and rebellious, as he goes outside the areas of Pride Rock, even when his father, Mufasa, strictly tells him not to. These are all traits that would normally be associated with children or teens. As Simba grows older, he starts showing different traits.

Specifically, the older Simba displays the hero archetype. Feeling he was responsible for his father’s death, Simba leaves Pride Rock in shame. However, upon learning of the state of Pride Rock under his uncle Scar’s rule, he goes on the journey back to save his kingdom, which is something heroes typically do. Simba also goes on an internal journey of discovery and redemption with Rafiki, who had known Simba since he was born, to regain his confidence and eventually sees that his father’s spirit will always be inside him.

Simba returns to Pride Rock and confronts Scar in the final battle and shows mercy by sparing him, another trait of a typical hero. Scar is another character that displays different archetypes in The Lion King. He is Mufasa’s cynical brother who was meant to be the Pride Land’s king after Mufasa, until Simba was born. His character traits throughout the movie give him the villain archetype. Not only is he bitterly sarcastic, he deceivingly follows Mufasa, only to plot his demise and usurp the place as king of Pride Rock.

Scar takes his cruel plan as far as killing him in a stampede and making Simba believe it was his fault. He is deceiving and a liar, even until the point where Simba spares his life. Not only is he deceiving, he is also traitorous when he blames the destruction of the Pride Lands on his army of loyal hyenas. These actions clearly show the villain archetype. Another archetype Scar shows is that of a dictator. He takes over the entire Pride Lands and terrorizes its inhabitants with his hyena army.

He rules with an iron fist, and eventually begins to starve the other animals with little sympathy. These are the traits of a dictator, and they are prominent in Scar. It’s clear that the characters in The Lion King display various archetypes through their individual traits. However, other archetypes exist in the movie in other forms, such as the environment and music. The movie opens with a scenic view of a sunrise, which is commonly associated with new beginnings or birth.

When Simba is born, the animals all rejoice, and their cheering is an archetype for a joyful event. Later in the movie, Scar is seen constructing his army of hyenas. During these scenes, everything is straight and orderly, and the hyenas are marching in a uniform fashion. These styles are an archetype to dictatorship, specifically alluding to the style Adolf Hitler led the German army. The archetypes, and the ways they present themselves in The Lion King add a level of depth in the interpretation of the film, and overall makes for a more interesting experience.


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