The rousing tale of Disney’s The Lion King is a masterful example of the ‘Hero’s Journey’ narrative structure. This universally recognized pattern can be found in countless narratives from cultures around the world, and has been expertly employed in the epic journey of Simba from cub to king. 🌍

Hero's journey narrative structure

Overview of the ‘Hero’s Journey’

Coined by mythologist Joseph Campbell, the ‘Hero’s Journey’ is a narrative pattern common to stories worldwide, consisting of several distinct stages. These stages form the hero’s transformation through trials and tribulations, leading to growth and self-discovery.

Applying the ‘Hero’s Journey’ to The Lion King

Simba’s story in The Lion King fits seamlessly into the ‘Hero’s Journey’ structure. Let’s break it down:

Simba’s Ordinary World

The film begins in the vast Pride Lands, with Simba, the young prince 👑, joyfully living under the wise and caring rule of his father, King Mufasa. This peaceful state represents Simba’s ordinary world.

The Call to Adventure

The call to adventure comes with the tragic death of Mufasa, orchestrated by the sinister Scar, and Simba is blamed for the tragedy.

Refusal of the Call

Scar convinces Simba that he is to blame for Mufasa’s death. Filled with guilt, Simba refuses his destiny and runs away, beginning a life of exile.

Meeting the Mentor

In his exile, Simba meets the comic duo Timon and Pumbaa 🦗🐗. While not typical mentors, they teach Simba their philosophy of “Hakuna Matata” (no worries), helping him survive in his new environment.

Crossing the Threshold

Simba crosses the threshold when he embraces the “Hakuna Matata” lifestyle. He leaves behind the duties and responsibilities of his former life in the Pride Lands and crosses into a carefree existence.

Tests, Allies, and Enemies

Simba’s biggest test comes when his childhood friend, Nala, finds him living in the jungle. Nala implores Simba to return to the Pride Lands and reclaim his throne from Scar. Though initially resistant, Simba begins to question his carefree lifestyle and feels the pull of his responsibilities. Here, we also see the clear delineation of allies (Nala, Timon, and Pumbaa) and enemies (Scar and the hyenas).


Simba’s approach towards his ordeal begins when he encounters the wise, quirky mandrill, Rafiki. The spiritual guide helps Simba confront his past and realize that his father’s spirit lives within him.

Ordeal, Death, and Rebirth

Simba’s ordeal is the confrontation with Scar and the truth about Mufasa’s death. Scar, hoping to secure his power, insists Simba is to blame. However, Simba realizes that Scar is the true culprit. In a metaphorical sense, this is Simba’s ‘death’—the death of his guilt and self-doubt—and his rebirth as the rightful king. 🌅

Reward, Seizing the Sword

Simba’s reward for overcoming his ordeal is the truth about his father’s death and the strength to face Scar. The ‘sword’ Simba seizes is not physical, but symbolic—his regained self-confidence and the courage to fight for his rightful place.

The Road Back

The road back is a challenging one for Simba. Having realized his true identity and destiny, he must return to the Pride Lands, a land ravaged and desolated under Scar’s rule. His journey back home is one of determination, and it signifies his readiness to take on his responsibilities.


Simba’s resurrection is his final confrontation with Scar. During their epic clash, Simba battles not just Scar but also his inner demons. When Scar attempts to blame Simba for Mufasa’s death once again, Simba refuses to be haunted by the past. He demands Scar confess the truth, leading to the climactic moment when Scar admits his guilt. Simba, standing tall and true, is no longer the guilt-ridden cub. He is the king, reborn from the ashes of his past. 🦁

Return with the Elixir

Simba’s return with the elixir is his victorious return to the throne. He transforms the Pride Lands from a desolate wasteland back into a prosperous kingdom. The elixir here is Simba’s newfound wisdom and maturity, borne out of his transformative journey. Simba not only heals his personal wounds but also restores his kingdom. The circle of life continues, symbolizing hope and renewal. The journey comes full circle when Simba and Nala present their newborn cub to the Pride Lands, just as Mufasa did with Simba.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the ‘hero’s journey’?

The ‘hero’s journey’ is a common narrative archetype that involves a hero who embarks on an adventure, faces and overcomes a crisis, and then returns transformed. This narrative structure has been applied to numerous myths, tales, and stories across different cultures and times. 📚

How does The Lion King illustrate the ‘hero’s journey’?

The Lion King follows the ‘hero’s journey’ of Simba. As a cub, he is forced into exile after his father’s death. In exile, he learns vital life lessons and ultimately chooses to return and reclaim his place as king. This journey, full of trials, transformation, and ultimate victory, mirrors the stages of the ‘hero’s journey’. 🦁

Why is the ‘hero’s journey’ significant?

The ‘hero’s journey’ resonates deeply with audiences as it reflects common experiences and challenges in our own lives. It tells a story of growth, self-discovery, and transformation — themes that are universally relatable. 🌍

What are the stages of the ‘hero’s journey’?

The ‘hero’s journey’ can be broken down into several stages: The Ordinary World, The Call to Adventure, Refusal of the Call, Meeting the Mentor, Crossing the Threshold, Tests, Allies, Enemies, Approach to the Inmost Cave, The Ordeal, Reward, The Road Back, The Resurrection, and Return with the Elixir. ⏳

What is the message of The Lion King?

The Lion King carries several messages, but at its core, it’s about self-discovery, responsibility, and the cycle of life. It tells a story of personal growth, redemption, and the continuing circle of life. 🔄

Conclusion: The Eternal Cycle of the Hero’s Journey

The Lion King provides a compelling illustration of the ‘hero’s journey,’ a narrative pattern that resonates with audiences of all ages. Simba’s journey from a carefree cub to the king of Pride Lands reflects the transformative journey we all undertake in life. As we navigate the trials and tribulations, we, like Simba, learn, grow, and eventually find our rightful place in the world. In essence, the ‘hero’s journey’ is not just Simba’s—it’s everyone’s journey.

The Lion King is a testament to the timeless appeal of this narrative structure. It’s a tale of growth, courage, and transformation that continues to captivate audiences worldwide, reminding us that we all have a part to play in the great circle of life. To witness this captivating tale of growth, courage, and transformation, consider securing your Lion King tickets today.🌍

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