What Happened to Scar?
The movie The Lion King told the simple story of a royal lion family wracked by a power struggle when the heir presumptive, Scar, resorted to murder to gain the throne. Scar was King Mufasa’s brother and uncle to the prince cub (and heir apparent) Simba.
Scar seizes power after killing the King and causing the disappearance of the prince cub. Then Scar and his hyena friends slowly ruin the kingdom through their excesses, causing starvation.
Scar. Best villain ever. — FlickFeast’s “Top 10 Animated Films” (click image)
Years later, having fully grown, overcoming his unwarranted shame over his father’s death, Prince Simba returns to free the kingdom and claim his rightful position. After a fight in which Scar plays more dirty tricks, including blaming his friends for his misdeeds to gain clemency, Scar suffers an ugly death when he falls among the outraged hyenas.(1)
To their credit, the writers made the royal father and son merciful, willing to give the bad guy another chance. Yet we don’t get to see why they should value him despite his evil ways, which may give the impression that they were just naïve. The bad guy is drawn as two-dimensional, nothing but evil; the movie barely hints at the painful root of the envy and ambition that motivated Scar.
To fill this void, a fan called Drowfan posted on Youtube the probable backstory to the bitterly ambitious creature we encounter as Scar. To tell the story, he presents a series of pictures from The Lion King film and artwork submitted by fans. Click to watch the short video: “The Lion King – What Happened to Scar”.(2)
The future villain Scar in his days of innocence — fan art by Balaa
Scar was once the innocent, loving cub Taka; so what happened? Drowfan’s video makes it obvious:
– The intelligent little fellow felt devastated by his father’s choice of his stronger, yet less clever, brother as the one to groom as future king.
(“Well, as far as brains go, I’ve got the lion’s share, but when it comes to brute strength, I’m afraid I’m at the shallow end of the gene pool.” – Scar)
– Jealousy and disappointment fueled Scar’s bitterness.
– Years of focusing unwisely upon his resentments led to his enraged grab for power, as though he could force the world to give to him the happiness that he lacked in his own mental states.
– The final images reveal the lonely misery of King Scar despite his great power. (My favorite is at 6.22 on the video, entitled “Forsaken“.)
Viewers of the video responded positively. One who commented, “Now I understand why Scar was so upset, angry and anxious to be King!” received more than 150 thumbs up from other viewers. Another viewer went so far as to say (receiving 35 thumbs up):
Now I Understand why he so evil and sarcastic you have my blessing Scar or I should say Taka you really don’t deserve this pain that you have. As you die against your own Hyenas, I hope you find the peace and rest forever.
My theory is that if we knew everything, absolutely everything, from the past that motivated any person, we could feel only compassion. Even the most repugnant people who commit the worst crimes would gain our sympathy if we really knew their story. The video on Scar can help us consider this possibility.
‘He insulted me, hit me, beat me, robbed me’ — for those who brood on this, hostility isn’t stilled.
‘He insulted me, hit me, beat me, robbed me’ — for those who don’t brood on this, hostility is stilled. Dh 3-4 — The Buddha (3)
It seems that Scar had some tough breaks, then he brooded upon them. Such wrongly-directed thinking is a typical route from victim-to-villain taken by some of the worst offenders in society. Yet haven’t we all done that at some point — nursing our resentments — albeit less dramatically? If so, who can stand in judgment?
People enjoy hating the bad guys and cheer upon seeing them destroyed painfully. If we brood upon the bad guys’ bad deeds to inflame our hearts against them, cultivating hostility, are we not engaging in the same kind of wrong thinking that creates a villain? What then do we become?
Any time we hold on to a resentment about anything anyone does against us or others, we put ourselves onto a similar course to Scar’s. Surely that is not what we want. Instead, let us breathe deeply, try to relax and soften up, and find a better way to think about things. Remembering there must be a backstory to their actions can help us let go of our outrage, so we don’t walk that old path from victimization to villainy. We can cultivate sympathy, kindness, and good will; then with a positive attitude, safely take whatever action is needed to make things better.
(“I still can’t forgive him 😦” writes a fan who probably saw the film as a child nearly 20 years ago. We laugh — yet this is how the mind really works.)
Righteous anger is big in the West, especially in the USA. Someone does wrong out of greed or anger, hurting innocent victims, and people react with anger and hatred. Look at the readers’ comments after any news report of a bad guy having been caught; you may wince at the extreme cruelty of the remarks.
When upset, people may think, “Surely in this situation we have the right to hate!” The Buddha, however, took a very different stand:
Monks, even if bandits were to carve you up savagely, limb by limb, with a two-handled saw, he among you who let his heart get angered even at that would not be doing my bidding. Even then you should train yourselves: ‘Our minds will be unaffected and we will say no evil words. We will remain sympathetic, with a mind of good will, and with no inner hate. We will keep pervading these people with an awareness imbued with good will and, beginning with them, we will keep pervading the all-encompassing world with an awareness imbued with good will — abundant, expansive, immeasurable, free from hostility, free from ill will.’ That’s how you should train yourselves. MN 21 (4)
When the Buddha, known as the King of Peace, was pressed as to whether he approves of killing in any type of situation, the Buddha said yes: kill your own anger. (5) What kills our anger? Its opposite: loving-kindness.
The Buddha repeatedly warned us of painful karmic impact to ourselves from our negativity towards others, even deadly enemies. If any of us extend hatred by thoughts, words or actions towards any other being, we ourselves suffer. We make our life’s journey more painful for ourselves and the world around us, and we don’t find the way out of renewed rounds of suffering. On the other hand, extending kindness, compassion, joyful goodness and other beautiful states in our thoughts, words and actions bring ease of well-being to everyone. The welcome ripple effects of goodness continue ever-outward.
Unfortunately, even people who know these things and can cultivate kindness in other situations may let themselves get shaken into vengeful anger over news of today’s most hated and feared evildoers, such as child molesters or terrorists. Let us look at one example. Among the most vicious terrorists have been the LTTE Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka. Their tactics during 20 years of terror included more than 300 surprise attacks by their suicide bombers against innocent civilians, with no crowded bus, train, office, or neighborhood street ever safe from the possibility of a horrifying explosion coming from the clothing of an ordinary-looking person.(6) Few would shed tears over a failed LTTE suicide bomber sitting in jail. Most would say, “Let him suffer!”
Yet what if we knew the backstory of one? Read this interview with a young woman whose arrest prevented her planned suicide bomb attack.(7) (An advertisement may block the page, so click “skip this ad” in the upper right hand corner.) On learning details of this jailed assassin’s pathetic life — orphaned, abused, forced into a terrorists’ training camp, hurting from a disability, seeing no meaning to her life until she volunteered to be a hero giving her life for the cause — surely we develop more understanding and stirrings of sympathy.
Such compassionate feelings towards a villain can lead to clear reasoning and a more truly Buddhist response to the situation, a response that is sharply intelligent, compassionate, harmless and wise — and perhaps the end of bitter enmities.
A dramatic evil deed happened in the USA on September 11, 2001, when hijackers used airplanes to attack civilian targets. Later, a teacher at a progressive school in California told me that when the news broke regarding the 9/11 attacks, a small boy in her class commented, “Wow, someone is having a really big temper tantrum. I wonder what need isn’t being met?” If the general public in the USA had responded so wisely as this child, perhaps we would be in much better condition today.
Compassionate wise action does not mean passivity or ineffectiveness. At times, we must take strong action; but aversion never improves such action. To the extent that one mindfully and wisely maintains loving-kindness and compassion, one’s actions will ripen beautifully for the greatest benefit to all beings.
Hatred is never appeased by hatred in this world. By non-hatred alone is hatred appeased. This is a law eternal. Dh 5 — The Buddha (8)
In a dangerous slum of Los Angeles, an elderly woman known as Mama Hill has successfully mentored thousands of at-risk children. She has a saying: “Hurt people hurt other people.” She says that by watching closely, you can actually discern the age at which a person was wounded. When Mama Hill sits down with a new child to get acquainted, the first thing she asks is, “Who hurt you?” Eventually, when ready to start healing, they answer.(9)
We all get hurt; that is part of life. No matter how great the harm done by others, let us not indulge in hatred and thereby worsen suffering for ourselves and others!
Remember, instead we can breathe deeply, try to relax and soften up, and find a better way to think about things, such as envisioning a backstory to bring up compassion. Then cultivate sympathy, kindness, and good will towards ourselves, those who harmed us and all beings, and undertake positive action.
Some young people specially liked the character Scar in The Lion King because they identified with his pain. Are you suffering misery, perhaps remorse, alienation, anger, misunderstanding, confusion, shame or bitterness? Even Scar deserves compassion; and so do you. Don’t deny yourself love and compassion. No more self-hate. No more hurting yourself. You, too, have a backstory. Discover it. Reach out for support to help you understand and embrace your own backstory — and start healing. There is hope! The change starts now.
(1) The Lion King in storybook form: http://www.lionking.org/~hubi/story/index.shtml. See Wikipedia on “The Lion King” at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lion_King.
(2) “What Happened to Scar”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVUZSjSpFl0. Details, including the name “Taka” for young Scar, seem to have come from a set of novels by Alex Simmons based on The Lion King, entitled The Lion King: Six New Adventures; see “The Lion King Wiki” on Scar: http://www.mylionking.com/wiki/Scar.
You may also appreciate the backstory of the hated Wicked Witch of the West from the Wizard of Oz, portrayed sympathetically in the Broadway musical “Wicked”. See the Wikipedia entry on “Wicked (musical)” at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wicked_(musical).
(3) Dhammapada v. 3-4 trans. by Ven. Thanissaro, Access To Insight, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/dhp/dhp.01.than.html. Accessed 4 March 2013.
(4) MN 21 “Kakacupama Sutta,” “The Simile of the Saw,” trans. Thanissaro Bhikkhu, from Access to Insight, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.021x.than.html. Accessed 4 March 2013.
(5) “Getting the Message”, by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight, 5 June 2010, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/gettingmessage.html . Retrieved on 5 March 2013.
(6) The LTTE Tamil Tigers claimed 378 suicide bomb detonations (paragraph 68), killing thousands of innocent civilians far from areas of conflict (paragraph 25). “No one and nothing was safe from its violence” – a short description of LTTE terrorism’s impact on ordinary life throughout Sri Lanka (paragraph 30). Humanitarian Operation Factual Analysis July 2006-May 2009, Ministry of Defence, DSR Sri Lanka, July, 2011. http://slembassyusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Sri-Lankan-Humanitarian-Operation-Factual-Analysis.pdf Retrieved 5 March 2013.
(7) “When the Suicide Bomber is a Woman” Interview of Ms. Menake by Jan Goodwin in Marie Claire, 16 January 2008, http://www.marieclaire.com/world-reports/news/female-suicide-bomber. Photos by Mahesh Bhat, http://maheshbhat.photoshelter.com/gallery/-/G0000WTps_WBr_SU/. Both accessed 5 March 2013.
(8) Dhammapada verse 5, trans. by Ven. Buddharakkhita, Access to Insight, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/dhp/dhp.01.budd.html, accessed 5 March 2013. (Alternative trans. by Ven. Thanissaro: “Hostilities aren’t stilled through hostility, regardless. Hostilities are stilled through non-hostility: this, an unending truth.”)
In the Lion King-related movie series, peace did not come to the Pride lions until there was reconciliation and exiled lions were re-integrated into the pack. See Wikipedia “The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lion_King_2:_Simba%27s_Pride. Accessed 5 March 2013.
(9) “Why This 73-Year-Old Is a Gang’s Worst Nightmare” a Profile by Amy Nicholson for TakePart, 14 January 2013. http://www.takepart.com/article/2013/01/11/mama-hill-profile Retrieved 6 March 2013.
Posted 6 March 2013 by Ayya Sudhamma Bhikkhuni.