In The Lion King, Mufasa acted as king and patriarch of Pride Rock – roles his brother, Scar, coveted. Not satisfied with his lot in life, Scar gets a bundle deal on fratricide, homicide, and regicide and usurps the throne.
The one complication is that Mufasa had a son. Simba was the heir apparent to the throne and his existence threatened the legitimacy of Scar’s claim. Cunning as he was, Scar sent his lackeys to eliminate the pretender so the new king could reign in peace. However, in typical henchmen fashion, the plan is bungled and Simba goes into exile at an oasis featuring a comical Meerkat and Warthog duo.
Simba spends a length of time at the oasis: at least one musical number. But how long does it take for Simba to return to Pride Rock? Was King Scar, first of his name, merely ruler of the day or did his reign take its course over several years? This is the question I pose today.
First, let’s look at the facts:
- Simba left as a cub and returned as a fully matured adult lion.
- Simba was (barely) able to defeat Scar in battle.
- Timon and Pumba’s appearances didn’t change during the time at the oasis.
With the above canon and the Wikipedia page for the life cycles of lions I think this can be roughly hammered out.
I’ll start by guessing at Simba’s age when he was forced into the desert. When Rafiki held Simba aloft and presented the new heir to the animal kingdom (pictured) the cub he was holding was already at least a week old. Lion cubs don’t open their eyes for several days following birth and fluffy is very clearly taking in the sight.
From there, a cub is confident walking by three weeks. As Simba seemed up for a dance number with giraffes and hippos, we can safely establish that he was an expert walker. Then, we take a big leap to the post-weaning period where a cub becomes more independent from their mother. Simba’s trial through the desert certainly establishes that he no longer required milk for sustenance – and he even sets right into eating bugs with the new squad. Admittedly, it’s a bit of a stretch but that lets me put his departure at about six months old.
For the interim, the actual time Scar rules as patriarch, Simba grows into a fully-matured lion. Typically, a male lion matures at about three years of age and are capable of challenging other males after another couple of years. From the mane he grows, we can tell that Simba is at least three years of age. From the fact that Simba barely held his own against Scar, we can postulate that he couldn’t have been much older than four. Coupled with the lack of ageing at the already-“matured” Timon and Pumba, we’ve got our range of 2.5-3.5 years at the oasis. Which suddenly makes the inexplicable extermination of all animal and plant life surrounding Pride Rock, well, explicable.