Fans might be shocked at this Disney fun fact about its popular animated film franchise The Lion King. We recently discovered the original film is based on actual people. Read more about the history of The Lion King below
One Instagram user shared this fact about Disney’s 1994 classic The Lion King that many fans didn’t know. They shared that the real “Lion King” is actually the first ruler of the Mali Empire named Mansa Sundiata Keita.
Their original post is captioned, “Did you know that the real “Lion King” is Mansa Sundiata Keita, the first ruler of the Mail Empire? They don’t want us sharing black excellence, culture, and history .. so we made a YouTube channel doing just that! Click the link in our bio to watch our new documentary on his nephew, Mansa Musa, the richest man in history .”
We did a little deep dive to learn more about this impactful ruler and founder of West Africa’s largest empire, the Mali Empire. Mansa Sundiata Keita’s rule expanded from the Atlantic coast all the way to the Niger River from the years 1235 to 1255. He was the son of the real-life Mufasa — King Naré Maghann Konaté.
GQ India references the West African groups of traveling poets, musicians and storytellers, who are known as Mandinka griots, to have recounted these stories for years to come. They shared a prophecy that if King Naré Maghann Konaté married an ugly woman, their child (a son) would be the greatest king that ever lived. However, he was already married to a beautiful queen, Sassouma Bereté and had a son, Dankaran Tourman.
It’s said that this offer was too tempting to pass up for him, so the King chose Sogolon Kédjou (an “ugly” woman also referred to as the buffalo woman by everyone) as his second wife. She gave birth to Sundiata, who is Simba in the Disney classic. Sundiata was born disabled. It seemed that the prophecy was a sham, but King Naré Maghann Konaté loved Sundiata and favored him and his mother.
They were often mocked for his shortcomings by the queen and his half-brother. Until one day, Sundiata decided to walk on his own two feet. The legend tells it that this incident shifted his entire life and the people recognized him as their true king for his act of courageous leadership.
Sadly, King Naré Maghann Konaté passed away before he could offer young Sundiata the throne. His unexpected death led many to believe that Dankaran Tourman and his mother, Sassouma Bereté may have killed him. Sogolon took matters in her own hands by fleeing with him and the rest of her children, leaving the kingdom in a state of turmoil.
Subesquently, the kingdom was attacked and taken over by the King Soumaoro Kante of the Sosso. Their kingdom was left in shambles and the people sought out Sundiata as their rightful king, believing he was the only one who could lead them to greatness.
Sundiata built alliances with the king of Mema and other local rulers of Africa. He was seen as an authoritative figure amongst them as they knew who he was, and where he came from. When the people of Mandinka finally found him, they convinced him to come back with an army and claim his kingdom. Soon after, Sundiata returned to his father’s empire, and upon his victory over King Soumaoro, he adopted a new title for himself, “Mansa” which means king or emperor in Mandinka.
People didn’t refer to him as such. Instead, they opted for the “Lion King.” His name Sundiata was derived from the words “Sogolon” (from his mother) and “Jata”, which means lion. So, by adding Mansa to his title, he became their Lion King.
In case you were wondering, that’s the real story of Disney’s cult classic The Lion King.
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