Things With Feathers is a Tumblr where paleoartist and scientific illustrator Emily Willoughby will post science, illustration, dinosaurs, feathers, fossils, and occasionally a little bit of silliness.
There has been a lot of talk about how similar the story and characters of Thor are to those of The Lion King. Some of these similarities are pretty obvious: Scar and Mufasa’s sibling rivalry is a clear mirror of Loki and Thor. Loki and Scar both think they should have been king, and are jealous of their older brothers who got to be. But exactly how deep does the meerkat hole go? The movies are far more similar than they seem at the surface, and many specific scenes from Thor seem almost directly lifted.
Loki’s similarities to Scar run far deeper than the black hair, green eyes, crippling jealousy and intense arrogance. In both cases, they are the younger brother of the rightful king of a large and prosperous kingdom. In both cases, the younger brother desires the same respect and admiration the older one so easily commands, and thusly covets his throne. Both Scar and Loki were dealt a shitty schtick by life and may’ve had the potential to be normal and well-adjusted under other circumstances, but both have an arrogant, jealous personality by nature that makes this unlikely. Both are also highly intelligent and conniving, very adept at lying, and largely choose to fight their battles through cunning and manipulation rather than by physical might. Loki is a little more subtle about it, though.
Scar is an obvious correlate to Loki, but Thor is more of a combination of both Simba and Mufasa. His situation in life is more similar to Mufasa’s, as they share the role of the elder king brother with the jealous younger, but Thor’s behavior and experiences more closely resemble that of Simba. Early on in both movies, the evil brother persuades the hero to go to a place where they are likely to come to harm or fuck things up, all part of a greater plan of manipulation. “Only the bravest lions go there…” While at the same time pretending to convince them not to go, and knowing that their words will have the opposite effect.
Loki: If it’s any consolation, I think you’re right. About the Frost Giants, about Laufey, everything. If a few of them could penetrate the defenses of Asgard once, who’s to say they won’t try again. Next time with an army?
Thor: Yes, exactly!
Loki: But there’s nothing we can do without defying Father…
In both cases, mischief is managed and the naive prince bravely goes to the bad place with companions in tow: Simba to the elephant graveyard and Thor to Jotunheim. In both cases, the guardian or advisor tries to stop them from going, unsuccessfully. A lot of the imagery is even similar during these two scenes: dark atmosphere, chased by a large four-legged beast, toothy slavering maws.
And, in both cases, it’s daddy who comes along to save the day at the last second, after the sons are clearly about to get fucked by Jotun/hyenas. Both angry fathers berate their stupid sons after the danger had passed (though Odin is admittedly a little more, um, harsh about it than Mufasa).
After Thor is banished to Earth, Loki approaches him there to tell him the lie of Odin’s death, and gently implies that it was Thor’s fault his father is dead. When Thor asks if he can return, Loki tells him that the peace with the Jotun is contingent upon Thor remaining banished and warns him never to return. This whole scene is incredibly reminiscent of Scar’s warning to Simba that he can never return to the pridelands because of his role in Mufasa’s death. In both cases, the young prince is banished from his homeland for committing a dreadful sin against his people. In both cases, the “death” of the king plays an important role, and in both cases the villainous brother spins a web of lies to secure his rule, offering feigned comfort and pity, and expressing feigned weariness at the “burden” of the throne falling to him now.
This is another scene where the setting and cinematography seem very similar. Thor is alone grieving about his situation when Loki materializes as if out of nowhere; as Simba is grieving alone over his dead father, Scar materializes out of the gloom.
Loki: Father is dead.
Loki: Your banishment… the threat of a new war… it was too much for him to bear. You mustn’t blame yourself. I know that you loved him. I tried to tell him so, but he wouldn’t listen.
Loki, always more subtle than Scar, did not openly accuse him of causing his father’s death as Scar did, but the purpose is clearly the same. His lies convince Thor that Odin’s death was his own fault, while offering him fake consolation: mischief managed.
In both cases, the evil false king sends an assassination attempt after the doomed hero to ensure he does not return. Scar sends the hyenas, and Loki sends the metal giant thing.
Upon taking the throne, Scar forces the lionesses to bend to his will. Even though they could have physically overpowered him, they bend the knee to him out of obligation and respect to tradition. In Asgard, Loki assumes the rule and Thor’s former compatriots kneel to him out of obligation and fear of treason.
This is another scene where you could exchange the dialogue between the two movies and the plot would be completely unchanged.
In both cases, the new king imprisons the old advisor or gatekeeper: Scar imprisons Zazu in a cage of bone, and Loki imprisons Heimdall in a cage of ice.
The banished prince’s time in exile has some similarities as well (though the comparison would be far more apparent if there were some amount of romantic interest between Timon and Simba). In Thor, the two astrophysicists assume the role of Timon and Pumbaa in that they take the misguided, lost prince under their wing and protect and educate him during his exile. And, indeed, Pumbaa demonstrated the most profound knowledge of astrophysics in The Lion King:
Pumbaa: Ever wonder what those sparkly dots are up there?
Timon: Pumbaa. I don’t wonder; I know.
Pumbaa: Oh. What are they?
Timon: They’re fireflies. Fireflies that uh… got stuck up on that big… bluish-black… thing.
Pumbaa: Oh. Gee. I always thought that they were balls of gas burning billions of miles away.
Loki’s relationship to the Jotun is similar, though not identical, to Scar’s relationship with the hyenas. Though originally a member of the Jotun species, in his current state his actions imply that he has an arrogant loathing of them. The hyenas consider Scar to be one of them, but Scar looks on them with distaste, considering himself far above them though he’s uncomfortable among other lions. Nevertheless, Scar makes a deal with the hyenas that if they do as he says, they will have the rule of the pridelands and infinite food. Loki promises the Jotun the casket, and thus the resurrection of Jotunheim’s glory, in exchange for Odin’s life. In both cases, the promisees are betrayed by the promisers: Scar lets the hyenas starve (and later tells Simba they’re the real enemy), and Loki turns on Laufey in order to prove to Asgard that he is a worthy king.
Oh, and obvious Nazi associations? Both have them, though Loki’s don’t show up until The Avengers. But still.
Pretty fucking obvious.
The banished prince’s return to his homeland is perhaps the most startlingly similar scene in both movies, even down to the dialogue. In both cases, the former loyal companion of the young prince journeys out in the great yonder to find him and bring him home: Nala in the case of TLK, and Thor’s trio of friends in Thor. When both Thor and Simba return to their homelands, they are confronted by their betrayer in front of their family. In both cases, the would-be king is speaking with the king’s mother when the true king returns. And in both cases, the reaction of the betrayer to the presence of the betrayed is almost identical:
Scar: Simba…? I’m a little surprised to see you… alive…
Simba: Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t rip you apart.
Scar: Oh, Simba, you must understand. The pressures of ruling a kingdom…
Simba: Are no longer yours. Step down, Scar.
In both cases, one party tries to force the other to admit to what they’ve done in front of their family. Then, of course, there is an epic battle between the true king and the would-be king. The respective endings to these fights are hilariously similar.
In Thor, the brothers are blasted out onto the bridge at the climax of their fight, and Loki is left dangling over the edge, about to fall. He asks for mercy from Thor… which Thor, of course, gives. But Loki was lying again, and uses Thor’s mercy to attack him once more. In The Lion King, Simba finally overpowers Scar at the top of Pride Rock, and backs him up against the edge. Scar, knowing he is defeated, begs for mercy, which Simba gives… then throws hot coals into his eyes the moment Simba’s back is turned.
In both cases, the epic fight continues after this interlude, and this time the true king overpowers the would-be again. And in both cases, the true king does not actually kill the evil brother, but the brother is defeated from (more or less) his own actions. (And both meet their ultimate downfalls by falling off a ledge.) Both films end shortly thereafter.
Obviously, the similarities aren’t perfect: the romantic interests of the respective heroes don’t correlate well across the two movies, and in many cases the subtle motives of the characters are a bit different. Loki is a bit more fucked up than Scar, who is more of a straightforward murderer and usurper, as opposed to a genocidal maniac who’s racist against his own people. Point is, if Simba and Timon had furious makeouts, Scar was a hyena in a lion skin, and Zazu was a badass black man with a big sword, it would have been practically the same movie.