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Rafiki

Rafiki

Rafiki is an anthropomorphized monkey who first appeared in the Walt Disney Pictures animated film The Lion King. He lives in a baobab tree and is old and wise. He performs activities which are often shamanistic, but also sometimes quite silly. He tends to speak in third person when speaking of himself. Rafiki provides important counsel to the adult Simba when the latter is trying to determine his destiny. His tail looks broken and bent. His name means "friend" in Swahili,[1] a borrowing from [1] Arabic (رفيق , rafīq : friend, companion, attendant) and he is voiced by veteran actor Robert Guillaume.

Though he somewhat resembles a mandrill, Rafiki has a long tail and lacks a distinctive crested head, and is referred to usually as a baboon.

AppearancesEdit

FilmsEdit

Rafiki's character often serves as the visual narrator of the story of The Lion King. He is shown to be a dear friend to Mufasa. He presents newborn cubs to all the animals gathered at Pride Rock, and draws a stylized lion cub on the walls of his treehouse home to represent Simba's birth. When Simba runs away and his family believes him dead, Rafiki draws his paw across the Simba drawing, obscuring it in grief. Later, after picking up Simba's scent in the dust and pollen in the air, Rafiki determines that Simba is still alive and restores the drawing, adding the full mane of an adult lion as a sign to seek out this young deliverer from Scar's tyranny. Journeying to the area where Simba lives with Timon and Pumbaa, Rafiki observes Simba and recognizes, at least in principle, that he is suffering from a ponderous emotional burden. To treat it, he approaches the young lion and teaches him a few playful (and sometimes painful) lessons about learning from the past, not living in it. He also points out that the spirit and values of Simba's dead father, Mufasa, continue to live in Simba himself. During this scene, Rafiki incessantly repeats the Swahili phrase "Asante sana, squash banana, we we nugu, mi mi apana," which roughly translates to "Thank you very much, squash banana, you are a baboon, and I am not." When Simba decides to return to Pride Rock and fight Scar for the kingship, Rafiki accompanies him, demonstrating his kung fu skills in battle against the hyenas. At the end of the film, Rafiki raises Simba and Nala's new-born cub atop Pride Rock for everyone to see, echoing the beginning of the film.

Judging by their meeting at Timon and Pumbaa's home, it would seem that Simba has not met Rafiki before that point, or at the very least does not remember him.


In the sequel The Lion King II: Simba's Pride, Rafiki appears in the beginning again as the presenter of Simba and Nala's new-born cub Kiara. Later on in the film, despite protesting that Simba and Zira would forbid it, he is persuaded by Mufasa's spirit to attempt to get Zira's son Kovu and Kiara to fall in love. He tries to make the adult Kiara and Scar's heir Kovu fall in love with each other by taking them to a fantasy paradise called "Upendi" (similar to the Swahili word for "love"). Later, when Simba exiles Kovu, he was seen sighing sadly of Kovu leaving. In the end, he acts as the host of Kiara and Kovu's wedding.

Rafiki appears briefly in the midquel The Lion King 1½, and is referred to by Timon as "The Omniscient Monkey". It is revealed that it was Rafiki who taught Timon the philosophy of "Hakuna Matata". Besides appearing in the scenes he appeared in the original film, Rafiki also appears in a scene where he chats with Timon's mother and in a scene where he makes Timon go back to join his friends against Scar, albeit saying nothing but "My work here is done" after Timon goes to find Pumbaa on his own. A deleted scene from the film revealed that Rafiki was the movie's original narrator.

The Lion King musicalEdit

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Rafiki (Tsidii Le Loka, right) and Nala (Heather Headley) during the latter's song, Shadowland being performed on The Late Show with David Letterman

In the musical based on the film, the character of Rafiki went through a minor change. Because director Julie Taymor felt that the story lacked the presence of a strong female, Rafiki was changed into a female mandrill. The role was originated on Broadway by Tsidii Le Loka, who was nominated for a Tony Award in 1998 for her performance.

Rafiki's role is expanded in the musical. She sings the song Circle of Life and her painting scene is extended. She also sings a song called "Rafiki Mourns", in which she mourns Mufasa's death. She also has a brief role in Nala's song "Shadowland", blessing Nala for her journey to find help. Instead of finding Simba's scent on dust, Rafiki hears Simba's song "Endless Night" on the wind. Rafiki meets Simba and shows him that his father lives on inside him through the song "He Lives in You" (it should be noted that Rafiki's "Asante Sana" chant is completely changed). She is present during the battle, fighting a hyena using hand-to-hand combat. She then appears adorning Simba with the king's mantle and then presents his newborn cub at the end of the play.

Other appearancesEdit

It was revealed in The Lion King: Six New Adventures, "A Tale of Two Brothers" that Rafiki was not always a resident of the Pride Lands.

Rafiki appears in a few episodes of the Timon and Pumbaa TV series and also has his own series of skits called "Rafiki Fables" in the same show.

Rafiki is a regular guest at Mickey Mouse's night club in the TV series House of Mouse.

He appears as a minor non-playable character in the Pride Lands world of the popular Disney/Square Enix video game Kingdom Hearts II.

Rafiki also appears at the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts as a meet and greet character.

Possible Symbolism of RafikiEdit

Rafiki in many ways resembles a crazy wisdom Zen master: playing a fool on the surface but being deep and insightful underneath. One prominent reference to Zen is when he says, "I know your father;" he is sitting in a full lotus position with his hands placed in a Guyan Mudra. Rafiki also says "He lives in you," of Mufasa to Simba, similar to the abstract Zen concept of rebirth. And Rafiki cracks Simba over the head with his staff to get him thinking, which is similar to the Zen koan "Ten Successors".


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