Far away in the deeper recesses of my mind are the memories of watching animated films in as a kid. Blissful, colorful memories of fairy tales with happy endings and characters who espoused good virtues and deeds. Only at university when I took a semester class in fairytales was it pointed out how incorrect these stories actually are.
Truth be told, the only fairy tale I am thinking of is the Lion King. This noble story about a young male lion journeying through adolescence finding his place in the world whilst battling the embittered hyenas is indeed touching, heart-warming and an animated feast for those who love the African bushveld. It is however, also a pack of lies.
With the selective bias and consistent cases of othering, the Lion King only tells one side of the story. In fact the title itself sums up exactly where the bias lies. But what about the hyenas?
As with all fairy tales and sensationalised stories, reality is found somewhere in between. And after spending yesterday afternoon with a clan of hyenas at their den, my perspective is firmly focused on reality.
The primary hyena den at Londolozi has been active for a few months and is certainly an experience far removed from the conniving, graveyard dwelling scavengers that were portrayed in the Lion King. In fact spending time with this clan turned out to be fascinating, entertaining and really quite touching.
No sooner than our Landrover had crept next to the den, which has been dug into the heart of an enormous termite mound, did a clan these creatures begin to poke their noses, snouts, heads and entire bodies out of the den’s holes. Inquisitive cubs soon lost interest in sniffing the vehicle and busied themselves with chewing sticks, tumbling over each other and harassing any lactating females for milk.
Up until then, the guests in the vehicle could have been forgiven for still choosing to identify with the lions, but then the clan played their trump card. A small, furry black cub popped its head out of the den and with a single look melted the entire vehicle into infatuation. Simba’s cute smile and playful antics stood no chance, this little hyena cub had stolen the show. Just watch this footage filmed at the den.
Although I still watch the occasional Disney movie these days, I try to do so with a balanced opinion. How we wish to see the world and how it really is are often not the same things. The truth becomes obvious when you are able to see the reality of things for yourself and appreciate whatever shape or form this reality takes. Hyenas and Lions may be eternal enemies, played out against one another in countless movies, documentaries and fairy tales, yet they each hold many different sides to their nature. If you don’t believe me then just come and spend some time with the small, furry black cub and see for yourself.