- “You follow ol' Rafiki, he knows the way!”
- ―Rafiki to Simba
Rafiki is a supporting character in Disney's 1994 animated feature film The Lion King. He is a mandrill who serves as a shaman and Royal Mjuzi of the Pride Lands. Rafiki has an eccentricity that paints him as something of a lunatic; in truth, he is a sage with a deep connection to magical and spiritual elements. With his bakora stick always on his person, Rafiki uses his wisdom to guide those in need, most notably Simba.
- 1 Background
- 2 Appearances
- 3 Video games
- 4 Musical
- 5 Disney Parks
- 6 Gallery
- 7 Trivia
- 8 References
It is revealed in the storybook A Tale of Two Brothers that Rafiki was not always a resident of the Pride Lands. Years before Mufasa's reign, Rafiki was a traveler studying the African lands who eventually stumbled upon the Pride Lands, where he was attacked by a young Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed. The mandrill was saved by Ahadi, the former ruler of the Pride Lands and father of Mufasa and Scar (then known as Taka).
Eventually taking residence in the vast lands, Rafiki would soon become close companions with Mufasa and one day overheard Taka's plot to sabotage his brother's reputation, only to be foiled by the mandrill. The end results in Taka falling injured, with Rafiki using his abilities to tend to his wounds and heal him, though one mark remains on the lion's body - his scar, thus becoming the dangerously-envious Prince Scar.
Rafiki's heroic performance throughout the event leads to Ahadi requesting that the mandrill serves as the adviser to all future kings, which Rafiki accepts.
By the time of The Lion King, Rafiki lives in an ancient baobab tree, where he regularly performs shamanistic activities. He continues his role as Royal Mjuzi of the Pride Lands and remains a close friend to Mufasa and his family.
Rafiki is extremely sagacious and wise. However, his way of exploiting his intelligence is highly irregular; he prefers to teach his pupils (such as Simba) by bombarding them with cryptic metaphors, and typically in a way that purposely annoys them. He takes great joy in this, and though unconventional, the methods of his teaching have proven to be effective time and time again. It should be noted that part of the reason Rafiki's teachings are quite eccentric is the fact that Rafiki, himself, is fairly eccentric. He is excitable, energetic in spite of his age, and tends to fall into fits of hysterical laughter when something amuses him. He also tends to speak in third-person when speaking of himself.
Despite this, much as his reputation would conceive, Rafiki does have a tamer side. He takes his role as a sage of the Pride Lands somberly and will act diligently to ensure the balance of the "Circle of Life" remains intact. He is also deeply connected to the spiritual world, as he is seen communicating (both professionally and casually) with Mufasa's spirit in The Lion King II: Simba's Pride.
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. Months later, Rafiki draws his paw across the Simba drawing, obscuring it in grief after Scar takes over as king and claims that Simba died alongside Mufasa in a wildebeest stampede.
Years later, after picking up Simba's scent in the dust, pollen, and petals 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 jungle 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 running from it. He also points out that the spirit and values of Simba's late 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, also making sure to inform Nala, Timon, and Pumbaa about Simba's decision to return to Pride Rock and confront Scar. Despite his age, he displayed his masterful combat abilities as a warrior in battle, by bashing one hyena in the head hard with his staff to save Simba, before effortlessly dispatching another six more in kung-fu like fashion. At the end of the film, Rafiki raises Simba and Nala's newborn 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 at the very least does not remember Rafiki as he had only been an infant in their previous encounter.
In The Lion King II: Simba's Pride, Rafiki is more closely involved with the affairs and politics of the prides and is often seen with the lions. When the balance of the Circle of Life is thrown off on account of the rivalry between Simba's pride and Zira and her pride the Outsiders (which consists of Zira's children and several other lionesses, who were banished from the Pride Lands for being loyal to Scar), Mufasa's spirit persuades Rafiki to bring Simba's daughter Kiara and Zira's son Kovu together as a way of uniting the prides. He then asks if Mufasa is crazy and doubts that the plan will never work and tells him he has been up there too long and his head in the clouds and is then immediately buffeted by a strong gust of wind from Mufasa's spirit, immediately convincing the mandrill to carry out the deceased king's idea.
From that point, Rafiki assists Kovu (who apparently hopes of joining Simba's pride) in earning Simba's trust and eventually tries to have the male lion and Kiara fall in love by singing to them about a place called "Upendi", which means "love" in Swahili. However, it is soon revealed that Kovu was originally working for Zira to kill Simba and though he tried to abolish the plot out of his blossoming love for Kiara, her father exiles Kovu, blaming him for the Outsiders' ambush on him. Rafiki sighs sadly on seeing Kovu leave, knowing he was not part of the attack and that Simba is defying his father's goals, which leaves the Circle of Life broken.
In the end, however, after Kovu proves his worth and works with Kiara to fix the broken Circle, Rafiki happily blesses the union of Kiara and Kovu and celebrates the newfound unity between the prides.
Rafiki appears briefly in The Lion King 1½. He is referred to by Timon simply as "The Monkey."
He is first seen briefly after Timon leaves his meerkat colony in search of a better life away from predators and free of tunnel digging. After explaining this to Rafiki, the mandrill openly realizes Timon seeks "Hakuna Matata," meaning "No worries," and thus introduces him to the problem-free philosophy. Rafiki then explains that, in order to find Hakuna Matata, one must look beyond what they see, setting Timon's journey in motion.
Later on, Rafiki is seen speaking with Timon's mother about his meeting with her son. Thinking Rafiki sent Timon out to find a life nonexistent, resulting in him finding danger instead, Ma scolds the mandrill and heads out to find Timon with her uncle Max. Years later, Rafiki is seen visiting Timon at the latter's jungle oasis, where he (somewhat) enlightens Timon on what it is to be a true friend and the true power of Hakuna Matata.
During the film's finale, Rafiki is lastly seen attending the theater viewing of the film, alongside the other characters from the film, as well as a large amount of Disney characters.
Rafiki is a secondary protagonist in the Timon & Pumbaa TV series, having his own segments titled "Rafiki Fables" during the show's first season. His shamanism is expanded throughout the show.
In "Good Mousekeeping", it is shown that Rafiki can grant wishes (or as he calls them, "Rafiki Wishes", with his policy being only one wish per animal) and can also take back wishes as well.
In "Rafiki's Apprentice", Rafiki is shown to have a nephew named Nefu and his walking stick is shown to have magical powers. It is also revealed that Rafiki got his stick from his grandfather when he was young. He explains to his nephew that the gourds on his stick are the key to his mystical abilities.
In the Timon and Pumbaa-centric episodes, Rafiki acts as a therapist during times of stress within' their friendship.
Rafiki is a recurring guest in House of Mouse. His most memorable scene was in "The Stolen Cartoons", where Timon yelled that there was a fly in Pumbaa's soup and that he wanted one as well. Timon then asks what is in Simba's soup and he replies that it is Rafiki, who is bathing in his soup.
He was given his own advertisement at the end of "King Larry Swings In", which promoted Rafiki's Royal Treatment—a service in which Rafiki could be hired to partake in special events like birthdays, tea parties, holidays, and puppet shows.
In "Everybody Loves Mickey", Timon laughs at Mortimer Mouse's jab at Rafiki's age, to which the latter responds by knocking Timon on the head with his stick. The Evil Queen does the same when Timon laughs at Mortimer's comment that Snow White is the fairest of them all.
Rafiki also made several cameo appearances in Mickey's Magical Christmas: Snowed in at the House of Mouse during crowd shots and the finale song.
Rafiki returns in the animated series, first appearing in the pilot film The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar (which takes place during The Lion King II: Simba's Pride). He, along with Simba and Nala, hears Kion's loud roar and feels that Kion is ready to become the leader of the new Lion Guard. Though Simba is against the idea, feeling Kion is not ready, Rafiki (along with Nala) is an avid supporter, believing it to be fate. The mandrill is able to quickly convince Simba to go along with informing his son of his destiny, and in order to do so, he and Rafiki take the young cub to a hidden area of Pride Rock, where paintings on the stone walls tell the story of the previous Lion Guard, which was led by Scar (who destroyed his guard after they refused to help him overthrow Mufasa). Rafiki is seen again during the climax, where Simba, Nala, and Rafiki are able to witness a Kion-led Lion Guard successfully defending the land from a pack of hyenas. With this, Kion has proven himself to be worthy of the responsibility, though Rafiki is unsurprised.
In "Bunga the Wise", Bunga misinterprets a compliment from Rafiki and declares himself "Sage of Hakuna Matata Falls". He then takes it upon himself to solve all problems within the Pride Lands, but to bizarre results. In the end, Rafiki explains he did not finish his statement and clarifies that honey badgers are smart when they think things through.
In "Paintings and Predictions", Bunga feels Rafiki's murals can predict the future. However, Rafiki later explains that his mural tells stories are of the past.
In "Beware of the Zimwi", Rafiki tells the Guard of a legendary creature known as the Zimwi. His stories spook the others, giving them anxiety throughout the rest of the episode.
In "Lions of the Outlands", Bunga recalls that Kion and his friend Jasiri traveled to the Outlands to meet with a group of lions; Rafiki correctly believed these lions to be Zira and her clan, and thus warned the rest of the Guard of their dangerous loyalty to Scar and that Kion could be trouble if they learn his identity as Simba's son.
In "The Rise of Scar", Rafiki gains an apprentice named Makini. When she was born, Makini was chosen by the Great Kings of the Past to act as Rafiki's successor once the latter passes away. Once she comes of age, Makini begins her training under Rafiki, who teaches his apprentice of the power that comes with being the mjuzi, such as hearing the Great Kings of the Past, who can also be summoned by Kion. Rafiki also informs her that "bad" lions can be summoned as well and to do this, one must be near fire and use both Kion's roar and a magical bakora staff. This information is overheard by Ushari, who delivers this news to Janja and his hyena clan. Together, they take Makini's staff and trick Kion into using his roar in the Outlands, allowing them to summon Scar.
In "Rafiki's New Neighbors", Rafiki is helping Makini paint for the Royal Family until they get interrupted by noise from an elephant, a sable antelope, and a monkey. Chama, Furaha, and Mzhaha decide to move in, but Rafiki cannot handle the noise they make. He asks the guard if they could return the friends to their herds. Later, the friends come back because they realize they do not belong in their own herds. Rafiki suggests that they live somewhere else and the three friends leave. Later, fire hits the tree from dry lighting, and the two mandrills are trapped. The three friends come to the rescue and start to put out the fire. With the guard's help, Rafiki's tree is saved at last and Rafiki allows the friends to stay. Chama mentions that they found a home near Big Springs where they can be as loud as they want. Rafiki offers them to come to watch Makini paint. Later Makini paints a picture of the Royal Family.
In "Divide and Conquer", Scar orders the hyenas and jackals to get rid of Rafiki since he can sense the Great and Evil lions of the past. When hearing Janja, Rafiki joyfully fights of the hyenas with help from the Guard and Tamaa.
In "The Scorpion's Sting", Rafiki manages to cure Simba of a deadly infection after the Lion Guard fends off the Army of Scar by getting the volcanic ash to cure the venom paralyzing Simba.
In "Battle for the Pride Lands", he shows a map between the Pride Lands and Tree of Life, to help guide Kion and his team as, together with Makini, they depart for the Tree of Life so Kion can be given the medical attention for Ushari's venom and regain control of the Roar of the Elders.
In "Journey of Memories", Makini remembers the time she spent with her parents Fikiri and Kitendo who tell her that Rafiki was once a Royal Mjuzi and one day, Makini might be a Mjuzi like Rafiki as well. During the musical number "As You Move Forward", Makini's parents take their daughter to Rafiki in the Tree of Life where he is seen standing alongside Janna who is happy to see Makini visit the Tree.
In "Return to the Pride Lands", once Kion and his team return to the Pride Lands following Kion's recovery at the Tree of Life, he explains the events that happened while Kion and his team were away with help from some of his paintings and supported by Kovu and Kiara, who reveal events that occurred in Simba's Pride and why Kovu, Vitani and the Outsider lionesses are now part of Simba's pride. Later when Kion and Vitani clash against each other while Thurston tells them to do it his way, Ono tells Bunga that both Lion Guards should compete to know whose Guard is better to which the Battle of the Lion Guards begins. During the Battle of the Lion Guards, Rafiki talks to the Pridelanders about the Battle of the Lion Guards to know whose Lion Guard is better in a competition between Kion and Vitani while Ono gets to be the judge as his position as the Smartest. Eventually, Kion allows Vitani to win during the Battle of the Lion Guards. Once Kion masters the Power of the Roar and relinquishes his title as the leader of the Lion Guard, Rafiki then joins Simba, Nala, Kovu, Kiara, Timon, Pumbaa, and Kion's team as they attend the wedding of Kion and Rani at the Tree of Life, marking Kion as the new King with Rani as his mate.
Rafiki arrives at Pride Rock during the birth of Simba where he presents Mufasa and Sarabi's newborn cub during the presentation. Later, Rafiki goes to his tree where several bugs help him complete a painting of Simba who was recently born (instead of using gourd juice to complete the painting like in the original film). He later appears sitting next to Zazu in which both of them feel disappointed upon hearing Scar's plans on becoming the new king.
After Simba grows up as an adult lion, he sees a part of his mane delivered by each animal that finds it as he discovers that Simba is alive. After Simba feels upset about his refusal to return to Pride Rock and not listening to Nala's advice, he encounters Rafiki, who reminds him that he is the son of Mufasa. Rafiki then tells Simba to look into the pool of reflection where he explains that Mufasa still lives in Simba's heart even though he died during the stampede. Simba then decides to return to Pride Rock, thanks to Rafiki's plan on helping him remember his father, who tells him to take his rightful place as the new king.
As Simba returns to Pride Rock, Rafiki sets out to find his staff and calls it an "old friend" to help Simba stop Scar from ruling the Pride Lands (this scene was not in the animated version, because in the original film, Rafiki tells Nala that Simba returned to Pride Rock to take place as King). During the final battle against Scar, Rafiki uses his staff to save Zazu from the hyenas, whereas in the animated version, he saves Simba instead of Zazu.
After Scar's death, Rafiki and the other Pridelanders are proud of Simba who stopped Scar's tyranny. Rafiki then tells Simba that it is time to take place as the new king of Pride Rock. Later at the end of the film, Simba and Nala give birth to a new cub as Rafiki presents the new cub in front of the animals.
In the animated blooper reel featured in The Lion King: Diamond Edition special features, Rafiki is seen twice; first seen falling asleep during a scene with Simba, while another shows him accidentally tripping over something and dropping Simba off the ledge of Pride Rock, in the middle of "Circle of Life".
In Timon and Pumbaa's Wild About Safety, Rafiki is seen in the form of a trophy in the episode Honest and Real!.
Rafiki is first mentioned by Nala after being rescued by the valiant Sora and his friends, Donald Duck and Goofy. Sora's bravery leads Nala to believe he may have a chance at saving the Pride Lands from the tyrannical Scar and become the new king. She escorts them to Pride Rock where a brief meeting with Rafiki is held. Unfortunately, Rafiki denies Nala's expectations, claiming Sora lacks the right attributes needed to be the ruler of the land.
He isn't seen again until later on, after Sora, Nala, Donald, and Goofy make way for the jungle oasis to find Simba, who was believed to be dead until Sora revealed otherwise. Rafiki learns of Simba's fate (much like in the film) and celebrates it. Rafiki is last seen, during the first visit, inducting Simba into the throne.
Rafiki returns during the second visit where an army of Scar's ghost begins haunting the Pride Lands. Simba asks Rafiki for guidance, only to be told the ghosts thrive off of Simba's insecure heart, much to the king's dismay. In the end, after the ghosts are defeated, Rafiki is there to see Sora and friends off, bestowing a few wise words for their travels before they depart.
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.
Lastly, she appears adorning Simba with the king's mantle and then presents his newborn cub at the end of the play.
Rafiki appears at the Disney theme parks around the world as a meet-and-greet character.
He hosts the Rafiki's Planet Watch area of Disney's Animal Kingdom, an area that hosts various conservation education programs and the park's veterinary facilities. One of the various shows inside the pavilion has Rafiki profiling different endangered species and telling guests how they can help them.
In Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, Rafiki notices a disturbance in the Circle of Life when he is informed that Scar has been revived from the dead by Hades. He also has a spell card called "Rafiki's Wisdom Stick".
Rafiki can be seen in Disney Believe aboard the Disney Dream cruise ship. Rafiki is one of the "magic makers" to help an uptight father believe in magic. Rafiki is seen right after Grandmother Willow's sequence and uses the mystery of the animal kingdom to aid Sophia's father Dr. Greenaway's imagination. Like in the Broadway version of The Lion King, Rafiki is portrayed by a woman.
- His name translates to Friend in Swahili.
- In the earliest drafts of The Lion King, Rafiki was not a baboon, but a cheetah. Instead, Scar was a baboon.
- No one in any of the films, other than himself, refers to Rafiki by his name. They either call him "the monkey" or "the baboon". His name is only used in Timon & Pumbaa and The Lion Guard. Although, in an early draft of the first film in what would become "The Circle of Life" sequence, Mufasa refers to Rafiki by his name.
- Rafiki's species, the mandrill, is one of the few species that aren't native to Sub-Saharan Africa.
- Rafiki is drawn with a pronounced tail, a contrast to the most diminished tails of real mandrills.
- Mandrills are also no longer classified as baboons. They are more closely related to other primates, like mangabeys.
- In The Lion King 1½, he knows Timon and Pumbaa, ignoring the fact they didn't know who he was when first seeing him in the jungle with Nala.
- The song Rafiki sings to himself, "Asante sana, squash banana, we we nugu, mi mi apana," is Swahili for "Thank you very much, squash banana, you are a baboon and I am not."
- According to Robert Guillaume, Rafiki's voice was partially created from a failed attempt at a Jamaican accent.
- In D3: The Mighty Ducks, the giant stuffed baboon that a child wins at a carnival bears a striking resemblance to Rafiki.
- "'The Lion King' Remake Casts John Kani As Rafiki". Heroic Hollywood (August 7, 2017).
- Robert Guillaume – Voice of Rafiki in “The Lion King”