The male lion
is one of the most popular and common cultural icons, and has been so from ancient times to the present. One of the 'big cats' along with the tiger, jaguar and leopard, it earns its presence in this group (the genus Panthera
) through its ability to roar. They are now only found in the wild in eastern and southern Africa, and the northwestern Gir Forest
area of India; once, however, the were the most widespread large land mammal after humans, existing throughout the Americas and Europe. Their current classification by the IUCN
as a 'vulnerable species' has led to many passionate conservation efforts throughout the world, whether through their protection in the wild or zoo-based preservation projects. Well known cultural depiction include the book and film 'Born Free'
, 'The Lion King'
, and the 'Cowardly Lion'
in 'The Wizard of Oz'
. The lion is also a powerful symbol within Christian theology and iconography; one example is the story of Daniel in the Lions Den
(Daniel 6: 16-24). There is also the 'Lion of Judah'
, representing the Israelite tribe of Judah
in the Book of Genesis
. Traditional Ethiopian culture has held that the country's people are descended from this tribe, which led to Emperor Haile Selassie I
of Ethiopia to be called 'The Lion of Judah"
culture. The lion ultimately symbolises Christ; it is often argued that 'Aslan'
in C.S. Lewis' 'The Chronicles of Narnia'
represents Jesus. Another popular idea is that of the 'lion and the lamb', which actually originates through a misquote
from the biblical book of Isaiah
. It suggests peace through the reconciliation of opposites; the innocent, guileless lamb and the strong, fierce lion being in harmony with one another. It can also be seen at the two faces of the King, i.e. Christ. The two animals are commonly depicted in Christian Heraldry, with the lamb representing the Redeemer and the lion the Resurrection. The prevalence of Judeo-Christian
ideas within western culture give Carter carte blanche to explore these symbols through her tales, as she does here; Mr Lyon is certainly not just a fierce hunter.