Tall, strong, and—can a cartoon lion be handsome? Fine, we'll say it—handsome, Mufasa is the very picture of nobility. He is a just and beneficent leader. He loves both his wife, Sarabi, and his rambunctious son, Simba, and he understands and respects the natural world around him.
A Real King's King
At the beginning of the movie, the Pride Lands flourish with Mufasa as their ruler. Mufasa has everything a guy could dream of: a newborn son, a beautiful wife, a giant rock palace, and a right-hand man who's actually an annoying British bird.
As Simba grows up, Mufasa tries to teach him important lessons about respect for nature and the importance of family:
"Everything exists together in a delicate balance. As king, you need to understand that balance, and respect all the creatures—from the crawling ant to the leaping antelope."
Although Simba is a pretty rambunctious kid, Mufasa is still able to instill some good values in him.
Good vs. Evil: Round 1 to Infinity
Okay, now we're going to throw something crazy at you: Mufasa and Scar represent the dichotomy of good and evil in The Lion King. That was a mouthful, right? Let's unpack that into English.
Scar is basically evil personified (or lionified), and Mufasa is that same thing but for good. And when they're together, they're super contrast-y with each other. Where Scar likes to lie and cheat, Mufasa always believes in behaving ethically and caring for others. Scar is all about the use of senseless violence and brute force, and Mufasa would never use force unless absolutely necessary.
When Scar kills Mufasa, it looks as if evil has won out over good. But, that's not exactly true: Mufasa's ghost visits Simba and inspires him to follow in his father's footsteps. Remember that whole thing about The Lion King basically being Hamlet? Well, here's yet another point in the film where it couldn't possibly be more obvious.
In Hamlet, our young prince actually confers with the ghost of his father about the evil Claudius—the ghost confirms that it was Claudius who killed him, and that the throne is rightfully Hamlet's. In The Lion King, Mufasa's ghost reminds Simba:
"Look inside yourself, Simba. You are more than what you have become. You must take your place in the Circle of Life."
Simba does, and good is eventually avenged over evil.