• Nala (The Lion King)

Meaning: gift (Swahili—dubious)
Species: Lion

Every bit as rambunctious as Simba, Nala is ready to go wherever he goes or do whatever he does. Best buddies, the twosome are taken aback when Zazu tells them they are to be married. What a yucky idea! But time changes things, and when they meet again, they realize their friendship has deepened into love.

Nala’s mother is Sarafina, one of the pride’s lionesses and a friend of Sarabi; the question of who her father is remains one of the mysteries of The Lion King universe (though directors Rob Minkoff and Roger Allers have personally, though reluctantly, acknowledged that it must be either Scar or Mufasa). Nala is a close friend and playmate of Simba, with whom she’s never afraid to go exploring or get into mischief.

The Pride’s traditions dictate that Nala and Simba will one day be Queen and King together; but when Simba is lost after Mufasa’s death, she devotes her life to providing for the pride as the Pride Lands fall into ruin. Scar eventually comes to see Nala as a prize, a Queen to his own throne (a subplot that is more fully explored in the Broadway Musical than in the movie); but she spurns him and chooses instead, in desperation, to leave Pride Rock and search for help from outside. The last thing she expects, though, is to find Simba alive again.