Pascal Gunsch

Pride of Baghdad

IRAQ 2003

Do some research on the situation Iraq found itself in and around 2003.
The invasion of Iraq lasted from 19 March 2003 to 1 May 2003, and marked the beginning of the Iraq War, which would last for 8 years. A combined force of troops from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Poland invaded Iraq, captured Baghdad, the Iraq’s capital city, and overthrew the regime of Saddam Hussein, known for the brutality of his dictatorship.
According to U.S. President George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the aim of the mission was “to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein’s support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people.” However, in 2005, the CIA released a report saying that no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq.


Do some research on Graphic novels.
There is no clear definition of the term ‘graphic novel,’ but there are some clear differences between graphic novels and comic books. The primary difference is that comic books are thin, paper covered book(let)s which continue, begin or conclude a story from other comic books. Graphic novels, on the other hand, tend to cover an entire story. Possible sequels are entirely new stories, based upon the components of the other novel, which ensures that you will understand it without knowledge of the other graphic novel.
Another difference is the themes. Graphic novels generally cover more mature themes, in the main not written for kids, or completely inappropriate to young readers. Another difference between the two is that graphic novels are regarded as books (since they get an ISBN), whilst comics are given an ISSN, just like magazines.
There is no clear definition of graphic novels, and thus no real definition of its origin. From the Cro-Magnon cave paintings to the hieroglyphs of Ancient Egypt, visualisation of stories has been a successful way of expressing thoughts and emotions.
There has always been a large part of the population that is illiterate. Especially in writing’s beginnings, reading was a luxury and drawings and cartoons were used as a simpler way to tell stories. However, when the Industrial Revolution caused machines to do all the work, the working class began to have more free time, in which they needed entertainment. This entertainment was offered through various mediums, including writing. The first major graphic novel was published in the United States in 1842. The adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck by Rodolphe Toffler appeared in the weekly humour magazine Brother Jonathan.
After the First World War, new forms of entertainment arose, such as the pulp novels. These were aimed at male public, generally covering war stories, westerns and science fiction. The pulp publishers began to look for a broader audience, and they did so by focussing at daily newspaper strips. In 1933, M.C. Gaines created the first comic book, New funnies. In 1938, comics literally exploded with the coming of a guy named Superman.
Superman was soon to be followed by fellow costumed heroes, as well as detectives, cowboys and the likes. The 1940s were the comic books Golden Age. However, the success soon ended with the coming of a new medium: the television. Marketing strategies changed and well-known comics featuring Tintin, Asterix the Gaul, the Smurfes and Disney characters, became widely popular.
During the early 1980s, the advent of malls and mass merchandisers eliminated the local retailers, which had been a major place for comic book sales. Comics and their themes began to specify to target audiences. One of the first graphic novels were A contract with God by Will Eisner and The Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.


1 Write a list of words (adjectives) that you consider suitable and apt in describing Pride of Baghdad as a story. Then choose some of those adjectives to write sentences in order to give a brief description of the novel.
Adjectives: confrontational – cruel – deserted – disgusting – hopeful – sad – surprising – symbolic – treacherous
Pride of Baghdad is about a pride of four lions living in the Baghdad Zoo. All of sudden, their quarters is bombed and they are free. The zoo is deserted and the animals start a hopeful journey to the place they belong, unknowing of the 3000 kilometres they’ll have to cover to get there. Freedom, however, is already portrayed as treacherous, when a giraffe exclaiming his excitement is hit by a bomb and almost clashes on the lions. This is also one of the more disgusting scenes, which make Pride of Baghdad definitely no children’s book. One of the other scenes is the last one, where surprisingly, after the lions finally get to see a horizon, they are cruelly shot by the US soldiers. Pride of Baghdad is not only a sad book, but it is also symbolic for the situation in Iraq and therefore quite confrontational.

2 Write a short essay (200 words) on freedom as it is represented in the graphic novel.
Pride of Baghdad is about a pride of lions which escaped from their home, the Baghdad Zoo, after it had been devastated by American bombing raids. The four lions found themselves in the middle of a war-torn city, where each of them takes a different point of view on the war and the way they should cope with their freedom.
Zill, the alpha (as well as only) male of the pride, for instance, is still young and incapable of keeping the pride together, which makes him rather neutral about the situation. Noor is Zill’s current mate. She wants to break free in order to see the horizon, and relive the ‘old days’. She doesn’t care about the consequences, she only wants to live without restrictions by others. She would mind eating the humans who cared for them.
Safa, on the other hand, is an older lioness who wants to stay in the zoo. She thinks that it is better to be kept in captivity with keepers who care for her than to live in the wild, where you may be free, but also where there lure a lot of dangers and where eating once a week is a rarity.
Ali is Noor’s cub. He is still young and unknowing about the situation, as he has never known or seen the ‘wild’. Yet, he tends to listen to his mother more than to the other lions. For him, the outside world is exciting and like a fairy tale, a place of magic where you hunt for your food.
The different views are nicely illustrated in the beginnning, where Zill says: ‘We’re free.’ Ali replies by saying ‘YES!’, while they other lions are less sure about their new situation. Noor says: ‘There’s an old saying, Zill, freedom can’t be given, only earned.’ Zill replies as following: ‘Yeah, well, there’s another old saying. You don’t look a gift horse in the mouth… you eat him.’ After they decided to go, Ali is very enthousiasted: ‘Mom says it’s a jungle out there. We’re gonna be kings!’ Safa replies by saying: ‘Then enjoy your reign in Hell.’
The central theme of the novel clearly is ‘freedom’ with the central question ‘is it better to be free and be hungry than to live with restrictions but safety?’. Each of the lions take a different point of view, and use a different reasoning. However, all agree on that freedom is something with a price, it is dangerous and hard.


‘Someone’ is a who or a character.
‘Wanted’ is motivation or answers the question ‘What does the person want?’
‘But’ is an obstacle or answers the question ‘What hinders the character from getting what they want?’
‘So’ answers the question ‘What is resolved between the character’s motivation and the obstacle’ or simply ‘What happens?’
Add at least 10 more Someone Wanted But So examples to your list throughout your reading of the novel.

Someone wanted …, but …, so …
Noor wanted to leave the zoo, but she was caged, so she makes a plan with the antelope.
Zill wanted the bird to shut its mouth, but it refused, so he swore to swallow it whole.
Ali wanted to see a horizon, but he was caged, so he wanted to get free.
The monkeys wanted to have Ali in their troop, but Ali refused, so the monkeys kidnap him.
Safa wanted to stay in the zoo, but the others didn’t, so they left.
The turtle wanted the lions to stay away from ‘his Tigris’, but the lions didn’t understand, so they stayed.
The turtle wanted the wars to stop, but he can’t influence humans, so he leaves it be.
Zill wanted to eat a dead human, but Safa didn’t because the humans have looked after them for all the time, so they don’t eat the body.
Noor wanted to hunt the horses, but a bomb exploded, so she couldn’t.
Fajar wanted to eat Noor or Ali, but they were saved by Zill, so they weren’t eaten.
Safa wanted everyone to be safe, but they are under attack, so she sacrifices herself.
The lions wanted to be free, but they formed a ‘threat’ to the American soldiers, so they were assassinated.

Democracy is the idea that the people rule or govern. However it is the majority’s will that governs. Think about what the individual’s role is within the government. Within the reading you will see examples of decisions being made by a collective and at times certain individuals will disagree with the majority opinion. Throughout the novel, be able to think about / be able to discuss the ‘so’ of those individuals or rather how the individuals act when they are at odds with the ‘people’s will’ and consider if there is a correlation to the American government or indeed any government.

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