“Don’t you dare try to bite Toto! You ought to be ashamed of yourself, a big beast like you, to bite a poor little dog!”
“I didn’t bite him,” said the Lion, as he rubbed his nose with his paw where Dorothy had hit it.
“No, but you tried to,” she retorted. “You are nothing but a big coward.”
“I know it,” said the Lion, hanging his head in shame; “I’ve always known it. But how can I help it?”
Welcome aboard! We are currently dissecting The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, so feel free to catch up with the posts listed above before moving ahead. Aside from that, continuing with the basic idea I established in an earlier post, I am going to summarize the chapters and then provide an analysis at the end for the sake of what is happening beneath the surface. Onward!
Chapter Six: The Cowardly Lion
So far, we have met the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman in The Wizard of Oz, and they have both agree to help Dorothy on her journey to the Emerald City so that she can find a route back to Kansas and so that the Tin Woodman can receive a heart and so that the Scarecrow can receive a brain. In chapter six, they are confronted with another ally: The Cowardly Lion.
“Just as he spoke there came from the forest a terrible roar, and the next moment a great Lion bounded into the road. With one blow of his paw, he sent the Scarecrow spinning over and over to the edge of the road, and then he struck at the Tin Woodman with his sharp claws. But, to the Lion’s surprise, he could make no impression on the tin, although the Woodman fell over in the road and lay still.”
After Dorothy swats his nose for trying to eat her dog Toto, the Cowardly Lion reveals that he is in fact a coward, as he even admits that only a chicken would eat a small dog. It is at this moment that the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman explain their purpose for traveling with Dorothy, which causes the Cowardly Lion to ask whether the great and powerful Oz could also grant him courage. They all seem to think so, and the journey continues.
“Do you think Oz could give me courage?” asked the cowardly Lion.
“Just as easily as he could give me brains,” said the Scarecrow.
“Or give me a heart,” said the Tin Woodman.
“Or send me back to Kansas,” said Dorothy.
Well met travelers are well met, I suppose, but even in Baum’s world, travelers who are cowards and try to eat small dogs are also granted the gifts of sympathy and empathy. The Cowardly Lion is one of my favorite characters in the book so far, because even though he shows great courage but jumping a group of strangers, he shows that he has reason and that he is also self-effacing, which means he reflects on his own character (perhaps too much), which is definitely a shared trait among the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman.
Lastly, the Tin Woodman is given a moment toward the end of the chapter to show that while he doesn’t have a heart, he possesses a great kindness toward living creatures after he steps on a bug and is upset about it. He resigns to watch the road more carefully until Oz grants him his heart.
Baum, L. Frank. “The Wizard of Oz the First Five Novels.” Fall River Press, 2014.