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Cowardly Lion

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"For my life is simply unbearable, without a bit of courage..."
― The Cowardly Lion (1900)
"Im afraid there's no denyin, I'm just an awful dandy-lion, a fate I don't deserve! But I could show my prowess, be a lion, not a mouse...if I only had the nerve! "
―Cowardly Lion (1939)
"Read what my metal says, COURAGE; ain't it the truth, aint it the truth! "
―Cowardly Lion (1939)
"You know I'm ready to fight and turn your day into night, cause I'm a mean ole lion!"
―The Wiz (1978)
OzIcon
Cowardly Lion

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The Cowardly Lion as depicted in the books

Profile
Title King of the Forest of Oz, Dandy Lion
Gender Male
Species Lion
Origin Dark Jungle & Forest in Munchkin Country
Residence Forest of Wild Beasts (Quadling Country)
Occupation Ruler of the Forest of Wild Beasts; Ozma's chariot puller
Affiliation L. Frank Baum, Land of Oz, Dorothy Gale, Toto, Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, Hungry Tiger, Wizard, Glinda, Princess Ozma, Wicked Witch of the West, Winged Monkeys, Winkies, Sawhorse, Fighting Trees, China Country, Hammer-Heads, Nome King, Deadly Desert, Royal Palace of Oz
First Appearance The Wonderful Wizard of Oz


"...and there at the very end of the field, was the poor Lion, lying fast asleep among the beautiful scarlet Poppies. The flowers had been too strong for the huge beast and he had given up at last, and fallen only a short distance from the end of the poppy bed, where the sweet grass spread in beautiful green fields before them. "We can do nothing for him," said the Tin Woodman sadly; "for he is much too heavy to lift. We must leave him here to sleep on forever, and perhaps he will dream that he has found courage at last."
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900)
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Dorothy, Toto and Cowardly Lion 1900.

"...Lions and Tigers and Bears; OH MY! "
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
"Oh, you outta be ashamed of yourself, frightening him like that when he came to you for help! "
Dorothy Gale defending the Cowardly Lion (1939)

The cowardly Lion is a fictional character created by L. Frank Baum, author and inventor of the Oz legacy. He is introduced in Baum's first Oz book titled The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, published in 1900. He is a main character who appears in the sixth chapter of the book titled The Cowardly Lion.

A Lion Without Courage

"When evening came, Dorothy and Toto began to feel rather hungry. "If you wish," said the Lion, "I will go into the forest and kill a deer for you. You can roast it by the fire, since your tastes are so peculiar that you prefer cooked food, and then you will have a very good breakfast." "Don't! Please don't," begged the Tin Woodman. "I should certainly weep if you killed a poor deer, and then my jaws would rust again." So the Lion went away into the forest and found his own supper. He was gone for quite some time, and no one ever knew what it was, for he didn't mention it when he finally returned. "
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900)

The Cowardly Lion is a huge friendly beast who can talk and is from the enchanted jungles and rainforests in the magical Land of Oz. He also is the third and final character to join the story's child protagonist and book's main heroine named Dorothy Gale of Kansas, while she embarks on her epic journey throughout Oz. When Cowardly Lion encounters Dorothy, she is also accompanied by a brainless Scarecrow, a heartless Tin Woodman and her little pet dog named Toto, all of whom became loyal comrades and good friends forever more.

  • Later on in the Oz series which serve as offical sequel books to Baum's original story, the Cowardly Lion and the Hungry Tiger would become best of friends, just like the Tin Woodman and Scarecrow would. Who even after Dorothy's departure back to Kansas, remained very close comrades. The two beast would be inseparable, much like Dorothy would be inseparable with her best friend other than Toto, the lovely Princess Ozma of Oz when she eventually returned to that magical land.

Baums' Description

"...suddenly somewhere deep within the forest, a startling roar, was heard. 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. Little Toto, thinking he now had an enemy to face to protect his mistress, ran barking toward the Lion. So the great beast had opened his mouth to bite Toto. Dorothy, fearing her dog would be killed, and heedless of danger, rushed forward and slapped the Lion upon his nose as hard as she could, while she cried out: "Don't you dare bite Toto! You ought to be ashamed of yourself, a big beast like you, to bite a poor little dog! "
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900)

Baum describes the Cowardly Lion as being grandiose, handsome and nearly as big as a horse in size. He is a rather cuddly animal despite being so large, and also is a gentle giant at heart. He is said to have golden colored eyes that sparkle like fools gold and are full of wit and intelligence. He is warm, plush and soft, having a fluffy, bushy and curly mane and often is adorned with a brightly colored bow on the top of his head and at the very end of his long tail, usually of green or red silk.

  • The Cowardly Lion can sing songs, in a "deep bass voice." (Glinda of Oz)

The Cowardly Lion is loved by all in the land of Oz, his best animal friend is another talking beast named The Hungry Tiger. When the two are not in the jungles or forests of Oz, dominating the Animal Kingdom, both the Cowardly Lion and the Hungry Tiger can be found sitting on soft cushions beside Princess Ozma. They accompany the child Queen as she sits upon her Royal Throne in her home which is the Royal Palace of Oz, that stands in the very center of the Emerald City of Oz.

Since all lions in general are stereotypically known to be fierce, ferocious and expected to be "The Kings of all Beasts," by nature, the Cowardly Lion believes that his insecurities make him inadequate to other lions and beast. He simply does not understand that courage means acting in the face of fear and facing ones fears head on, which he does frequently throughout the Oz stories. Only during the after effects of the Wizard's gift, when he is under the influence of an unknown green liquid substance that the Wizard orders him to drink out of a small bowl, (perhaps gin) is he not filled with fear anymore. (In the iconic 1939 film by MGM he is given a gold metal that reads COURAGE across it.)

The gift given by the Wizard is a subconsciously physiological thought in the Cowardly Lions' mind as it is clear throughout his journey that he always had courage within himself that he was just unaware of, saving Dorothy and his friends from many near death experiences in Oz. Such as the flesh eating wild beast called Kalidahs, whom the group of travelers encountered while on they're way to the Emerald City.

The Cowardly Lion strongly argues that the courage from the Wizard is only temporary, although he continues to do brave deeds while openly and embarrassedly fearful from time to time.

Oz History: How The Lion Found Courage!

"I do believe in spooks, I do believe in spooks, I do, I do, I do! "
―Cowardly Lion (1939)
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Lion, Dorothy Toto and 1900.

"If I we're King of the Forest... not Queen, not Duke, not Prince!"
―The Cowardly Lion. (1939)

The Cowardly Lion was born in the wilderness in the land of Oz. He was also born without any courage, (Or so he thinks). Being described as being nearly as large as a horse in size, the other animals expected Cowardly Lion to be a King and to be brave and even merciless towards the smaller animals in Oz, so he bluffed and became a bit of a bully. This went on until the big beast met Dorothy Gale, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and Toto in the forest while they were journeying to the Emerald City to see the great and powerful Wizard. He tried to bully and frighten them off, just like everyone else he had encountered, he was almost successful but when Toto tried to defend his mistress Dorothy, the Lion tried to bite the small dog. But Dorothy gave the beast a big slap on the nose and when the beast began to cry he confessed the truth and told the traveling group about his cowardly ways. Dorothy invited him to come along with them and the Lion decided to befriend and accompany them all to ask the Wizard for some courage. After several adventures, such as escaping the flesh eating beast called Kalidahs, encountering a mother Stork, and the Queen of the Field Mice, who helped rescue them from a feild of deadly poppies, the group made it the gates of Emerald City. There they were made to wear green tinted spectacles by the Guardian of the Gates and were escorted to Oz's palace by the Soldier with the Green Whiskers. When the group spoke to Oz finally, they were ordered to defeat the Wicked Witch of the West in the Winkie Country in Oz if they wanted their wishes granted. When traveling to find her, the Wicked Witch had Dorothy and the Lion captured by her band of Winged Monkeys, and forced Dorothy to do housework for the beautiful yellow castle she lived in, all the while scheming to steal Dorothy's magical Silver Shoes. But the Lion was locked up in the castle courtyard without food until he would submit to being a pack animal and drive the Wicked Witch in her Winkie chariot, so Dorothy snuck him food at night when the Witch was asleep so he would not starve to death.

After Dorothy successfully defeated the Wicked Witch by liquidating her, the Wizard who come to find out was a mere humbug, gave the Lion a large bowl filled with green liquid (Believed to be Gin), which he drank up, making him fearless and full of courage, at last.

After the Wizard left Oz in his hot air balloon to return to America, accidentally leaving Dorothy behind in the process, he left the Scarecrow the King of Oz to rule the Emerald City. But Dorothy still wanted to find a way back home to Kansas. So the Scarecrow decided they should all travel with Dorothy to seek out and find Glinda, the beautiful Good Witch of Oz's southern quadrant known as the Quadling Country. The party traveled south and encountered a group of Fighting Trees, a little enclave called China Country and the hill of the Hammer-Heads. While on these adventures, the travelers also past a dark forest which was home to hundreds of beasts. These animals were being terrorized by a evil spider-like monster the size of an elephant, with many sharp teeth and many big glassy eyes. The Cowardly Lion agreed to fight this monster, but found it asleep in its cave and snapped its thin neck. The grateful animals made him their king, and after fulfilling his duty to Dorothy, he returned to rule over them after her and Toto's departure. (The Wonderful Wizard of Oz)

"Take good care of these friends of mine," said the Lion, "and I will go at once to fight the monster. He bade his comrades good-bye and marched proudly away to do battle with the enemy. The great spider was lying asleep when the Lion found him, and it looked so ugly that its foe turned up his nose in disgust. Its legs were quite as long as the tiger had said, and its body covered with coarse black hair. It had a great mouth, with a row of sharp teeth a foot long; but its head was joined to the pudgy body by a neck as slender as a wasp's waist. This gave the Lion a hint of the best way to attack the creature, and as he knew it was easier to fight it asleep than awake, he gave a great spring and landed directly upon the monster's back. Then, with one blow of his heavy paw, all armed with sharp claws, he knocked the spider's head from its body. Jumping down, he watched it until the long legs stopped wiggling, when he knew it was quite dead. "You need fear your enemy no longer." Then the beasts bowed down to the Lion as their King, and he promised to come back and rule over them as soon as Dorothy was safely on her way to Kansas. "
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Sequel Oz Books

After Princess Ozma ascended to the throne, the Cowardly Lion traveled back to the Emerald City with his friend the Hungry Tiger to meet their new ruler in the Royal Palace of Oz. When they learned of her plan to journey to the neighboring kingdom called Ev and rescue the Royal Family from the Nome King, they asked to join the party. The two beast were given the honor of pulling Ozma's chariot along the Magic Carpet created by the magical aid of Glinda the Good.

In the land of Ev, the Cowardly Lion was reunited with his old friend Dorothy Gale, who was accompanied by Billina a talking hen, and Tik-Tok the mechanical copper man. The three joined the party of Ozma who freed Dorothy and her company from the imprisonment of the vain and spoiled Princess Langwidere. On the way to the Nome Kingdom the Cowardly Lion and the Hungry Tiger bravely carried most of the party under the deadly hammer of the iron giant. The mission ended successfuly and the Ozites eventually returned to the Land of Oz. (Ozma of Oz)

The two beasts are Ozma's chief guardians, and they keep guard in her Royal Throne Room. However, because everyone loves Ozma, there has never been a disturbance and there is nothing for the guardians to do. ("The Cowardly Lion and the Hungry Tiger")

Appearances

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Character Adaptations

In the Magic Land stories of Alexander Volkov and his followers, the Cowardly Lion is re-named the Courageous Lion. March Laumer, an adaptor of Volkov, follows this in his own Oz novels; and in his short story "The Cowardly Lion Changes His Name," Laumer dubs the Lion "Rex the X."

Volkov's books make several mentions of the Lion's wife and children.

The Wicked Years

Brrr was the name of the Cowardly Lion in Gregory Maguire's A Lion Among Men.

Other Adaptations

In the Oz Squad, years after his adventures in Oz, the Lion accompanied Dorothy back to America along with the Tin Woodman and the Scarecrow. There, the four of them formed the Oz Squad, a team of quasi-superheroes who protect America from Ozian threats.

In Emerald City Confidential, he became an evil businessman who, while maintaining a good reputation amongst the citizens of Oz, secretly was responsible for a number of crimes.

In Family of Oz (2011), by James C. Wallace II, the Cowardly Lion holds court in the great northern forests of Gillikin Country and makes a "Leap of Faith" in the climactic battle against Cobbler the Dog (a mechanical dog made by the Wogglebug as a pet for Tik-Tok), who was possesed by the Evil remnants of the Wicked Witch of the East. He also has a gate leading into the northern part of Emerald City named for him called the Lion's Gate.

Depictions on Stage and Screen

The Wizard of Oz 1939

Actor Burt Lahr was a known Comedian and stared in many Hollywood films before Oz.

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Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion in the 1939 film.

Bert Lahr is justifiably famous for his portrayal of the iconic Lion in the 1939 MGM film The Wizard of Oz. Lahr's other role was Aunt Em and Uncle Henry's farm worker, Zeke. He helps Hickory (Tin Man's alter ego) lower a bed into its place on a wagon at the farm while Hunk (Scarecrow's alter ego) repairs the wagon with them. He then moves the hogs into the pig pen and pours feed into their trough and later rescues Dorothy when she falls off the railing that encircles the pen. Zeke wears his hat throughout the entire film because he does not struggle to pry open the cellar when the tornado approaches the farm. Hunk (Scarecrow's alter ego) closes and locks the cellar with him when Dorothy arrives at the farmhouse. Zeke and Professor Marvel (The Wizard's alter ego) are the only men wearing hats when Dorothy awakens from being unconscious. 

The Wiz 1974/1978

In the musical version, the Lion is by Ted Ross. He is a senstive and poetic beast. Ted Ross won a Tony Award for the performance. In the movie version Ted Ross revived the role once more.
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Ted Ross as the Cowardly Lion

Return to Oz

In Disney's 1985 cult classic film Return to Oz, the Cowardly Lion is not a main character in this version. But he does have more than one cameo appearances during a few scenes throughout the movie. Specifically during the end.

The Lion of Oz

Based off of the Book written by Roger Baum, the Lion of Oz is a cartoon movie which tells the orgins of the Lion, how he came to Oz, and how he become known as a Cowardly beast.

The Muppet's Wizard of Oz

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Fozzie Bear as the Cowardly Lion

In the mad for TV Muppet film, Fozzie the Muppet portrayed the Cowardly Lion, who dreams of being a famous Comedian.

Tin Man 2009

Set in present day, in the Syfy mini series, Lions have mutated into half human/animal creatures who are blessed with Psychic abilites since the first Lion in Oz got his Courage over one hundred years ago from a now long dead Wizard.

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Glitch, Raw, and Cain from Tin Man

Raw is a member of a telepathic race of genetic hybrids called Viewers, which are enslaved by Azkadellia. He joins D.G., Glitch, and Wyatt Cain in their quest to stop Azkadelia. He is sensitive and easily frightened, but also compassionate and uses his abilities to help. (Tin Man)

Oz the Great and Powerful

In Disney's 2013 prequel movie to the 1939 musical, in Oz the Great and Powerful the Cowardly Lion makes a brief cameo appearance in the forest.


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Jeroen Phaff

De Musical The Wiz

The Cowardly Lion was portrayed by Jeroen Phaff.

The Wicked Years In Gregory Maguire's Oz series book #3 (A Lion Amoung Men) shows the life and times of the Cowardly Lion. And shows all of the land of Oz through his point of view.

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Legends of Oz-Dorothy's Return 2014

In the CGI animated Oz movie, the Cowardly Lion is voiced by the actor James Belushi.

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