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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)
"I'm afraid there's no denyin, I'm just a 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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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)
"...Lions and Tigers and Bears; OH MY! "
The Wizard of Oz (1939)

The Cowardly Lion is a fictional animal 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 makes his debut appearance in the sixth chapter of the novel titled The Cowardly Lion. He also is the third and final being to join the story's child protagonist and heroine of the tale named Dorothy Gale. When Cowardly Lion encounters Dorothy for the very fist time, 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 forevermore. In the end of the story the Cowardly Lion eventually received what he desired only to realize; he had it all along, thus becoming one of the most respected and bravest beast in all of Oz.

"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)

Baums' Description

"...suddenly somewhere deep within the forest, a startling roar, was heard. The next moment a great big 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)


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The Cowardly Lion with Dorothy and Toto. By W. W. Denslow 1900.

In the Oz books, Baum describes the Cowardly Lion as being grandiose, handsome and nearly as big as a full grown 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 loyalty. He is warm, plush and soft, having a fluffy, bushy and curly mane that is often adorned with a brightly colored bow of red or green silk.

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

A Lion Without Courage

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The Cowardly Lion of Oz by Eric Shanower.

"When they came to a good-sized farmhouse, painted a pretty green color, Dorothy walked boldly up to the door and knocked. A woman opened it just far enough to look out, and said, "What do you want, child, and why is that great Lion with you?" "We wish to pass the night with you, if you will allow us," answered Dorothy; "and the Lion is my friend and comrade, and would not hurt you for the world." "Is he tame?" asked the woman, opening the door a little wider. "Oh, yes," said the girl, "and he is a great coward, too. He will be more afraid of you than you are of him." "Well," said the woman, after thinking it over and taking another peep at the Lion, "if that is the case you may come in, and I will give you some supper and a place to sleep. "
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900)

Because of his gentle nature, the Cowardly Lion is loved by all the Ozians. 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 spend time in the Emerald City in the Royal Palace of Oz with Princess Ozma and Princess Dorothy.

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 encountering the flesh eating wild beast called Kalidahs, whom the group of travelers encountered while on their way to the Emerald City.

The Cowardly Lion also 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)
"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 nearly as large as a horse in size, the other animals around expected Cowardly Lion to be a brave and serious King. So to impress his peers, 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. And he was almost successful, but when Toto felt threatened and tried to defend his mistress Dorothy, the Lion tried to bite the small dog. However, Dorothy slapped the Lion on the nose and when the beast began to cry he confessed the truth and told the traveling group about his cowardly ways. Thats when Dorothy invited him to come along with them on their journey. The Lion quickly decided to befriend and accompany the little party 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, to protect their eyes from the brightness and glory of the city. The group were then escorted to Oz's Royal 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 who ruled Oz's western quadrant called Winkie Country, 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, he accidentally left Dorothy behind in the process after promising to take her home. Before he left, he announced that the Scarecrow was to substitute as the new 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 Quadling Country. The party traveled south and encountered a group of Fighting Trees, a little enclave called China Country and the hill of the unfriendly Hammer-Heads. While on these adventures, the travelers also past a dark forest which was home to hundreds of creatures and beasts. These animals were being terrorized by a giant evil spider-like monster who was the size of an elephant, and had many sharp teeth and many big glassy red 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 (1900)

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.

Unlike Bert Lahr’s classic humanoid interpretation, the Cowardly Lion, in Return to Oz actually walks on all fours.  But even though this more recent rendition of the character is decidedly less like a man than its predecessor, care was taken to avoid too much realism. in fact, the first prototype of the Cowardly Lion possessed a greater similarity to its jungle-prowling inspiration than the director Murch cared to see.

"Walter wanted something like the big dog character on Sesame Street – something that would walk around on all fours."

Yet, as a fantasy creation, the Cowardly Lion possessed a personality unique unto himself. So mechanical designer John Stephenson went to work combining the requisite anthropomorphic qualities with a beast-like posture while still keeping the look of the costume not too realistic.

  • The person in the costume was a man named John Alexander.

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
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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.

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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