L. Frank Baum
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz > Chapter 6
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The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
- by L. Frank Baum
6. The Cowardly Lion
All this time Dorothy and her companions had been walking
through the thick woods. The road was still paved with yellow
brick, but these were much covered by dried branches and dead
leaves from the trees, and the walking was not at all good.
There were few birds in this part of the forest, for birds
love the open country where there is plenty of sunshine. But now
and then there came a deep growl from some wild animal hidden
among the trees. These sounds made the little girl's heart beat
fast, for she did not know what made them; but Toto knew, and he
walked close to Dorothy's side, and did not even bark in return.
"How long will it be," the child asked of the Tin Woodman,
"before we are out of the forest?"
"I cannot tell," was the answer, "for I have never been to the
Emerald City. But my father went there once, when I was a boy,
and he said it was a long journey through a dangerous country,
although nearer to the city where Oz dwells the country is beautiful.
But I am not afraid so long as I have my oil-can, and nothing can hurt
the Scarecrow, while you bear upon your forehead the mark of the
Good Witch's kiss, and that will protect you from harm."
"But Toto!" said the girl anxiously. "What will protect him?"
"We must protect him ourselves if he is in danger," replied
the Tin Woodman.
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.
Little Toto, now that he had an enemy to face, ran barking
toward the Lion, and the great beast had opened his mouth to bite
the dog, when Dorothy, fearing Toto 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 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
"I know it," said the Lion, hanging his head in shame. "I've
always known it. But how can I help it?"
"I don't know, I'm sure. To think of your striking a stuffed
man, like the poor Scarecrow!"
"Is he stuffed?" asked the Lion in surprise, as he watched her
pick up the Scarecrow and set him upon his feet, while she patted
him into shape again.
"Of course he's stuffed," replied Dorothy, who was still angry.
"That's why he went over so easily," remarked the Lion.
"It astonished me to see him whirl around so. Is the other one
"No," said Dorothy, "he's made of tin." And she helped the
Woodman up again.
"That's why he nearly blunted my claws," said the Lion.
"When they scratched against the tin it made a cold shiver run
down my back. What is that little animal you are so tender of?"
"He is my dog, Toto," answered Dorothy.
"Is he made of tin, or stuffed?" asked the Lion.
"Neither. He's a—a—a meat dog," said the girl.
"Oh! He's a curious animal and seems remarkably small,
now that I look at him. No one would think of biting such a
little thing, except a coward like me," continued the Lion sadly.
"What makes you a coward?" asked Dorothy, looking at the great
beast in wonder, for he was as big as a small horse.
"It's a mystery," replied the Lion. "I suppose I was born
that way. All the other animals in the forest naturally expect me
to be brave, for the Lion is everywhere thought to be the King of
Beasts. I learned that if I roared very loudly every living thing
was frightened and got out of my way. Whenever I've met a man
I've been awfully scared; but I just roared at him, and he has
always run away as fast as he could go. If the elephants and the
tigers and the bears had ever tried to fight me, I should have run
myself—I'm such a coward; but just as soon as they hear me roar
they all try to get away from me, and of course I let them go."
"But that isn't right. The King of Beasts shouldn't be a coward,"
said the Scarecrow.
"I know it," returned the Lion, wiping a tear from his eye
with the tip of his tail. "It is my great sorrow, and makes my
life very unhappy. But whenever there is danger, my heart begins
to beat fast."
"Perhaps you have heart disease," said the Tin Woodman.
"It may be," said the Lion.
"If you have," continued the Tin Woodman, "you ought to be glad,
for it proves you have a heart. For my part, I have no heart; so I
cannot have heart disease."
"Perhaps," said the Lion thoughtfully, "if I had no heart I should
not be a coward."
"Have you brains?" asked the Scarecrow.
"I suppose so. I've never looked to see," replied the Lion.
"I am going to the Great Oz to ask him to give me some,"
remarked the Scarecrow, "for my head is stuffed with straw."
"And I am going to ask him to give me a heart," said the Woodman.
"And I am going to ask him to send Toto and me back to Kansas,"
"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.
"Then, if you don't mind, I'll go with you," said the Lion,
"for my life is simply unbearable without a bit of courage."
"You will be very welcome," answered Dorothy, "for you will help
to keep away the other wild beasts. It seems to me they must be more
cowardly than you are if they allow you to scare them so easily."
"They really are," said the Lion, "but that doesn't make me any braver,
and as long as I know myself to be a coward I shall be unhappy."
So once more the little company set off upon the journey, the
Lion walking with stately strides at Dorothy's side. Toto did not
approve this new comrade at first, for he could not forget how
nearly he had been crushed between the Lion's great jaws. But
after a time he became more at ease, and presently Toto and the
Cowardly Lion had grown to be good friends.
During the rest of that day there was no other adventure to
mar the peace of their journey. Once, indeed, the Tin Woodman
stepped upon a beetle that was crawling along the road, and killed
the poor little thing. This made the Tin Woodman very unhappy,
for he was always careful not to hurt any living creature; and as
he walked along he wept several tears of sorrow and regret. These
tears ran slowly down his face and over the hinges of his jaw, and
there they rusted. When Dorothy presently asked him a question
the Tin Woodman could not open his mouth, for his jaws were
tightly rusted together. He became greatly frightened at this and
made many motions to Dorothy to relieve him, but she could not
understand. The Lion was also puzzled to know what was wrong.
But the Scarecrow seized the oil-can from Dorothy's basket and
oiled the Woodman's jaws, so that after a few moments he could
talk as well as before.
"This will serve me a lesson," said he, "to look where I step.
For if I should kill another bug or beetle I should surely cry again,
and crying rusts my jaws so that I cannot speak."
Thereafter he walked very carefully, with his eyes on the road,
and when he saw a tiny ant toiling by he would step over it, so as
not to harm it. The Tin Woodman knew very well he had no heart, and
therefore he took great care never to be cruel or unkind to anything.
"You people with hearts," he said, "have something to guide you, and
need never do wrong; but I have no heart, and so I must be very careful.
When Oz gives me a heart of course I needn't mind so much."