Chapter 21 – The Lion Becomes the King of the Beasts
After climbing down from the china wall, the travelers found themselves in a disagreeable country, full of swamps and wet marshes. It was all covered in tall grass. It was difficult to walk without falling into muddy holes because the grass was so thick that it was difficult to see the ground. However, by carefully walking, they safely journeyed until they reached solid ground.
But here, the country seemed wilder than ever before, and after a long and tiresome walk, they entered another forest, where the trees were bigger and older than any they had ever seen.
“This forest is perfectly delightful,” declared the lion, looking around him with joy. “Never have I seen a more beautiful place.”
“It seems gloomy,” said the scarecrow.
“Not a bit,” answered the lion. “I would like to live here all my life. See how soft the dried leaves are under your feet, and how rich and green the moss is on the trees? No wild beast could hope from a more pleasant home.”
“Maybe there are wild beasts in the forest now,” said Dorothy.
“There probably are,” returned the lion, “but I don’t see any of them around.”
They walked through the forest until it became too dark to go any farther. Dorothy and Toto and the lion lied down to sleep, while the tin man and the scarecrow kept watch over them as usual.
When morning came, they started their journal again. Before they had gone far, they heard a low rumble, like a wild animal’s growling. Toto whimpered a little, but none of the others were frightened. They kept walking along the path until they came to a small field in the forest. There were hundreds of beasts gathered. There were tigers, elephants, bears, wolves, foxes and many other animals. For a moment , Dorothy was afraid. But the lion explained that the animals were holding a meeting, and by their snarling and growling, they seemed to be very worried.
As he spoke, several of the beasts noticed him, and at once, all the animals became quiet. The biggest tiger came up to the lion and bowed, saying:
“Welcome, O King of Beasts! You have come at a good time to fight our enemy and bring peace to all the animals of the forest again.”
“What is your trouble?” asked the lion quietly.
“We are all threatened,” answered the tiger, “by a fierce enemy which has recently come into this forest. It is a tremendous monster, like a great spider, which a body as big as an elephant and legs as long as a tree. It has eight long legs. It crawls through the forest and seizes animals with a leg and drags it into his mouth. He eats the animals like a spider eats flies. Not one of us is safe while this fierce creature is alive. We are having a meeting to decide how to take care of ourselves.”
The lion through for a moment.
“Are there any other lions in this forest?” he asked.
“No. There were some, but the monster has eaten all of them. And besides, they were not nearly as large and brave as you.”
“If I put an end to your enemy, will you bow down to me and obey me as King of the Forest?” inquired the lion.
“We will do that gladly,” returned the tiger. All the other beasts roared mightily. “We will!”
“Where is this great spider of yours now?” asked the lion.
“Over there, among the oak trees,” said the tiger, pointing with his front leg.
“Take good care of my friends,” said the lion, “and I will go at once to fight the monster.”
He said goodbye to his comrades and marched proudly away to battle the enemy.
The great spider was lying asleep why the lion found it. It was so ugly that the lion turned up his nose in disgust. It’s legs were as long as the tiger had described, and its body was covered with coarse black hair. It had a huge mouth, with long sharp teeth. But its head was joined to the body by a neck that was as slender as a bee’s waist. This gave the lion an idea of the best way to attack the creature. He knew it would be easier to fight it asleep than awake. He jumped and landed directly on the monster’s back. Then, with one blow of his heavy paw and sharp claws, he knocked the spider’s head off of its body. Jumping down, he watched it until the long legs stopped wiggling. Then, he knew it was quite dead.
The lion went back to the small field where the beasts of the forest were waiting for him and said proudly:
“You don’t need to fear your enemy any 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.