Chapter 6 – The Cowardly Lion
All this time, Dorothy and her companions continued walking through the thick woods. The road was still paved with yellow brick, but it was covered by dry branches and dead leaves from the trees. It was difficult to walk.
There were few birds in this part of the forest because birds prefer the open country where there is plenty of sunshine. But now and then, they heard a deep growl from a wild animal hidden among the trees. These sounds made the girl’s heart beat fast, because she did not know what animal made them. But Toto knew, and he walked close to Dorothy’s side. He did not even bark in return.
“How long will it be,” the child asked the tin man, “until we are out of the forest?”
“I don’t know,” was his answer, “because 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, near the city, it is beautiful. But I am not afraid as long as I have my oil can. And nothing can hurt the scarecrow. And you have the mark of the Good Witch’s kiss on your forehead, so that will protect you from harm.”
“But Toto!” said the girl anxiously. “What will protect him?”
“We must protect him ourselves,” replied the tin man.
Just as he spoke, there was a terrible roar from the forest. The next moment, a great lion jumped into the road. With one blow of his paw, he hit the scarecrow and sent him spinning over and over to the edge of the road. Then, he struck at the tin man with his sharp claws. But, to the lion’s surprise, he couldn’t scratch the tin. However, the tin man fell over in the road and lay still. Little Toto, now that there was an enemy to face, ran towards the lion and barked at him. The great lion opened his mouth to bite the dog. Dorothy, fearing that Toto would be killed, ignored the danger and ran forward and slapped the Lion on his nose. She slapped him as hard as she could and cried out:
“Don’t you dare bite Toto! You should be ashamed of yourself! A big beast like you! To try 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 him.
“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 I can’t help it.”
“I can’t believe you. To think of striking a stuffed man, like the poor scarecrow!”
“Is he stuffed?” asked the lion in surprise, as he watched the girl pick up the scarecrow and stand him on his feet and pat him into shape again.
“Of course he’s stuffed,” replied Dorothy, who was still angry.
“That’s why he fell over so easily,” said the lion. “It surprised me to see him whirl around. Is the other one also stuffed?”
“No,” said Dorothy, “He’s made of tin.” And she helped the tin man 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 that you love so much?”
“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 awkwardly.
“Oh! He’s a strange animal and seems really 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.
“Why are you a coward?” asked Dorothy, looking at the great beast in wonder, because 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 because the lion is the King of Beasts. I learned that if I roar very loudly, every animal is frightened and gets out of my way. Whenever I meet a man, I’m always really scared, but if I just roar at him, he always runs away as fast as he can. If the elephants and the tigers and the bears had ever tried to fight me, I should have run. I’m such a coward. But as soon as they hear me roar, they all run away, 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 it makes my life very unhappy. But whenever there is danger, my heart begins to beat fast.”
“Perhaps you have heart disease,” said the tin man.
“Maybe,” said the lion.
“If you have heart disease,” said the tin man, “you should be glad, because it proves that you have a heart. As for me, I have no heart, so I can’t have heart disease.”
“But maybe,” said the lion thoughtfully, “if I didn’t have a heart, I wouldn’t be a coward.”
“Do you have a brain?” asked the scarecrow.
“I think so. I’ve never checked,” replied the lion.
“I’m going to the Great Oz to ask him to give me one,” said the scarecrow, “because my head is stuffed with straw.”
“And I’m going to ask him to give me a heart,” said the tin man.
“And I’m going to ask him to send Toto and me back to Kansas,” added Dorothy.
“Do you think Oz could give me courage?” asked the cowardly lion.
“Just as easily as he could give me a brain,” said the scarecrow.
“Or as easily as he could give me a heart,” said the tin man.
“Or as easily as he could send me back to Kansas,” said Dorothy.
“Then, if you don’t mind, I’ll go with you,” said the lion, “because my life is simply unbearable without courage.”
“We will welcome you,” answered Dorothy, “because you can help keep away the other wild beasts. It seems like they must be more cowardly than you because they are easily scared of you.”
“They really are,” said the lion, “but that doesn’t mean that I am brave. As long as I know that I am a coward, I will be unhappy.”
So once more, the little party set off for their journey, with the lion walking in big steps at Dorothy’s side. Toto did not approve of this new companion at first, because he could not forget how he had nearly been crushed in the lion’s mouth. But after some time, he became more at ease, and now Toto and the cowardly lion are good friends.
For rest of that day, there was no other adventure to disturb the peace of their journey. Once, the tin man stepped on a beetle that was crawling on the road and killed the poor little creature. This made the tin man very unhappy, because he was always careful not to hurt any living thing. As he walked along, he cried several tears of sorrow and regret. These tears ran slowly down his face and over the joints of his jaw. And there, they rusted. When Dorothy asked him a question, the tin man could not open his mouth because his jaws were tightly rusted together. He became greatly frightened at this and made many gestures to Dorothy to relieve him, but she could not understand. The lion was also puzzled and couldn’t understand what was wrong. But the scarecrow grabbed the oil can from Dorothy’s basket and oiled the tin man’s jaws. After a few moments, he could talk as well as before.
“This will teach me a lesson,” he said, “to look before I step. If I kill another bug or beetle, I will surely cry again. And crying rusts my jaws so that I can’t speak.”
Thereafter, he walked very carefully, with his eyes on the road, and when he saw a tiny ant crawling by, he stepped over it, so that he didn’t harm it. The tin man knew very well that he had no heart, so he took great care to never be cruel or unkind to anything.”
“You people,” he said, “have hearts to guide you, and you never do wrong. But I have no heart, so I must be very careful. When Oz gives me a heart, of course, I won’t need to mind so much.”