Oz Wiki

"For my life is simply unbearable, without a bit of courage..."
― The Cowardly Lion (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 first 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, and in Baum's subsequent Oz books he becomes one of the most respected and bravest beast in all of Oz.

Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion 1939.

Baums' Description

Dorothy Gale riding on the back of the Cowardly Lion. By W. W. Denslow circa 1899-1900.

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

The Cowardly Lion of Oz by Eric Shanower.


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 beasts. He simply does not understand that courage means acting in the face of fear and facing one's fears head on, which he does frequently throughout the Oz stories. Only during the aftereffects 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 medal that reads COURAGE across it.)

The gift given by the Wizard is a subconsciously physiological thought in the Cowardly Lion's 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.


The Cowardly Lion was born in the wilderness of Munchkin Country, the eastern quadrant 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 on the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City to see the great and powerful Wizard. Trying to intimidate and frighten them off, as with previous visitors to the forest, he nearly succeeded, but when a threatened Toto growled at him, he tried to bite the small dog; Dorothy, coming to Toto's defense, slapped him on the nose, causing him to break down and cry uncontrollably. He soon confessed his cowardice to the travellers, and Dorothy invited him to come along; the Lion quickly agreed, hoping the Wizard could confer upon him some courage-an idea the Lion readily agreed to.

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 field 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, 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 that she'd been wearing since her arrival in Oz. Dorothy did not know how to properly access the pair's magic charm, so she could not use them against the Wicked Witch. Meanwhile, the Lion was locked up in an iron cage in the castle courtyard without food or water. The Wicked Witch had been starving him until he would submit to being a pack animal and drive the Wicked Witch around in her Winkie chariot. Luckily, Dorothy snuck him food and drink at night when everyone was asleep so he would not starve to death and die.

After Dorothy successfully defeated the Wicked Witch by liquidating her with a bucket of water when she stole one of Dorothy's shoes, 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.

The Wizard gives Lion some Courage. Illustration by W. W. Denslow circa 1900.

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)


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 successfully and the Ozites eventually returned to the Land of Oz. (Ozma of Oz)

The Cowardly Lion with the Hungry Tiger. By John R. Neill.

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")

Ruth Plumly Thompson later gave the Cowardly Lion his own book, in which after setting out to find courage he must elude capture by Mustafa Lion, ruler of Mudge, who is collecting 10,000 lions. (The Cowardly Lion of Oz)


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The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion (1939)

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.

Magic Land (1939-)

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 Wiz (1974/1978)

Ted Ross Movie

In the musical and film version, the Lion is portrayed by Ted Ross. He is a sensitive and poetic beast. Ted Ross won a Tony Award for the performance. This lion (whose real name is Fleetwood Coup De Ville) was banished from the jungle and later relocated at a library, disguising himself as a statue. Once Dorothy and her friends come about (the Tin Man is the first to become suspicious of him), he breaks out of the statue, leaps off the pedestal, and scares them, but after Toto bites his paw, they soon realize he's a coward. They invite him to see the Wiz with them.

Return to Oz (1985)

The Lion in Return to Oz (1985)

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 anthropomorphic than its predecessor, care was taken to avoid too much realism. In fact, the first prototype costume 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.

Oz Squad (1991-1996)

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.

The Wizard of Oz In Concert: Dreams Come True (1996)

Broadway veteran Nathan Lane, who previously voiced Timon in The Lion King, portrayed the Cowardly Lion in a charity show at Lincoln Center.

The Lion of Oz (2000)

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

The Muppets Wizard of Oz (2005)

In the made-for-TV Muppet film, Fozzie Bear portrayed the Cowardly Lion, who dreams of being a famous comedian but suffers from stage fright.

Raw from Tin Man

De musical The Wiz (2006)

The Cowardly Lion was portrayed by Jeroen Phaff.

Tin Man (2007)

Set in present day, in the Syfy mini series Tin Man, 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.

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.

Emerald City Confidential (2009)

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.

Family of Oz (2011)

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 possessed 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.

Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)

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

Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return (2014)

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

Guardians of Oz/Wicked Flying Monkeys (2015)

In this second CGI animated Oz movie, the Lion is voiced in English by Chuck Kourourkis and in Spanish by the dub actor Sebastian Llapur.

The Wiz Live! (2015)

David Alan Grier as The Cowardly Lion

Comedian David Alan Grier portrayed the role of the Lion in the live adaptation of The Wiz on December 3, 2015. This character is very much like the character Ted Ross created years ago, but with a more urban twist: He uses modern day talk and even has dreads instead of the regular curls the lions before wore. 

Lost in Oz (2017-)

Reigh, as seen in "Lost in Oz" with Dorothy.

In Lost in Oz, a fearful lion named Reigh appears. He's a conspiracy theorist, living in his mother's basement; he hacks into various government servers and worships Toto due to his incorrect interpretation of events. It's hinted that he may be a descendant of the original Cowardly Lion, but nothing's ever confirmed.




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