Cowardly Beginnings

The Way of a Lion: A Tale of Oz, by Jared Davis – This story originally appeared in the 2013 Oziana, but it’s now available in miniature book form from the author. It includes some additional illustrations by Sam Milazzo, including one of Lurline. It’s a little difficult not to think of The Lion King when looking at the pictures, especially the one of the Lion looking at his reflection, but that’s probably unavoidable with stories involving lions. The rather tragic tale explores why the Lion thinks he’s a coward despite behaving like an ordinary male lion. There are some mentions of how carnivores find food in a land where all (or at least most) animals are capable of human-like speech and intelligence, although there are some hints in the original Oz books that the Lion has killed animals for food in the past. I get the impression that this is an aspect of Oz that L. Frank Baum never fully worked out. The end of the story ties in with the Lion’s introduction in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

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6 Responses to Cowardly Beginnings

  1. rocketdave says:

    Hmm, I suspect it’s hardly a coincidence that the artwork is reminiscent of The Lion King. Just seeing the cover, I’d be very much surprised if the movie wasn’t a reference source.

    • jaredofmo says:

      The cover was actually sourced from test drawings Sam created as he was preparing to illustrate the story. We needed a cover and there was no time for him to draw something new and we eventually chose against re-using one of the interior illustrations (particularly as we wound up re-using one on the title page and one on the back cover), so Sam sent me a scan of test artwork, I cleaned it up in Photoshop, sent it to him, he printed it out, colored it, scanned it, sent it to me again, I did some final Photoshop work, and we had our cover!

      The cover of course shows the Lion’s parents, then him as a baby, him as a young adult lion, and the idealized Lion he’d like to grow into.

      I fear that the shadow of The Lion King will always be felt for stories about lions who can talk… While some have compared my story to it already, my story attempted to work solely from what Baum had established for the character. Any resemblance to The Lion King is coincidental.

      As for Sam, some of the artwork had to be redone as it wound up looking like people with animal heads and paws…

  2. Joe says:

    I LOVE this story and Milazzo’s illustrations for it! It’s gripping and heartfelt, while at the same time providing what I feel is a Baumian explanation for how obligate carnivores eat in Oz. I followed a similar train of thought in my novella “The Talking Animals of Oz,” which is currently being illustrated by Welsh artist Teresa Jenellen.

    As regards the Cowardly Lion’s reluctance to reveal where he gets food, I think there’s a story in there about the Cowardly Lion being derided at a young age by the lions of Mudge, so that he develops a complex about his bravery in not hunting and killing as these lions do.

    The fact that they are turned to stone at the end of The Cowardly Lion of Oz, and left that way, suggests to me that they are serious violators of both Lurline and Ozma’s laws against violence in Oz.

    • Nathan says:

      I kind of have to wonder why there would have been 10,000 lions out in the desert anyway. Perhaps they were exiled there by more civilized members of the species?

      • Joe says:

        10,000 is a huge force, however, which leads me to think that a) the exile took place when they were in much smaller numbers, and b) there was a lion civil war at some point. And even then, I believe it was while the rebel lions (though he insisted on killing) were in much smaller numbers.

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