13 October 2009

“Why is that great Lion with you?”

I’ve been thinking about a little scene in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz since studying the version of it that appears in the Marvel Comics adaptation by Eric Shanower and Skottie Young. Dorothy and her companions have just reached the green country outside the Emerald City.

“I should like something to eat besides fruit,” said the girl, “and I’m sure Toto is nearly starved. Let us stop at the next house and talk to the people.”

So, when they came to a good-sized farmhouse, Dorothy walked boldly up to the door and knocked.

A woman opened it just far enough to look out, and said, “What do you want, child, and why is that great Lion with you?”

“We wish to pass the night with you, if you will allow us,” answered Dorothy; “and the Lion is my friend and comrade, and would not hurt you for the world.”

“Is he tame?” asked the woman, opening the door a little wider.

“Oh, yes,” said the girl, “and he is a great coward, too. He will be more afraid of you than you are of him.”

“Well,” said the woman, after thinking it over and taking another peep at the Lion, “if that is the case you may come in, and I will give you some supper and a place to sleep.”
Throughout L. Frank Baum’s book, people in Oz don’t know what to make of Toto since they’ve never seen a dog before. (Later Oz books reveal whole settlements of dogs, but that’s another story.) And besides, he’s so small that he wouldn’t seem dangerous.

But this farmwife clearly knows what a lion is. So Dorothy must be quite convincing for the woman to open her door to the beast. She even goes on to cook the Cowardly Lion supper, though it’s not to his liking:
The woman now called to them that supper was ready, so they gathered around the table and Dorothy ate some delicious porridge and a dish of scrambled eggs and a plate of nice white bread, and enjoyed her meal. The Lion ate some of the porridge, but did not care for it, saying it was made from oats and oats were food for horses, not for lions.
Throughout this novel, Dorothy sticks to a vegetarian diet (though here she does eat eggs). The Lion at one point offers to kill a deer for her, but she declines, so he goes off to find his own supper—assuredly not porridge. (That moment also appears in the graphic novel.)

TOMORROW: The travelers’ conversation with the man of the house.


Nathan said...

The King of the Winged Monkeys does recognize Toto as a dog later on in the book, though. And it's interesting that the Lion knows about horses when DOTWIZ seems to portray them as totally unknown in Oz.

ericshanower said...

But of course there are horses and at least one dog in the China Country, just not meat ones.