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The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

L. Frank Baum

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The Wonderful Wizard of Oz | Chapter 21 : The Lion Becomes the King of the Beasts | Summary

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Summary

Dorothy and her friends climb down the china wall to find themselves in a boggy, unpleasant landscape. When they reach solid ground, they find themselves in even wilder country.

They're traveling through another forest when they reach an opening filled with hundreds of yowling wild animals. When the creatures spot the Lion, they fall silent; then a tiger approaches and explains that a monstrous carnivorous spider is on the prowl.

The Lion offers to kill the huge spider if the creatures will then bow down to him as King of the Forest. They gladly agree, and the Lion marches off to find the spider. The monster is luckily asleep when the Lion finds it, making it relatively easy to kill. The Lion beheads the spider with one blow of his paw. His new subjects bow down, and he promises to come back and rule over them once Dorothy is home.

Analysis

Notice that although Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and the Woodman find the new forest threatening, the Lion feels right at home there. His attraction to what seems a forbidding environment mirrors Dorothy's wish to return to Kansas no matter how bleak and gray the landscape is.

Since Baum has already taken care of the Scarecrow's future, and will shortly provide for the Woodman, it's only fair that the Lion be given a place to live and subjects to rule. The reader may sense that Baum wrote this chapter mainly so that he could cross "Lion's fate" off his list; his authorial attention seems to flicker in spots. For example, no one but Toto seems alarmed when they first hear the wild animals growling. Why not? Have they grown braver after all the dangers they've faced? Does Baum want to set up the reader for the shock of realizing that the source of the noise is actually frightening? It's not clear. A few seconds later Dorothy becomes afraid, but only "for a moment." At least Baum's young readers won't become too tightly wound with suspense.

The killing of the monstrous spider is soothingly simple. For one thing it's asleep; for another its neck is "as slender as a wasp's waist." "This gave the Lion a hint of the best way to attack the creature ... he knew it was easier to fight it asleep than awake." And it's easier to write a desultory scene than an exciting one—but older readers may wish that Baum had kept the energy going until the finish line.

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