The Cowardly Lion from "The Wizard of Oz" lives up to his name, at least at the beginning of the 1939 film. We eventually learn that he's not really a coward; rather, the Lion thinks he is because he doesn't believe in himself. By the end of the film, the Cowardly Lion performs several courageous acts without realizing his bravery.
The Cowardly Lion Is Caught Faking Bravery
The first time the Lion encounters Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Man, Dorothy smacks him on the nose for being a bully. She quickly realizes he's all bluster:
Dorothy: My goodness, what a fuss you're making! Well, naturally, when you go around picking on things weaker than you are. Why, you're nothing but a great big coward!
Cowardly Lion: crying You're right, I am a coward! I haven't any courage at all. I even scare myself. sobbing Look at the circles under my eyes. I haven't slept in weeks!
Tin Man: Why don't you try counting sheep?
Cowardly Lion: That doesn't do any good, I'm afraid of 'em.
The Cowardly Lion's Funny "Fear" Joke
The Cowardly Lion doesn't usually let his nervousness keep him from doing the right thing. He has a sense of humor about it, too. In one scene, he wants to be brave and save Dorothy but has to make a joke first:
Cowardly Lion: All right, I'll go in there for Dorothy. Wicked Witch or no Wicked Witch, guards or no guards, I'll tear them apart. I may not come out alive, but I'm going in there. There's only one thing I want you fellows to do.
Tin Man and Scarecrow: What's that?
Cowardly Lion: Talk me out of it!
The Cowardly Lion Shows His Bravery
By the time he encounters the Wicked Witch's palace guards, the Lion has had enough. If he's afraid, he doesn't show it (we suspect that he is but is putting on a brave front):
Cowardly Lion: Put 'em up, put 'em up! Which one of you first? I'll fight you both together if you want. I'll fight you with one paw tied behind my back. I'll fight you standing on one foot. I'll fight you with my eyes closed… oh, pullin' an axe on me, eh? Sneaking up on me, eh?
The Cowardly Lion's Thoughts on Courage
In his most famous song, the Lion muses on what it would be like if he had courage (not realizing he already has plenty):
Cowardly Lion: singing
I'm afraid there's no denyin'
I'm just a dandy-lion
A fate I don't deserve
I'm sure I could show my prowess
Be a lion, not a mouse
If I only had the nerve
Just before meeting the Wizard in the Emerald City, the Cowardly Lion muses about what it would be like to be the king of the forest, imagining that everyone would respect and fear him:
Dorothy: Your Majesty, if you were king, you wouldn't be afraid of anything?
Cowardly Lion: Not nobody! Not nohow!
Tin Man: Not even a rhinoceros?
Cowardly Lion: Imposerous!
Dorothy: How about a hippopotamus?
Cowardly Lion: Why, I'd thrash him from top to bottomus!
Dorothy: Supposing you met an elephant?
Cowardly Lion: I'd wrap him up in cellophane!
Scarecrow: What if it were a brontosaurus?
Cowardly Lion: I'd show him who was king of the forest!