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21. The Lion Becomes the King of Beasts
After climbing down from the china wall the travelers found themselves in
a disagreeable country, full of bogs and marshes and covered with tall, rank
grass. It was difficult to walk
without falling into muddy holes, for the grass was so thick that it hid them
from sight. However, by carefully
picking their way, they got safely along until they reached solid ground.
But here the country seemed wilder than ever, and after a long and
tiresome walk through the underbrush they entered another forest, where the
trees were bigger and older than any they had ever seen.
"This forest is perfectly delightful," declared the Lion,
looking around him with joy. "Never
have I seen a more beautiful place."
"It seems gloomy," said the Scarecrow.
"Not a bit of it," answered the Lion.
"I should like to live here all my life.
See how soft the dried leaves are under your feet and how rich and green
the moss is that clings to these old trees.
Surely no wild beast could wish a pleasanter home."
"Perhaps there are wild beasts in the forest now," said
"I suppose there are," returned the Lion, "but I do not
see any of them about."
They walked through the forest until it became too dark to go any
farther. Dorothy and Toto and the
Lion lay down to sleep, while the Woodman and the Scarecrow kept watch over them
When morning came, they started again.
Before they had gone far they heard a low rumble, as of the growling of
many wild animals. Toto whimpered a little, but none of the others was
frightened, and they kept along the well-trodden path until they came to an
opening in the wood, in which were gathered hundreds of beasts of every variety.
There were tigers and elephants and bears and wolves and foxes and all
the others in the natural history, and for a moment Dorothy was afraid. But the Lion explained that the animals were holding a
meeting, and he judged by their snarling and growling that they were in great
As he spoke several of the beasts caught sight of him, and at once the
great assemblage hushed as if by magic. The
biggest of the tigers came up to the Lion and bowed, saying:
"Welcome, O King of Beasts! You
have come in good time to fight our enemy and bring peace to all the animals of
the forest once more."
"What is your trouble?" asked the Lion quietly.
"We are all threatened," answered the tiger, "by a fierce
enemy which has lately come into this forest.
It is a most tremendous monster, like a great spider, with a body as big
as an elephant and legs as long as a tree trunk.
It has eight of these long legs, and as the monster crawls through the
forest he seizes an animal with a leg and drags it to his mouth, where he eats
it as a spider does a fly. Not one
of us is safe while this fierce creature is alive, and we had called a meeting
to decide how to take care of ourselves when you came among us."
The Lion thought for a moment.
"Are there any other lions in this forest?" he asked.
"No; there were some, but the monster has eaten them all.
And, besides, they were none of them nearly so large and brave as
"If I put an end to your enemy, will you bow down to me and obey me
as King of the Forest?" inquired the Lion.
"We will do that gladly," returned the tiger; and all the other
beasts roared with a mighty roar: "We will!"
"Where is this great spider of yours now?" asked the Lion.
"Yonder, among the oak trees," said the tiger, pointing with
"Take good care of these friends of mine," said the Lion,
"and I will go at once to fight the monster."
He bade his comrades good-bye and marched proudly away to do battle with
The great spider was lying asleep when the Lion found him, and it looked
so ugly that its foe turned up his nose in disgust. Its legs were quite as long
as the tiger had said, and its body covered with coarse black hair.
It had a great mouth, with a row of sharp teeth a foot long; but its head
was joined to the pudgy body by a neck as slender as a wasp's waist.
This gave the Lion a hint of the best way to attack the creature, and as
he knew it was easier to fight it asleep than awake, he gave a great spring and
landed directly upon the monster's back. Then,
with one blow of his heavy paw, all armed with sharp claws, he knocked the
spider's head from its body. Jumping
down, he watched it until the long legs stopped wiggling, when he knew it was
The Lion went back to the opening where the beasts of the forest were
waiting for him and said proudly:
"You need fear your enemy no longer."
Then the beasts bowed down to the Lion as their King, and he promised to
come back and rule over them as soon as Dorothy was safely on her way to Kansas.
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