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Literature / A Lion in the Meadow

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A Lion in the Meadow is a kid's book by Margaret Mahy. It is her first book.

It follows an unnamed little boy who observes a "big, roaring, yellow, whiskery lion" in the meadow outside his house and tries to tell his mother, but she dismisses his claims as "nonsense".

Eventually, she decides to humour him by claiming that there's a dragon in a matchbox which will grow huge and chase away the lion, but then it turns out to be true... and the lion can talk.

A Lion in the Meadow provides examples of

  • Accidental Truth: The mother thinks she just made up the dragon, but then the "story" turned out to be true after all.
  • Adults Are Useless: The mother fails to notice the lion in the meadow even when he roars, and when she hands the boy the match box, she fails to realise there's actually a dragon in it.
  • All Animals Are Domesticated: The lion eventually becomes a "house lion" in the revised ending. Justified in that he's a Vegetarian Carnivore and can talk.
  • Ambiguous Gender:
    • The dragon's sex is never said.
    • In one version of the book, the boy has a sibling, but their gender is unclear because, while they have short hair, they're only a baby, and they lack any Tertiary Sexual Characteristics. The family also has a cat in this version, but its gender is also unrevealed (though it is a ginger cat, so it's statistically more likely to be male).
  • Ambiguously Absent Parent: The boy's father is never seen.
  • Ambiguously Evil: The dragon. The lion claims it is "after" him in the beginning, and the boy and the lion play in a separate meadow from it, but at the same time, nobody minds its presence.
  • Cassandra Truth: The mother doesn't believe the boy's claims of the lion in the meadow, but it turns out to be true.
  • Crying Wolf: Implied. When the boy claims there's a lion in the meadow, his mother berates him for telling stories "again".
  • Furry Reminder: The lion mostly speaks, but can be heard roaring at the beginning.
  • Go-to-Sleep Ending: The revised ending has the little boy and the lion receiving a "goodnight hug", with the baby already asleep in its cot.
  • Interspecies Friendship: The story ends with the boy and the lion becoming friends and playing together in the other meadow.
  • May It Never Happen Again: Played with. A boy notices a lion in the meadow, but his mother thinks he's "making up stories". She tries to humour him by making up a "story" of her own — that a match box has a dragon in it, which will grow to full size and chase the lion away. However, the story turns out to be true, and there is a dragon. Originally, the story ended with the mother refusing to make any more stories up lest they come true, but later editions omitted this ending since Margaret Mahy feared it would make children afraid to make up stories.
  • No Name Given: Nobody has a name.
  • Noodle Incident: The boy's mother chastises him for making up stories again, implying that he's made up a story before.
  • Poor Communication Kills: The lion, at one point, says that the boy and his mother should have left him alone as he only eats apples... but the thing is, he never told them that he ate only apples and that would be a strange thing to assume without being told.
  • Retcon: Initially, the story just ended abruptly with the boy and the lion making friends, but the author later wrote a revised ending that involved the lion being adopted by the family. He also gains a younger sibling and a cat in the revised version.
  • Talking Animal: The lion can talk, and mainly behaves like a real lion apart from eating only apples.
  • Tempting Fate: The story originally ended with the mother defying this trope by avoiding making up any stories lest they turn out to be true. This is left out of the revised ending, though there's no evidence that she did make up any more stories either.
  • Unnamed Parent: The mother isn't named... but then again, neither is anyone else.
  • Vegetarian Carnivore: Exaggerated for the lion— not only is he a vegetarian, he only eats one thing, namely apples.