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Cowardly Lion

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He ain't 'fraid of no ghost! …Well, actually, he is, but it ain't about to stop him!

"The fearless are merely without fear. People who act in spite of their fear are truly brave."
James A. Lafond-Lewis

Not all heroes are fearless. Alice, in fact, is noted for her nervousness, timidity, reluctance to go anywhere near danger — all the hallmarks of a coward. Yet when push comes to shove, she will always step up, doing whatever it takes to accomplish her objective, save her friends, and get everyone out alive — exactly unlike a Dirty Coward or an Accidental Hero.

Unlike Took a Level in Badass, Alice doesn't put off her fearful ways after a single moment of glory. She remains nervous and/or insecure in her daily life despite the fact that she can kick major ass when put to it. But she doesn't seek praise: she will probably tell everyone to Think Nothing of It, because she thinks a 'real' hero is never scared. Alice is likely to be a Combat Pragmatist who gets the job done indirectly, not risking a straight-on fight which she'll probably lose. But however little Alice thinks of herself, her True Companions value her for her courage.

Usually, inverse of Miles Gloriosus. Unlike The So-Called Coward, Alice does not need to be viewed by other characters as cowardly; it is her own opinion that matters. (And the so-called coward may be perfectly confident in his own courage.) Unlike the Accidental Hero, the examples in this trope are characters who deliberately set out to save the day, fears be damned.

Contrast the Fearless Fool, who is never afraid and therefore is never brave. This character type is prone to Heroic Self-Deprecation and a Face Your Fears plot. See also Lovable Coward. One possible way to describe a Weak, but Skilled Paper Tiger. Not unusual for this character to be a Stone Wall. Compare Heroic Neutral.

One of the major subtropes of the Classical Antihero.

Example subpages

Other examples:

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    Comic Strips 

    Fan Works 
  • Bequeathed from Pale Estates: Like in canon, Samwell Tarly is this, although he shows this before he ever meets Jon or anyone so supporting. When a plague sweeps through Westeros and Essos and the inoculation method is derided by the Faith so that Randyll won't hear of it (to a point of beating the boy when he insists on it), Samwell runs off with his two younger sisters to Dorne to get them inoculated. Even Randyll has to respect this, as it saved the three of them while his wife, eldest daughter, and preferred son Dickon died of the plague, even if he still despises everything else about his bookish, plump son.
  • Code Lyoko: EG: Both X.A.N.A. and the Lyoko-warriors are terrified of each other (or more accurately, X.A.N.A. is scared by Twilight), but will still keep on fighting and trying to stop each other regardless.
  • Impromptu Midterms: Played for Laughs. The teams are sent to eradicate a nest of Grimm cubs, and Jaune ends up dragged into the middle of it. So while everyone else is fighting the cubs, they keep hearing his screams of terror...and then they find him in the nest, alive and surrounded by the corpses of Grimm he just killed.
    Jaune: What the hell took you guys so long?

    Films — Animation 
  • 101 Dalmatians: When helping the puppies escape Hell Hall, Sergeant Tibbs is plainly scared out of his wits 90% of the time, but he still protectively places himself in front of the puppies when the bad'uns try to stop them.
  • An American Tail has Tiger. His personality almost seems based on the original Cowardly Lion from The Wizard of Oz. Unfortunately, this trait gets Flanderized in the TV show to the point where he leaves his friends in danger to save himself.
  • Barbie: Mariposa: Willa may hate going into danger, but she will if it's to protect the kingdom, and she always comes through when it counts.
  • The Good Dinosaur: Arlo. A major theme of the film is accepting that it's okay to be scared, and finding the courage needed to face your fears.
  • The Jungle Book (1967): The vultures tremble before Shere Khan and flutter to the highest tree, when he threatens Mowgli and Baloo however, they quickly swoop in and take the fearsome tiger head on.
  • The Lion King (1994): Scar is a villainous (not to mention literal) example of this trope. Although he's portrayed as your usual Dirty Coward, (i.e. running from conflict, begging for mercy when cornered) he actually puts up a pretty good fight against Simba in the film's climax.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Abominable: CJ has quite a few Screaming Woman moments (one of which ruins Amanda's attempt to sneak away from the monster) and refuses to go into the woods to look for the missing Karen. However, she also delays her escape attempt to check on a hurt Amanda, and after the monster knocks her down, she defiantly curses him and sprays him with pepper spray.
  • A Discussed Trope in the movie Angus, where Grandpa explains to Angus that Superman is most certainly a hero, but isn't brave because he's invincible and so he has nothing to truly fear. Bravery comes from knowing you can be beaten, perhaps even easily, but pushing forward anyway in spite of your fear.
  • Balibo: Roger East is initially fairly reluctant to go to East Timor to cover the beginning of the Indonesian invasion of East Timor and he nearly abandons the country entirely after being nearly shot by an attack helicopter. However, he ultiibecomes invested in the country's fate and chooses to remain in East Timor so the world will know what happens to it. Tragically, it leads to him being captured and executed during the invasion of Dili.
  • Conan the Destroyer: Malak is constantly suggesting that he stay behind whenever the party ventures into danger, but circumstances or his own guilt always prompt him to get involved in the heroics.
  • John McClane in the original Die Hard. When Hans Gruber's gang attacks and takes hostages, John reacts in a completely human way: he runs, hides and does everything he can to call for help while obviously almost scared out of his mind. Of course, when he finds that the Police Are Useless, he has to conquer his fears and take action.
  • Drugstore Cowboy: Bob is pretty open about his neurosis and his reliance on drugs to keep the stresses of world away from him. The people around him are still awed by the acts of Magnificent Bastardry he performs out of sheer panic.
  • In King Kong (2005), Bruce Baxter abandons the rescue mission, claiming that they're going to die and all but calling himself a coward. This doesn't prevent him from returning Just in Time to rescue the rescuers, in a Big Damn Heroes moment that would give Han Solo a run for his money.
  • Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle: Spencer Gilpin is a easily-scared, socially awkward nerd even when placed in the body of Smolder Bravestone, where he is packed with a Heroic Build, Super-Strength, speed and reflexes. Despite all these advantages, he is easily frightened and his first reaction to danger is start running. His Character Development is learning to be braver than he originally was.
  • Night of the Living Dead (1990): Judy is a Screaming Woman, but she does try to help press against the doors as the zombies break through them, and volunteers to drive a truck through the horde.
  • In The Raid (1954), Capt. Lionel Foster regards himself as a coward; having deliberately gotten himself injured in order to removed from the front lines. However, he stages a heroic one-man Last Stand against the raiders: killing several of them despite only have one hand.
  • Sleepy Hollow: Ichabod Crane is terrified throughout the entire course of the investigation, often to the point of fainting. Nonetheless, he pursues the case relentlessly despite his fear, going so far as to engage the Headless Horseman in physical combat — twice!
  • Star Wars:
    • Admiral Piett in The Empire Strikes Back have seen Vader choke imperials for their failures first hand and is visibly terrified that this might happen to him. He manages to hold himself together and isn't killed by Vader in the end.
    • Unlike his friends, Finn in The Force Awakens is just trying to get as far as humanly possible away from the First Order. But whenever he's actually put on the spot, after venting his dismay he doesn't hesitate to kick ass to help them out.
  • This Land Is Mine: Albert Lory lives in an unnamed country under Nazi occupation and, literally, runs home to his aged mother any time there is an allied air strike. He eventually makes a Heroic Sacrifice because he's more terrified of seeing his friends picked off one by one than actually dying.
  • The Wizard of Oz: A major characteristic of the Cowardly Lion is cowardice. This doesn't prevent him from joining Scarecrow and Tin Man to rescue Dorothy when she's captured by the Wicked Witch of the West.
    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!
  • Wonder Woman (2017): Steve Trevor is normally a suave, unflappable spy in the service of the Allies during the Great War, and his moxie is shown in his flashback to the job that led him to stumble onto Themiscyra. However, under the effects of the Lasso of Truth, he reveals how truly terrified he is of the whole travesty of the war. This is even evident in his Heroic Sacrifice as he's clearly scared and doesn't want to die. It takes a moment for him to hype himself up but he still manages to go out with a smile.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • World Wrestling League reporter Stefano tends to shy away from wrestlers at the slightest hint they might get physical with him, panics when they start to approach him without warning even when it often turns out they don't have hostile intentions and makes no effort to fight back when attacked. This all obscures the fact that he is competent in the ring, having a successful career in IWA Puerto Rico and in fact became on third of the promotions first Trio title holders with Noel Rodriguez and Dennis Rivera, two of the wrestlers he was unreasonably afraid of.
  • Ricardo Rodriguez in WWE. Those familiar with even his developmental FCW time would know he was a pretty good wrestler but on the main roster, his dirty cowardice and submission to Alberto Del Rio made him a Very Punchable Man. When forced to wrestle Big Show though, he did a fairly good job in spite of the size differential being far against him.
  • Veda Scott was initially known as a lawyer and reporter for Ring of Honor who was also on the bottom of SHIMMER's totem pole, tending to cower near its established contenders. After she was kidnapped by SCUM though she joined the rest of the ROH locker roomed in clearing them out of Supercard of Honor VII.


Video Example(s):


Amanda the Adventurer Pilot

In spite of rightfully being afraid of Amanda, Wooly still manages to get the courage to beg the viewer to destroy the cursed tapes right before Amanda transforms into her demonic form.

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Main / CowardlyLion

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