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Cowardly Lion

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He is afraid of the ghosts...but he still gets the job done.

"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. Some of them are characterized by nervousness, timidity, reluctance to go anywhere near danger — all the hallmarks of a coward. Yet when push comes to shove, they will always be right there in the thick of the action, doing whatever it takes to accomplish their objective and get themselves and their teammates out alive. In other words, not a Dirty Coward or Accidental Hero.

Unlike Took a Level in Badass, these characters don't get over their fearful ways after a single moment of glory. They remain scaredy-cats and/or insecure in their regular lives despite the fact that they can kick major ass when they put their minds into it. Many of them will tell everyone to Think Nothing of It, because they think the fear they felt trumps the heroism they performed. These characters may also be Combat Pragmatists who get the job done by using brains rather than brawn when they go up against enemies that outclass them and they know they'll get killed if they just charge in and attack. Typically, his closest friends know exactly what he is capable of and know they can depend on him in crises, with a little prompting of course.


Usually, inverse of Miles Gloriosus. Unlike The So-Called Coward, this character is not actually misunderstood and does not need to be viewed by other characters as cowardly; it is his 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 that manage to get things done with their own worth, despite their fears.

Contrast the Fearless Fool — especially when it is invoked to encourage him. Prone to Heroic Self-Deprecation and Face Your Fears. 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 

    Films — Animation 
  • In 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 Trope Namer reappears as the star of Lion of Oz.
  • Arlo from The Good Dinosaur. 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 Rescuers Down Under has a scene in which Bernard, the shy stuttering unlucky mouse janitor, is attacked by a razorback hog in the Australian outback. After running and hiding, Bernard realizes that Bianca, Jake, and Cody are all depending on him, turns around, thrashes the full-grown wild boar by its tusks, and forces it to carry him to the scene.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • A major characteristic of the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz 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!
  • Albert Lory from This Land Is Mine 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.
  • 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.
  • Bob from Drugstore Cowboy 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.
  • Malak in Conan the Destroyer. He's 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.
  • 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.
  • Steve Trevor in Wonder Woman (2017) 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.
  • Spencer Gilpin in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle 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.

    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):


Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!

Midori gives an epic speech to the intimidating student council committee despite looking like she's about to cry the whole time.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / CowardlyLion

Media sources:

Main / CowardlyLion