Literary characters are so tempting to relate to! We can see ourselves as tragic and doomed as Marie Antoinette, or as stubbornly self-absorbed as Scarlett O’Hara. We can believe ourselves as fearless as Rosa Parks, or as clueless as Ellie Mae Clampett. We can find snippets of ourselves – real or wished-for – in an endless parade of multi-dimensional beings.
Our favorites are usually the ones that have qualities we either believe we have or desperately wish we could develop. We can read about Queen Elizabeth I, and how she managed to stay alive long enough to gain the throne of England during the reign of the Tudors. We can admire her courage, while telling ourselves that we would never have committed some of her errors in judgment. We say “I’ll think about it tomorrow”, and channel Scarlett O’Hara without even realizing we are tilting our heads and batting our eyelashes in the process.
We can live a thousand lives by sharing them with our favorite characters. But those most near and dear to us always have a message for us, or lessons that we use to help us grow into the people we want to be.
My favorite literary character of all time is the Cowardly Lion. I have always loved the Cowardly Lion. Even before Bert Lahr brought him to life in “The Wizard of Oz”. Every growl that hid a trembling heart, every mad swish of his long, plumed tail that was designed to chase away what he feared most, even his tendency to hide his eyes and pretend his foes couldn’t see him – I knew his great heart. I knew his desire to be brave. I felt his fear, and understood every growl and whuf and shake of his mane. He was the pussycat who looked like a big tough lion to keep away the bad guys and make sure no one could see how scared he really was.
How freeing it was to grow and learn that everyone is afraid, that no one is perfect, that what I feared more than anything else was only in my mind. How wonderful to find that when someone I loved was in danger, I could rise up and be brave and fearless without even giving it a second thought. Until the moment passed, and I realized that being afraid was much worse than anything I was afraid of.
Good, gentle, kind Cowardly Lion. He taught me that I had ‘the nerve’, just like he did. I didn’t have to charge at things to push them away before they hurt me. I just had to learn my own heart.
Sandi Tuttle is the host of the Blog Talk Radio show “An Average Woman in a Superwoman World” (http://www.blogtalkradio.com/sandi-tuttle).