A Lion Among Men – Closing Review

Finally, FINALLY, I am writing the last instalment for A Lion Among Men.

To recap. After interviewing Yackle about the whereabouts of Liir and (more importantly) the Grimorie and relieving his own life through flashback, Brrr has not learned very much. Yackle herself is rather fed up with being alive, even though she’s certain there’s something she has to do. Soon after, the dwarf, Nor (Fiyero’s daughter), and the Time Dragon arrive at the mantuary, the invading army hot on their heels. Yackle realizes this is what she’s been waiting for and they all gather around to watch the Time Dragon close out the story with another play. The Time Dragon also produces the Grimorie and as the group flees the army, Brrr realizes he’s never been one for court society and decides to abandon the task given to him.

Let me back up a second because I want to talk about one of Brrr’s major internal conflicts, which of course is present throughout the whole book. Back when Brrr failed to turn over that dying soldier’s medal to his father and instead found himself in the middle of a riot, he ran off to Oz. There he joins up with high society, selling prints. But it soon becomes apparent that others view him as a dandy and pussyfoot and he’s mostly being invited so they can laugh at the idea of the King of the Forest being so delicate. Over time, Brrr realizes more and more how he is failing to live up to people’s expectations of him – expectations they have simply because he’s a lion – and this is much of what drives his internal conflict.

Brrr doesn’t really know who he is. He has no family and he didn’t grow up with lions, so he has no sense of being a lion. He also lives in a time with the Wizard is squelching animal rights, so Brrr also can’t simply slip in as another Animal in the Emerald City. He’s a curiosity, an oddity, divided from his own kind. Most of the time, his identity is not defined by who he is, but what he is labeled as. Since he has vague connections to both the Wizard and Dorothy, he gets called a traitor and a spy by both sides. While living in the Emerald City, he’s under constant threat of being thrown in jail or shipped to the outer regions of Oz with a yoke on his shoulders.

Just as he fails to fit in in human society, he fails to fit into Animal society. At one point he finds himself living with a pack of Ivory Tigers. He thinks he’s found a home. He does his best to be helpful and falls in love with Muhlama H’aekeem. However his affair with Muhlama is discovered and he’s banished. He soon begins to realize the Ivory Tigers were using him for manual labor and Muhlama may have only slept with him so she wouldn’t have to be the heir. Just like in Oz, even though he thought he was making his own decisions and finding out who he was, others were simply using him as they saw fit. Later when he runs across an Ape and Boar, they are all immediately aware that the three of them do not belong together.

For the majority of the story Brrr allows others to define his identity. He is a passive character, preferring to cower and let the wind blow him where it will. And because he has very little sense of morality, he’s willing to do just about anything, so long as it keeps him alive. He agrees to go looking for the Grimorie because it’ll keep him out of jail. He bursts the dwarf and company out of their tower room because he wants to get out too. The fact that Yackle pushes him so hard about who he is and why he’s doing this is frustrating to him because he lacks enough of an identity to understand his own motivations and desires.

The very end of the story could be read as overly sentimental. Brrr runs off to help a family harvest their crops before the army invades and destroys it all, which is by far one of the most selfless and kind-hearted things he’s ever done. And maybe it is a little bit, but I still think it works so long as you don’t consider it a full-on about-face for his character. I don’t think it signifies that Brrr is now going to be an amazing, sweet Lion who knows where his life is going. Rather this is a moment of Brrr squaring up and decidedly taking an action that will help someone. He’s realized his faults and is going to do his best to remedy them. He isn’t perfect, but at the very least he can help a farmer harvest their field.

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