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The Kalidahs | Oz – Day 14

“They are monstrous beasts with bodies like bears and heads like tigers,” replied the Lion; “and with claws so long and sharp that they could tear me in two as easily as I could kill Toto.”

L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Thoughts and Questions

This part of the chapter discusses a creature called the Kalidah; part bear, part tiger. On day 7, I created a type of bird that isn’t in the original book and I called them “Keliemas”. I named it this by merging two prehistoric predatory birds, the Kelenken and the Seriemas (Kel-iemas). Was it synchronicity that these two animal names are so close or was the Kalidah name already bouncing around in my head? I did research that day into ancient birds, it felt authentic.

I wonder if, at the time, Baum didn’t have a lot of mythical creature experience to pull from. The Kalidahs in the original manuscript feel almost introductory to the idea of a mythical hybrid creature. While they may have been scary at the turn of the century, how can I make them scarier?

The name “Kalidah” is a known aspect of Oz, and one thing I am committed to is keeping the authenticity of the book. So perhaps I will go back and change the name of the birds? I considered creating new creatures in the place of the Kalidah, perhaps the combo of a Kalidah and a Tarasque. Kalasque (Kal-asque)? (A Tarasque has the head of a lion, the body of an ox, a turtle shell, 6 bear legs, and the scaled tail of a scorpion.) But when I looked up Kalidah images, so many wonderful things come up through history, that I just don’t feel I can change it and only need to make it more dramatic.

These are all thoughts for the next draft, as the first draft is really just about discovering the story.

This is an ongoing NaNoWriMo project in which I share my raw writing in retelling The Wizard of Oz. You can read about my project here and start with the first chapter here.

Raw Writing Day 14

The Kalidahs

The lion lay on his side panting.  They did not want to rush him, and having come so close to losing both the Lion and the Woodman at that moment, Dorothy felt it best that they all rest.

The forest on this side of the chasm was thicker.  The trees appeared older and the branches looked like claws, stretching down to the yellow brick road.  Dorothy sat with her back to a tree looking over the divide and began to snack on the nuts that Scarecrow had collected.  Toto curled up next to Dorothy and took a little nap. Soon his feet were twitching and he made little yipping noises.  The Woodman leaned against a tree, his eyes closed.  Scarecrow hummed a tune quietly as he watched over the others.

When the Lion’s breathing finally slowed, he got to his feet and stretched.  

“Are we ready?” he asked in his low growl.

Toto woke at the Lion’s voice and imitated the Lion’s stretch. He wagged his tail and began down the road into the deep darkness of the forest.  The Lion followed the little dog while the Scarecrow helped Dorothy to her feet.  She linked her arm on one side with Scarecrow and on the other with the Woodman and together they followed the Lion.

The thick trees above them blotted out the daylight and the branches seemed tangled and bare under a high dark canopy.  They began to hear sounds deep in the forest, the sounds of trees echoing as they fell and crashed.  The sounds of snarls and growls.  Dorothy pulled her two companions closer and they began to follow the lion more closely.  Toto stopped running ahead and walked only a step in front of the great Lion’s legs. 

“This is the land of the Kalidahs,” said the Lion in a whisper.  

“What are they,” asked Dorothy.

“They are terrible creatures,” he said and a shiver went through his body.  “They have long claws that are so sharp, they can cut even through the Woodman’s body.  And their teeth are stronger than mine.  They will kill me if they find me in their forest.  They will kill all of us.”

“Perhaps we should move more quickly?” asked Dorothy.

“I will move behind you all,” said the Lion. “Then I will remember that you are here if I get too terribly afraid. I don’t want to run away and forget.”

Toto moved close in front of Dorothy.  Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and the Woodman began to walk more quickly.  Behind them walked the Lion, watching all sides and listening for sounds that meant the Kalidah were close.  

Up ahead, they saw a break in the trees and light filtering into the dark forest.  Once again they found themselves at a deep divide. The trees went right to the edge, their roots exposed in the walls of the cliff. It was a much further distance than the last chasm and Lion had almost not made that final leap.

“Do you want to try to make the jump, Lion?” asked Dorothy.

“I do not think I can make the jump alone, and I know that I can not make it with each of you on my back.”

They all stood and stared at the space between where they were and where they needed to be; the yellow brick road trailing off past the cliff and between the trees ahead.  

They heard a loud yowl come from the forest, answered by a deep and throaty growl. They turned to look at each other.  The scarecrow began to shake.

“We need to figure something out quickly,” said Dorothy.  “I think the Kalidahs will know we are here very soon if they don’t already.”

Again they were silent and still, trying to figure out the puzzle of crossing the divide.

Scarecrow began to scratch his head, “I wonder…” he said quietly. They all watched as he walked to a tree that was set back several feet from the edge. No other trees stood in front of it.

“What do you wonder?” asked Dorothy.

“Woodman, when you chop down a tree, can you make it fall in any direction you want?” asked Scarecrow.

“Yes,” said the Woodman, and they all watched as he moved to the opposite side of the tree and then began to walk around it.

“Do you think,” said the Scarecrow, “that you could make it fall over the gorge?”

“Scarecrow!  That is a wonderful idea!” exclaimed Dorothy.

The Lion looked from Dorothy to the Scarecrow and then to the Woodman.  “I do not understand how the tree falling will help us?”

“If the Woodman can make the tree fall, it will make a bridge for us to cross; it will stretch from this side to the other.  Do you think that you can cross on the log Lion?” asked Dorothy.

“I am willing to try! If I did not know there was only straw in your head, I would think that you had brains!” he said to the Scarecrow.

The Woodman began to chop the side facing the gorge.  While the tree was quite thick, he worked quickly and the wood rapidly chipped away.  There was a cracking sound as the tree started to lean.  With a final chop, the Woodman stepped back and they all watched the tree fall, its top easily spanning the distance. A great cloud of dust rose from the other side.

“Quickly, Toto!  You’re first!” said Dorothy and Toto ran easily across the wide bridge.  

There was a low growling sound coming from the forest behind them.

“Quickly Dorothy,” said the Lion.  “They have seen us.  I will go last and keep them away as long as I can.”

The log was quite wide for Dorothy to walk on, but the curve where she walked and the wrinkled bark made her feel unsteady.  She balanced with her arms sticking straight out and focused only on Toto standing on the other side.  He stood growling and barking, his eyes focused on something behind her.

There was the sound of a wild scream from the forest behind them, but she did not turn to look.  She heard the lion begin to growl, a low tremble that seemed to shake the log itself.  Finally reaching the other side, she leaped from the log and scooped Toto into her arms.  Turning, she saw that the Woodman was right behind her, using his axe like a cane.  Behind him stood the Scarecrow; shaking, crawling on his hands and knees.

The Woodman stepped from the end of the log so that only Scarecrow was left in the middle.

“Look at me, Scarecrow,” Dorothy said and the Scarecrow’s eyes snapped up and met hers.  “You can do this, just move slowly and keep looking at me.”  The Scarecrow did move slowly, but his shaking slowed and he looked more confident. 

Beyond the end of the log, the Lion paced back and forth, never taking his eyes from the two shadows approaching in the darkness of the old forest. He continued to growl. 

The Scarecrow finally made it to the end of the log and fell to the ground, scooting back, away from the break in the earth.

“We are all across Lion!  You must come now!” called Dorothy.

“I can not turn my back on them,” the Lion roared.  “They will kill me if I do!” He continued to pace.

Dorothy could see glowing in the darkness of two sets of green eyes as they moved closer to Lion.  

“The log is just behind you Lion, do you think that you can walk backward over it?” yelled Dorothy.

The Lion did not take his eyes off the approaching creatures, he turned to face them head-on.  Then Dorothy saw that he took a step back, his hind foot feeling for the tree.  Once his foot was on it, Dorothy saw the claws of his back foot extend deeply into the bark.

The deep shadows of the Kalidahs moved from the dark of the forest and Dorothy could see that their eyes were set in the face of what looked to be a giant cat.  Their faces were striped black and orange and they had great white whiskers that twisted and turned as their eyes followed Lion’s movement. Dorothy saw Lion put his second foot on the log behind him. 

The bodies of the Kalidahs emerged from the forest. The one on the right was smaller than the other but still stood several heads taller than the Lion.

They had small, alert, rounded ears on the tops of their heads. Their noses were broad like the lions, but they had no mane, and their stripes extended down their face and into a coarse bushy hair that hung from the rest of their bodies. 

“You are doing it!” yelled Dorothy as the Lion continued to move backward, both back feet digging into the tree.  He was not completely on the log when the Kalidah on the right let out a scream and the other began to hunch as if it were preparing to pounce. The Lion extended his strong front paw and swung at the creatures, snarling as he did.

The larger of the Kalidahs moved back a step and began to pace, watching the Lion.  Their great burly bodies did not match their catlike heads.  Their chests were broad and their legs were heavily muscled.  Their bellies were full and round and heavy. Their deep brown hair hung off of them in a shag and stood at attention along their spine.  

The Woodman whispered, “When Lion makes it here, they will simply follow him over and kill us all.”

Dorothy saw that he was right; they could not outrun these creatures, and Lion could not fight them off forever. 

Lion was now almost halfway over, walking backward, watching the Kalidahs and snarling every time they began to step upon the tree trunk.  They continued to hiss and growl, but they did not seem to want to fight on the log itself. They watched Lion closely and paced about the edge.  

Beyond their heavily muscled bodies and dark wired fur, orange and black stripes seemed to grow from their haunches and extended onto a long, feline tail.  Their tails swished back and forth in rapid succession.  It was not the joyful wag of Toto, but an irritated focus in it’s movement. 

The Lion was closer now, his back legs only a few steps from Dorothy.

As one of the Lion’s feet settled onto solid ground, the larger Kalidah stepped onto the log.  Dorothy saw its razor-sharp claws reflect the light as they extended into the wood.

Dorothy heard Lion speak.  “You must all run into the forest.  I will fight them for as long as I can, but you must do what you can to get away.”

“We won’t leave you, Lion,” said Dorothy.

“Then we will all die,” answered the Lion.

As Lion’s second foot stepped on land, Scarecrow suddenly exclaimed, “Woodman!  When Lion is off, you must chop the branch so that this end falls into the ravine.”

“But that will kill them!” exclaimed the Woodman.

“Then they will kill us,” growled the Lion, as he finally stepped completely from the log.

The second Kalidah had begun to cross and the first was almost halfway, growing and snarling.

The Woodman began to chop.  He chopped just beyond where the log met the earth.  He chopped frantically and without break.

The Kalidahs moved closer, their eyes focused intently on the Woodman.

There was the sound of wood splintering and just as the log began to break, the second Kalidah crouched as if to jump.

The closest of the beasts clung desperately to the log as it fell, tumbling over and over–a yowl of outrage and anger as it crashed to the rocks below.  The second of the beasts, the smaller of the two, jumped just as the tree broke and it seemed to fly at Dorothy from across the divide.  The distance was too far and, while it reached its long claws to the edge, it missed and followed its companion to its death.

They all stood staring into the canyon for a long time.  When Dorothy finally looked up, she saw that the Woodman’s face was frozen in rusty tears.  She asked Scarecrow for the oil can, and together they rubbed the rust away.

“I didn’t want to kill them,” said the Woodman, when he could finally speak again.

“You saved our lives,” said Dorothy.

“I wish that I could save you without hurting anyone else.”  The Woodman hung his head and they all continued along the yellow brick road. 

Curiosity Research

How to Fell a Tree

List of Hybrid Creatures in Folklore

Mythical Creatures: 15 Of The Strangest ‘Hybrids’ From Around The World

Deviant Art – Kalidahs

All the Chapters so far

NaNoWriMo Goals 2021

Day 1 – How Uncle Henry and Aunt Em find Dorothy

Day 2 – The tornado

Day 3 – Arriving in Munchkinland

Day 4 – The Munchkins and the Good Witch of the North

Day 5 – The Shoes and preparing for a journey

Day 6 – The Yellow Brick Road

Day 7 – Boq and the Birds

Day 8 – Helping the Scarecrow Down

Day 9 – Scarecrow’s Story

Day 10 – Meeting the Tin Woodman

Day 11 – How the Woodman Became Tin

Day 12 – Meeting the Cowardly Lion

Day 13 – The First Ravine

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