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The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

L. Frank Baum

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The Wonderful Wizard of Oz | Chapter 8 : The Deadly Poppy Field | Summary

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Summary

The travelers cross the river in the Tin Woodman's raft—all but the Scarecrow, who gets stuck clinging to a pole in the middle of the river. The lion again demonstrates his bravery by swimming to shore and pulling the raft to safety. The three other friends despair of having lost the Scarecrow until a friendly stork rescues him. After that the journey becomes easier. The countryside is filled with lovely flowers.

Unfortunately they must walk through a field of poppies whose intense scent makes Dorothy, Toto, and the Lion all fall asleep. The Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman are able to carry Dorothy and Toto to safety, but the Lion is too heavy for them to lift. They leave the Lion where he is and wait for Dorothy (and Toto) to wake up.

Analysis

It's likely that Baum draws on Pilgrim's Progress for the poppy scene. Christian, the hero of that parable, travels through a "certain country, whose air naturally tended to make one drowsy," and worries that he and his traveling companion, Hopeful, will not wake up if they fall asleep there. But this is far from the only inspiration for Dorothy's adventure. Red poppies have influenced myths and legends for centuries.

  • According to Greek mythology, poppies grew in the footprints of Demeter, the goddess of the harvest, when she visited the underground in search of her kidnapped daughter, Proserpine.
  • In Christian art, poppies are often used as a symbol of Christ's blood.
  • Legend holds that poppies grow on battlefields—again, probably because of their blood-red color.

As Baum surely knows, the seeds of the opium poppy contain the substance used to make opium, heroin, and morphine. Ordinary red poppy seeds contain far less of this opioid—but even opium poppies would not cause passersby to fall asleep.

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