Now it is well known that when there are many of these flowers together their odor is so powerful that anyone who breathes it falls asleep, and if the sleeper is not carried away from the scent of the flowers he sleeps on and on forever. But Dorothy did not know this, nor could she get away from the bright red flowers that were everywhere about; so presently her eyes grew heavy and she felt she must sit down to rest and to sleep.
Greetings! Today we are back to looking at L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by summarizing and analyzing chapter eight. In today’s chapter, Dorothy and her companions encounter more obstacles in the land of Oz by going downriver and finding a field of misleadingly beautiful flowers. Onward!
Chapter Seven Summary: The Deadly Poppy Field
After the Tin Woodman creates a raft for the company to ride on, they travel down the river with efficiency; however, they soon discover that the current is too quick and the sticks they crafted to steer them are too short to reach the bottom. Out of fear of losing themselves and never reaching Oz, the Scarecrow accidentally sticks his stick into the mud of the river bottom where it gets stuck—and he is left in the middle of the river attached to the pole.
“Goodbye!” he called after them, and they were very sorry to leave him; indeed, the Tin Woodman began to cry, but fortunately remembered that he might rust, and so dried his tears on Dorothy’s apron.”
Luckily, Dorothy and her friends are not selfish and attempt to recover the Scarecrow after the Cowardly Lion tells them to use his tail to pull the boat up shore, which works. Afterward, they head back to where they lost the Scarecrow and fortunately run into a large stork who agrees to help them recover their friend.
So the big bird flew into the air and over the water till she came to where the Scarecrow was perched upon his pole. Then the stork with her great claws grabbed the Scarecrow by the arm and carried him up into the air and back to the bank, where Dorothy and the Lion and Tin Woodman and Toto were sitting.
It is here that we run into the final problem in the chapter, which is that party enters the deadly poppy field, which is dangerous because it will put anybody who passes through it to sleep forever unless they are brought away and to fresh air. As they enter the “meadow of poppies” that is filled with “big scarlet” flowers, Dorothy begins to get tired. The Tin Woodman and the Scarecrow, who are not affected by the poison poppies, carry Dorothy and the now sleeping Toto away from the meadow.
On their way, however, they come across the Cowardly Lion, who has fallen asleep in the poppies as he was not immune to the poison flowers.
They followed the bend of the river, and at last came upon their friend the Lion, lying fast asleep among the poppies. The flowers had been too strong for the huge beast and he had given up, at last, and fallen only a short distance from the end of the poppy-bed, where the sweet grass spread in beautiful green fields before them.
Both the Tin Woodman and the Scarecrow decide that they can do nothing for the Cowardly Lion as he is too big to pull out of the field and decide to exit the poppies to save Dorothy, hoping that though the Cowardly Lion is stuck forever in a comatose-like state, that he dreams of the courage he so ardently sought.
Chapter eight of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is all about sacrifices, both intentional and unintentional. They unintentionally sacrifice the Scarecrow to get their boat to safety (though he is saved), and they intentionally sacrifice the Cowardly Lion to the poppy fields to save Dorothy. Similarly, the stork who saves the Scarecrow sacrifices some of her time to save him for a possible reward in the future, which is interesting.
Now, sacrifice has a weird connotation, in that it often seems negative or at least, if it is positive, then it is simply noble, and I think we see more shades of positivity in the use of it in chapter eight as a theme. The Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman are noble in that they must sacrifice one friend (who is much stronger) to save another (who is much weaker). While these noble qualities make them aspirational characters who, by the book’s logic, are doing the right thing when they should be doing it, we also understand as readers that they all expect something from each other, whether that be loyalty, friendship, or a ticket to Oz to see the wizard (or some aid in the future). Moreover, the idea of sacrifice will no doubt come up again in The Wonderful Wizard Oz, as the characters are bound to run into more trouble in this strange, fictional world.
Baum, L. Frank. “The Wizard of Oz the First Five Novels.” Fall River Press, 2014.