A field of red poppies for the Poison Poppies in the Wizard of Oz rewrite | Photo by Anna Loscotoff 2021

Poison Poppies | Oz – Day 18 and 19


Arriving at the poison poppies, I wanted to make them scarier than they are in the book. How to do that? In the original Wizard of Oz, the poppies cause you to sleep an eternal slumber. So I began to think about those who have succumbed to the poppies in the past. Perhaps the poppies are carnivores. What has become of the remains? The Woodman and the Scarecrow carry Dorothy out but leave Lion to his death as he is too heavy to carry.

Seriously, the poppies make no sense in the book.  Where they are placed is wrong. Also, shouldn’t be there be sleeping bodies along the way?  Who comes along and picks them up?  Or are the bodies in the flowers?  Does something pull them off the path?  Are there bones in the flowers?  This is something to consider for the second write perhaps. Or maybe I need to consider it.

This is an ongoing NaNoWriMo project where I retell The Wizard of Oz. You can read about my project goals here and start at the first chapter here.

Raw Writing Days 18 and 19

The Poison Poppies

Scarecrow, once his feet touched the ground, began to dance and threw his arms around Dorothy, giving her a tight embrace.  He picked Toto up from the ground, the little dog wiggling away but not before Scarecrow kissed him on the nose.  He wrapped his arms around the mane of Lion and squeezing tightly, and then hugged the Woodman who was still and unmoving. 

“I am alive!” He proclaimed.  “I have survived Keliemas in the corn and the Kalidahs in the forest.  And now I have been rescued from another pole where I thought I would live for all time.”

He shuffled his feet in a sort of dance and spun around, kicking up his heels.  His feet tangled and he fell to the ground.  Toto jumped on top of him and began to lick his face. 

“Toto, let him up!” Said Dorothy.  “Scarecrow, are you okay?

Scarecrow began to laugh.  His laughter was contagious and soon Dorothy found herself gigging. “I am alive,” he said. “I am more than okay.”

The Woodman helped him up and they began their walk up the river.  It was still early in the day, for it had been quite early when they boarded their raft.  The water had moved them swiftly downriver in a short amount of time, and while it would take time to find the yellow brick road, they knew where they needed to travel.  

They walked slowly.  Lion was tired from swimming the raft to shore and Dorothy was tired from the fear of losing the Scarecrow.  Scarecrow said that he could not get tired, but now that his joyous dancing had passed, he began to think of a life holding the pole in the middle of the river. Toto and the Woodman kept the pace of their friends.  Everyone walked in silence.

The Woodman picked fruit for Dorothy from the trees along the bank; fruit pink on the inside with a green shell, fruit orange and filled with black seed, apples so large that they took both hands to carry.  Dorothy had not known fruit in Kansas, and each of these was a treat to her senses.  She had never known food to have such diversity, such sweetness, and never imagined that such things could grow from the soil.

The flowers around the base of the trees grew thicker and taller.  Beyond the trees, they could see fields of deep red.  Here, there were a few of the scarlet flowers scattered amongst the yellow, orange, and purple.  

Soon, they rounded the curve of the river and saw far in the distance a glint of gold.

“I see it!” Said the Scarecrow.

Soon it became apparent to them all and they watched it move closer with every step.  They could see curving bits of the road lift and drop in the forever expanse of scarlet, peeking up over each slope of the red hills. The red flowers were coming closer to the river as well, replacing the other flowers around the trees. 

Following the bank of the river, they soon arrived at the yellow bricks, emerging from the river as if the bricks themselves walked along the river bed.  A smile lit Dorothy’s face as she turned to look at her friends.

“We made it,” she said.

“Oz will get you home, Dorothy,” said the Scarecrow.

“And he will give you a brain,” the Woodman said, looking at the Scarecrow.

“And he will give you a heart,” said the Lion looking at the Woodman.

“And he will give you courage,” proclaimed Dorothy.

Together, Dorothy holding the Scarecrow’s and Woodman’s hands and the Lion at their side, they all stepped on the yellow brick road.  Toto danced ahead, spinning in circles and yipping at them to hurry.  The yellow brick was beautiful here.  It was clean and perfectly set.  Not a brick was out of place and the flowers grew along the edges, but not into the brick itself.  

The red flowers still mixed with the other flowers here, but as they began upon their path, the scarlet flowers became more densely packed. The air began to smell dusty, peppery, and slightly sweet. 

“What a beautiful smell,” said Dorothy, taking a deep breath.

Scarecrow tried to take a deep breath through his nose.  “I can smell nothing but a bit of dust.  I remember the day the man made me, he painted for me a nose, and the world smelled new.  But over the years, I suppose my smell has faded.  I never even thought to notice. I suppose that belongs to me not having a brain.  Tell me, Dorothy, do I still have a nose?”

Dorothy looked up at Scarecrow.  “I am afraid there is only a smudge of paint left, but it is faded.  Perhaps that is why you smell only dust?”

“Perhaps,” said Scarecrow.  “What do you smell, Woodman?”

“I am made of tin, I don’t smell anything.  When I lost my head and the tinsmith made me a new one, I never smelled anything again.  It was okay because at least I had a heart and could love everything around me.  After my heart was gone, I never gave it a thought.”

The Lion took a deep breath and began to purr deep in his chest. “It makes me feel happy.” He sighed.  “I always thought flowers were the most beautiful thing, but they scared me because they are so delicate.  I was afraid that I would hurt them.  I have never seen any like this, though.  The forest is not filled with flowers.”

“If I had a heart,” said the Woodman, “perhaps I would love them.”

“I had a brain,” said the Scarecrow, “maybe I would know why others love them so much!”

As they continued to walk, Dorothy began to rub her eyes and Toto began to walk drunkenly, wobbling from side to side.

“I feel so very tired.  I think I need to take a nap.”

The lion yawned loudly.  “Yes, a nap would be very good right now.” 

“We must keep going!” Proclaimed the Woodman.  “We have already lost much of our day, and we should find a place to sleep.”

“Lion, can Dorothy ride on your back?” Said the Scarecrow.  But as he said the words, the Lion staggered and almost fell into the flowers along the edge.

Dorothy suddenly sat down in the middle of the road and yawned.  “I think that I shall sleep right here, where the flowers smell so sweet.”  She laid her head in the soft flowers as if they were a pillow and Toto curled up in her arms.  

The Lion, struggling to walk in a straight line said, his words slurred, “I think the flowers are making my head fuzzy.”

The Woodman looked from Dorothy to the Lion when he remembered a story his father had told him as a child, the story of the sleeping flowers.  

“Lion!  You must run as fast as you can!  Scarecrow and I will carry Dorothy, but you must get out of the flowers.  Go!”

The Lion was sluggish, “Why…? I don’t….  I am…”

“Go!” Exclaimed the Woodman.

The Lion did what he could; he began to stumble down the yellow bricks in the direction of the Emerald City.  Finally, he crested a hill and disappeared.

“I don’t understand,” said the Scarecrow.  “Why did you send him away?”

“I think that these are flowers of the eternal sleep.  I remember when my father traveled to Oz, he returned with a story of a flower, red like death, that makes the one who breathes it fall into a deep sleep.  As long as they breathe the scent of the flower, they do not wake.”

“How did your father get through?”

“I don’t know.  I was young.  But I remember dreaming of red flowers after that and I felt afraid.”

“Why are we not tired?” Asked the Scarecrow.

“Are you ever tired?”

The Scarecrow appeared to think about this for a moment. “No, but this seems to be magical sleep.”

“Even if it is magical, you said earlier that you only smell dust, and I smell nothing at all.  I think you must be able to smell the flowers to have them affect you.”

As they were talking, Dorothy had begun to lightly snore.  So deep were they in their conversation, that they did not notice that Dorothy’s body was being pulled ever so slowly into the flowers.  

“We should make a chair with our arms,” said the Scarecrow and showed the Woodman what he meant.  “We can carry her and we will put Toto on her lap.”

Finally, they turned to look down at the girl.  Only her silver shoes still lay on the brick and Toto was not to be seen at all.

“The flowers are taking her,” said the Woodman.  “Grab her leg!”

They each took a leg and began to pull.  The flowers did not wish to let her go so easily.  The flowers were hungry.  

“She should not be as heavy as this!” Said the Scarecrow.  They pulled and tugged, but Dorothy’s body only slowly reappeared.  Luckily, Dorothy had wrapped Toto in her arms as she fell asleep and the little dog still slept, comfortable with his mistress.  

Finally, her head appeared from the flowers.  Sleep made her skin smooth and unworried.  She looked at peace with Toto in her arms.

“What is this?” Asked Scarecrow, as he knelt to pull something that had tangled in their hair.  It was white and stick-like, with a smooth round end on one side, but jagged and broken on the other.

Woodman took it and began to look closely.  Suddenly he let out a surprised gasp and dropped the white thing to the brick below, where it bounced back into the flowers at the edge. 
“It is bone, I think.  I know it from when I lost my body.”

Scarecrow parted the edge of the flowers and they both looked in astonishment as they saw the soil was covered with fragmented bone.  There were teeth sinking into the soil which was red as blood.

“The poor lost souls,” said the Woodman.

“The flowers eat them,” said the Scarecrow with a shiver. “We must not let them eat Dorothy.”

Together they lifted her and carried her between them with Toto on her lap.  The yellow brick road rolled in front of them, the red flowers seemed to go on forever.  Up and down the hills they went, until finally they saw something lying in the road before them.  It was huge and appeared like a small mountain.

“What is it?” Asked the Scarecrow.

“I am afraid the Lion could not make it and has gone to sleep,” said the Woodman.

They came upon the sleeping Lion.  He snored loudly, stretched out across the bricks.  Already his head had disappeared into the flowers.

“What do we do?” Asked the Woodman.  “We can not carry him, he is too heavy for us. And even if we could, we can not carry them all.”

“And we can not leave any of them to die,” said the Scarecrow.

And so they put Dorothy down for just a few moments, directly in the center of the road, so that she did not touch the flowers.   Using all the strength they had, they pulled the Lion’s head from the flowers.  His mane held bits of bone and teeth and the soil made it appear tinged in blood.  They tuned his body so that his head laid in the direction of the Great Oz’s eye and his tail faced back to the river.  

“This way, maybe it will take the flowers longer to pull him in,” said the Scarecrow.

“Perhaps,” said the Woodman, “he will not be pulled at all because he is not touching the flowers?”

“Dorothy is so light, she was pulled quickly.  But Lion is heavy, if the flowers pull him in, perhaps it will take them longer,” said Scarecrow.

“And we don’t know how long it takes for the flowers to… to turn them into bones.”

“Maybe the yellow brick road is lined with people sleeping?”

The red flowers suddenly looked ominous and they imagined people lying deep in the fields, being devoured as they dreamt.   

They picked up Dorothy again and put Toto on her lap.  She had not moved much in the time that they helped the Lion.  Only her arm had moved, as if her hand was reaching for the flowers.  

“We will take Dorothy beyond the flowers and when she wakes, we will come back for Lion,” said the Woodman.

“We will come back for you Lion.

It seemed that they had walked for hours through the poppy fields as the warm sun continued to cross the sky.  First, they saw a few yellow flowers mixed in with the red, the yellow flowers showed their face to the sun.  Then white flowers began to appear. The red flowers became less and Dorothy began to stir.  Toto opened his eyes and slowly stretched in Dorothy’s lap.  Finally, he leaped to the ground.  Dorothy began to stretch as green rolling hills replaced the red flowers.  The grasses were tall around them, but it was short and soft along the edge of the road.  They laid Dorothy there and waited for her to wake, Toto sitting alert at her side.  


How Toxic are Poppies

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *