The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, VIII.—The Deadly Poppy Field
Tonight’s Soundtrack: Bernard Herrmann, “Twisted Nerve”
Well, it’s Fairytale 101, innit? Don’t leave the path. If you leave the path, collapsing in a field of flowers and suffocating under their narcotic haze is probably the nicest thing that can happen to you.
Granted, our heroes don’t leave the Road of Yellow Bricks intentionally, but once you’re crossing the river, brother, you gotta stay sharp. The narrative forces that sweep you away and downriver are counter to the story you were on. The Rules will no longer apply. When you are off the path, the structural protections of literature no longer define and ward you. You are exposed. You are no longer known. Off the path is a shifting space, where the solidity of Story gives way to that horrifying curse of Reality: Anything Could Happen.
Straight away, Dorothy’s first friend, Scarecrow, is taken from her and returned to his pre-story state, up a pole. That sets off the Tin Woodman’s tears, trying to revert him to rust as well. Luckily, the Lion is able to act before this narrative unraveling can reach his fictional stratum. His great strength pulls them at least toward the path, before they entirely leave the gravity of the fairy tale where Dorothy is the hero.
From then on it’s a race. But Silver Shoes weren’t made to run along muddy river banks and flowery meadows. Your protectors can’t protect you when Anything Goes. How are fairy men to know poison if it’s not in an apple? Tin and Straw can’t smell the pretty flowers, and Meat is already under the spell of the new story.
You went off the path. This is the end.