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Flowers in literature

I thought i'd write a fun lil post about flowers and their appearance in literature (Oh god, does this sound like snoozeville, I hope not, but here goes).

Flowers in stories and literature go far back, with different flowers symbolising different meanings in different cultures.

In Greek myth, roses are linked with Adonis, the lover of Aphrodite. One day, Adonis was gored by a wild boar during a hunting trip and died in Aphrodite’s arms as she wept; the first red roses were said to have sprung up from his blood as it soaked into the earth, staining the nearby white roses a deep crimson.

Also, In Greek mythology, the daffodil gets its name from a Greek figure named Narcissus. This God was cursed to fall in love and obsessed with his own self for his ignorance and selfishness. Nemesis as the goddess of revenge decided to give mortal punishment to him by desperately loving his reflection. Until his last breath he still obsessed with his reflection, and this flower suddenly budded in his place. This Narcissus flower that is renamed as daffodil becomes a sign of unrequited love.

The lotus flower holds a special role in Asian mythology. It’s often called the sacred lotus. Confucius wrote, “I love the lotus because while growing from mud, it is unstained.” In Buddhism, the lotus stands for the purity of mind and body. Legend has it that Gautama Buddha’s first steps caused sacred lotus flowers to appear.

In China, the peony has been called the King of Flowers and the Queen of Flowers. One legend says that an Empress magically decreed all the flowers in her imperial garden to bloom. They all obeyed except the peony. After this defiance, the Empress banished the peony to the coldest reaches of the empire. However, the peonies still thrived and produced gorgeous blossoms. Therefore, the Empress allowed the peonies to return, and so earned the title of Queen of Flowers.

Quotes about flowers in books:

"That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet "- Romeo and Juliet

"I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,

Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,

Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,

With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:

There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,

Lull’d in these flowers with dances and delight;

And there the snake throws her enamell’d skin,

Weed wide enough to wrap a fairy in:

And with the juice of this I’ll streak her eyes,

And make her full of hateful fantasies". - From William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream

"Connie went to the wood directly after lunch. It was really a lovely day, the first dandelions making suns, the first daisies so white. The hazel thicket was a lace-work, of half-open leaves, and the last dusty perpendicular of the catkins. Yellow celandines now were in crowds, flat open, pressed back in urgency, and the yellow glitter of themselves. It was the yellow, the powerful yellow of early summer. And primroses were broad, and full of pale abandon, thick-clustered primroses no longer shy. The lush, dark green of hyacinths was a sea, with buds rising like pale corn, while in the riding the forget-me-nots were fluffing up, and columbines were unfolding their ink-purple ruches, and there were bits of blue bird’s eggshell under a bush. Everywhere the bud-knots and the leap of life!" - From D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover:

"Then the green things began to show buds and the buds began to unfurl and show colour, every shade of blue, every shade of purple, every tint and hue of crimson". From Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden:

"The flowers were beginning to quiver in front of her eyes. How extraordinary flowers are, she thought. Out of these dry cardboardy rods these complex fragile heads come out, skin-thin and moist, like nothing else in the world. People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us". From Iris Murdoch’s A Fairly Honourable Defeat:

Other books that mention flowers:

Flowers in Alice in Wonderland. Alice meets some flowers who end up accusing her of being a weed. The Queen also gets very upset as she wants her roses red!

The deadly sleepy poppy in The Wizard of Oz. The huge mass of poppies causes a deep sleep.

The Original Beauty and the Beast story where the merchant picks a rose from the Castle Gardens to give to his youngest daughter 'beauty'. In the Disney remake the rose represents the time the Beast has to find someone he loves and who loves him in return.

Flowers are important and literature and are used to convey a number of meanings. Flowers seem to be a big association with love, which is unsurprising given the beauty of flowers. If you know of any other flowers in Literature or myths I'd love to read about them in the comments section!

I think Oscar Wilde summed it up well in this final quote I will finish with...

With freedom, books, flowers, and the moon, who could not be happy? - Quote by Oscar Wilde

Thanks for reading!

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