How to use the story behind tall poppy syndrome

tall poppy syndrome

What is tall poppy syndrome

The poppy pops out with its bright red color. Usually appreciated for its beauty, the flower has also become part of a saying for when the general public dislikes someone for standing out on merits and deliberately puts this person down. It is called cutting down the tall poppies and is the idiom behind the tall poppy syndrome.

The classical story behind the tall poppy syndrome

As an illustration, it makes sense to go back to the story behind cutting down the tall poppies. It appears in one of the books about the history of Rome written by Titus Livius (59 BC–AD 17). The collection of books is called Ab Urbe Condita, and the story of the king Lucius Tarquinius Superbus who cuts down the poppies with his walking stick is found in book 1, chapter 54 ( see link below).

The story goes that a messenger is sent to the king because the son needs strategic help. Without speaking, the king goes to the garden and cuts down the tallest poppies with his stick. The messenger doesn’t understand but shares the incident with the son who sent him. This time the son gets it, and he kills off the men of high rank working against him.

ln latin the poppy is called Păpāver
Link to the latin version of the story
Link to the english translation

Also interested in classical studies, this list of latin and greek dictionaries is part of my 500 books home-library challenge

Write with the poppies

The poppy is the birth flower for August. To write with the poppy, here is a list of prompts using the tall poppy story from above for writing.

  • If you are writing a book, is one of the good or bad guys a tall poppy? How does it impact the story?
  • Does your main-character support or fight cutting down the tall poppy? Does it change from the beginning of the story to the end?
  • Write a scene where a character conveys information without comprehending its real meaning.
  • Superbus was the final king of Rome. Include a scene with a character who embodies the ending of a social habit or role.

Researching this blog post, I came across the TV tropes website. English is my second language, so being explained the different tropes is helping my language skills. Also, the website is a good resource for plotting and writing inspiration offering examples from television and literature.

The symbolic meaning of the poppy is remembrance but speaking of TV the poppy is also connected with Morpheus, the long sleep, dreams, and death. Currently, I am watching The Sandman on Netflix and looking forward to reading the comics by Neil Gaiman.

In addition to the above prompts, write down a dream you remember from a long time ago.

As always, I hope this inspires you to write and have some fun along the way.

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