Study Guide

Midwinterblood The Dragon Orchid

By Marcus Sedgwick

The Dragon Orchid

Who doesn't love flowers? They're beautiful, they smell nice, and they look so pretty in your house. But not all flowers are friendly. There're some, like the dragon orchid, that you just might want to think twice about picking. Right off the bat, then, the dragon orchid represents difference—your grandma's garden this is not.

You Don't Bring Us Flowers Anymore

Part of the reason Eric Seven comes to Blessed Island (aside from it being his destiny and all) is that he's writing an article on a rare variety of orchid that only grows on this island. (It might look a little something like this if you're trying to get a visual.) Eric has a little bit of info about the plant when he arrives:

Blessed Island is believed to be home to the only surviving population of a very rare orchid: the Blessed dragon orchid, Latin name Orchidae dracula beati. Also known as the Dracula Orchid […]

The rumors hold that the islanders have recently, or otherwise, discovered that the orchid has health-giving properties, that it promotes well-being and energy. That it regenerates damaged cell tissue. That it could even extend life. That the islanders have extracted an elixir of life from the flower, and are selling it untrialed, and therefore illegally, for exorbitant sums, to the super-rich of the western world. (1.5.23, 27)

Okay, so the name might sound creepy, but, as Eric points out, it actual means "little blessed dragon" (1.5.25). And the whole "elixir of life" thing sound pretty sweet, right? So, what's the deal with this flower? Is it a miraculous, life-giving plant, or is it a dangerous, potentially lethal flower that must be stopped?

All the Pretty Flowers

You might not be surprised to find out that, kind of like the island itself, the dragon orchid has two sides. The flower clearly has magical properties, and depending on how you use it, it can do different things.

The most popular use is probably as an immortality potion. The person who drinks it will live, if not forever, a really long time:

  • "His life is a happy life, and he remains physically fit, and fairly sharp right up to the end, as if he once drank some elixir of life." (3.12.4)
  • "I wondered why it was that our father, some years older than his brother, seemed the younger. His skin was younger, his back was straighter, his arms stronger." (6.7.28)
  • "He had lived a long time, that was true. He owed it to the flower, he believed." (7.2.13-14)
  • "Eirikr had lived long, drinking the dragon." (7.2.17)
  • "They looked at her in wonder. Her green robe, in tatters. She seemed no older than the day she had left." (7.4.11)
  • "And every morning, until she was an ancient, crippled and tiny figure, she walked to the western isle and back." (7.4.24)

The plant also has calming and healing powers. It makes Eric Seven feel relaxed and sleepy and forget his troubles; Merle gives it to Edward and his team to calm them down after Mat is almost killed; Rebecka makes it for David to heal his ankle; Bridget brews some to help Eric Carlsson after his fall. And King Eirikr drinks it to get a little—okay, a lot—buzzed right before his execution. So yeah, a dragon orchid is helpful every now and then.

Unleash the Dragon Orchid

There's a dark side to this plant, though, too. See, some folks just can't get enough of a good thing, and they end up abusing the power of the dragon orchid. You'll probably notice that at times when people don't respect the magic of the dragon orchid and overuse it, trouble starts brewing:

  • "He has been on Blessed for several hours. He has met a few people, and seen many more. But he has not seen a single child." (1.3.98)
  • "Our little population has been dropping, you see. We used to be so many more, but not many babies are born on Blessed now." (2.3.4)
  • "There had been no children. That was what we kept hearing." (6.6.7)
  • "For three years the crops had failed. For three years there had been hunger, and famine, and disease." (7.2.4-5)
  • "Despite his years, and his three wives, he had had no children. There was no one to come after him." (7.2.17)
  • "They had noticed that those who drank most deeply of the dragon were also those unable to bring forth children. Even Thorolf no longer wore the triple device at his neck, and as the village drank less of the strongest variety of the brew, babies had returned. The sounds of small children once more filled the huts of the island." (7.4.19)
  • "His blood might bring children back to the island." (7.5.10)

The dragon orchid is the reason that Eric Seven needs to die—the islanders think that killing him will bring babies back to the island, but really, the only thing that will change their baby problem is putting away the darn dragon orchid tea. And it's the same thing with the sacrifice of King Eirikr: He and others used the dragon orchid so much. Is this the cause of the famine on the island? We're not sure, but we do know this: Crops not growing is another type of infertility.

In other words, when use of the dragon orchid gets out of control, nature starts to make some changes. The flower, then, is just trying to restore the natural balance of life. Everything in moderation, Shmoopers—or else.

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