Is the Secret in the Sauce? Or the Corn?

Scientist Barbara McClintock said, “I know my corn plants intimately, and I find it a great pleasure to know them.”  Apparently, so does Stephen King.  But I’m getting ahead of myself, let me rewind.

Shortly before Halloween, I was strolling through the Wal-Mart with my brother looking for things that I couldn’t live without (Wal-Mart is like my personal version of Needful Things, only without the skinned dogs and muddy sheets) when I stumbled across a $5 copy of Children of the Corn.  Deciding I simply must have this masterpiece of low budget (an estimated $800,000), bad acting drivel from the early 80’s to add to my collection of King movies, I snatched it up and held it lovingly to my breast all the way to the register where the woman in the blue vest looked at me strangely while ringing up my cheap movie and costume props for the following week.  Apparently, redneck movies and Bubba Teeth label you somehow.  It probably didn’t help that I was wearing overalls.  Anyway, the next day, I settled in to my comfy couch with my cup of coffee and finally managed to watch Children of the Corn all the way through in one sitting.  I’d seen bits and pieces of it throughout my life, but never been able to sit down and watch the whole thing.  It wasn’t as corny as I expected, no pun intended, and it led me to a conclusion that subsequently led to this post.

The prevalence of corn in Stephen King works is ridiculously high.  It’s everywhere.  You’d think there was no other vegetable on the planet.  Granted, corn is admittedly a bit creepier than say lima beans, but still.  So I spent some time, putting together some of the instances where corn appears in Mr. King’s many works, to see if a pattern immerged.  Now remember, these occurrences were recalled off the top of my head, if I’ve forgotten any, please, post a response.

  1. Children of the Corn.  Obviously.  Numerous remakes, rehashing and remixes have been made over the years, but the original will always be the original.  Does that make it the best?  The creepiest?  That’s a matter of personal opinion, but it’s the original.  The corn is everywhere in this movie.  They make ceremonial pottery with it, dolls, live in it and kill in it.  And in the end, they burn it.  It’s in the machinery, the cars and all the abandoned houses.  Granted, it’s Children of the Corn and that’s sort of expected, but that’s an awful lot of corn.  Personally, I think if anyone one the cast was a vegetarian, they weren’t after filming was done.
  2. The Stand.  In all the foretelling dreams of finding Mother Abigail, the travelers must reach her house by emerging from a corn field.  In the movie version, you never see Randall Flagg leave the corn in the visions, leading some to believe that his character is a cross-over to “He Who Walks Behind the Rows” from Children of the Corn.  We also know that Randall Flagg is “The Man in Black” from The Dark Tower, which leads me to my next book.
  3. TheDarkTower1: The Gunslinger.  Brown, the guy with the crazy bird Zoltan (according to, Zoltan is Hungarian and means “life”) at the hut between the way station and the town ofTull, and is doing his best to grow corn outside in the desert.  He feeds this and a handful of beans to Roland when he stops for a palaver.  Brown informs Roland that it was hard to grow the corn because it never rains and in fact the one time he’d seen it rain, there were strange happenings. “…you could hear it, as if the rain had given it a mouth.  It wasn’t a happy sound.  It seemed to be sighing and groaning its way out of the earth.” (Pg. 19)
  4. TheDarkTower5: Wolves of the Calla.  Your first introduction to the Calla folk is of a man plowing a field, using his roont sister as the plow horse.  He’s attempting to ready the field to plant corn.   Later in the novel, the Calla folk hide their children in the corn during the big battle.
  5. Secret Window.  At the end of the novel, the town sheriff returns to imply to author Mort Rainey that he knows what he’s done and it’s only a matter of time before they find the evidence to put him in jail.  Mort is eating a plate of corn on the cob.  After the sheriff leaves, Mort writes the final line of his story and (if you’re watching the movie) the camera pans out a window to a small garden full of nothing but corn.  This is supposed to imply that Mort buried the bodies of his victims under his newly grown corn and the plants are speeding the decomposition.
  6. Full Dark No Stars: 1922.  In this story, Wilf kills his wife, with the aid of their son, Henry and throws her in the well.  He blames his desire to kill on The Conniving Man.  Wilf speaks of how, “…when it’s June and the corn’s on the come, it seems almost to talk.  This disquiets some people (and there are the foolish ones who say it’s the sound of the corn actually growing), but I had always found that quiet rustling a comfort.” (Pg. 26)

I’m sure corn appears in other stories as well, but in the time I was researching, I was unable to recall any others.  Did a pattern emerge?  Sort of.  If you remove Wolves of the Calla and Secret Window from the list, you can almost get the impression that the corn is communicating.  If you believe that, you almost have to believe as well that it is not happy and it’s trying to tell you why.  An alternate ending might be that Randall Flagg, the Man in Black and The Conniving Man are all the same basic “bad guy” who just happens to appear in all these different stories.  But I think, if you really want to boil it down, again, no pun intended, we could just as easily say that corn is just kind of creepy and that’s why they use it for haunted mazes.

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One comment on “Is the Secret in the Sauce? Or the Corn?

  1. Yes, but the original Children of the Corn is a short story. The 2009 remake actually follows that vs. the Hollywood theatrical version.

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