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Apple stories and apple folklore
Green, red or yellow, whichever is your favourite, an apple is not such an innocent fruit as it would seem. Over time a fair bunch of apple folklore has accumulated in our legends and fairy tales.
Here's 10 stories about apples that you may not have heard before, and even if you have (hey, you're a real savvy!), there's still a chance that your mates have not so go on and impress them!
1. It all started with Adam and Eve...
Time: the very beginning of human existence. Place: Garden of Eden. Starring: Adam, Eve, Snake, Apple... Everybody knows how it goes from here. But what if I told you that an apple has never made it to the crime scene?
Apples go back to at least 6500 BC (which makes them pretty ancient!) but the Genesis never actually names them as the Forbidden Fruit. It says: 'the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil' and this is where our clues end.
There's been plenty of other candidates to this not-so-illustrious title. Scientists and scholars defend their own favourites, so let me just share with you a short (but by no means complete!) list of possible suspects: grape, fig, tomato, wheat, quince, pomegranate, pear and a few more exotic ones (that, if mentioned, would require a whole new lens for themselves!).
Why an apple then? It only proves that the guys who spoke Latin had sense of humour and appreciated puns. 'Malum', which is Latin for 'apple' can also mean 'evil' if you slightly change the accent. Why, some could even say this coincidence is a divine sign pointing to the culprit!
2. The war started by an apple
Well, not just an ordinary apple. A golden one, and inscribed with the sinister phrase 'For the most beautiful one'. Which woman could resist the temptation?
Goddesses of ancient Greece were vengeful creatures. When Eris, the goddess of discord, did not receive an invitation to Peleus and Thetis's wedding, she cooked up this nasty little plan to make sure no one ever makes the mistake again. She rolled the golden apple up between the goddesses and left up to them to decide which one it rightfully belongs to. This could only end up in trouble...
Three ladies were particularly eager to get the prize: Aphrodite, Athena and Hera. To solve their little argument, they chose a poor unsuspecting shepherd (of royal descend, as it often happens in legends): Paris of Troy. Paris had some trouble with making his mind up, so the ladies stopped playing fair. They offered the lad bribes, each according to her own department. Thus, Hera promised young shepherd power and kingship, Athena tempted with wisdom... But Aphrodite knew minds of young men best of all. She promised Paris a girl, and not an ordinary one. She promised him Helen, the most beautiful woman that ever lived.
Aphrodite got the apple, Paris got Helen, Menelaus (Helen's husband) got furious and Troy got burned as the result of the war that followed.
3. Apple race
Atalanta was a very unusual princess, even for warlike times of Greek mythology. She was raised in the wilderness and was a ferocious hunter. She also had a reputation of the swiftest runner in the country and extreme distaste for marriage.
Her father the King could not support her in this attitude (after all he had royal succession to worry about) and the subject was often fierily debated. In the end Atalanta and the King stroke a deal - she would marry, but only the man who could defeat her in a running race. The unsuccessful suitors would be... well, disposed of. By her own hand.
Many tried and their corpses piled up in front of the castle gates. Atalanta felt secure in her freedom, until...
One of the suitors decided to use cunning as well as stamina. He asked Aphrodite for help and the Goddess of Love gave him three golden apples (those apples really must have been THE hot thing in ancient Greece, they pop up again and again through mythology).
The race began. Atalanta quickly gained advantage, but then - something sparkly dropped on the ground and caught her eye. As you can probably guess, it was the first of Hippomenes's golden apples, and the girl stopped to pick it up. The second and the third apple followed. All in all it SERIOUSLY slowed her down. Enough to let the man win the race.
They got married and lived happily ever after. Or not. But a deal is a deal and what we know for sure is that Hippomenes would not win his princess if not for the apples.
4. Apple garden at the end of the world
You must have heard of Heracles, after all he is a sort of Rambo of the ancient world. Big, strong, handsome, well, ok, mostly strong. He was a son of Zeus himself and became known as the strongest man in the world. Killed monsters with bare hands, moved rivers around, travelled to underground, that kind of thing.
Well, his public relations record is not impeccable. In an attack of madness sent by his mortal enemy, Hera, he killed his wife and children. Apart from the grief when he sobered up, his penance included working for another guy that did not like him very much, a certain Eurystheus. Jobs were twelve in number, generally not very nice, and earned Heracles immortal fame and glory.
What apples have to do with it? Well, here go the golden apples again. An orchand of them, guarded by nymphs Hesperides, was designed as target of Heracles's 11th work. He was to steal some of the glamorous fruit and bring it back to his employer.
He did not exactly steal them. As all the big guys out there, he found someone to do it for him. Atlas was his name and their deal included carrying the whole world on strong shoulders... But that's another story.
Which apples do you like best?
5. Let me Tell you about an apple...
Or, to be precise, about a man to shoot it.
William Tell is a national hero of the Swiss. He played major role in the rebellion leading to Swiss independence. But what sparked his political interest?
The bad guy of our story was an Austrian governor named Gessler. He must have had a real monster of an ego - one day he hung his hat on a high pole in the centre of Altorf village and ordered all the passerby to bow to it. William Tell happened to be in the wrong place in the wrong time and his rebellious nature showed through - he refused to honour the hat. Gessler was furious. He took Tell's small son, placed an apple on his head and told William to shoot at this mark. If he hit the fruit, he would go free. If he hit the boy... well...
Surprise, surprise, Tell proved to be a fabulous crossbowman and shot the apple neatly off boy's head. He also had the second bolt ready, to kill Gessler in case he missed. As you can probably guess, this detail did not make the governor happy. He arrested Tell, but the hero promptly escaped, killed his tormentor and started a rebellion that ended up in independent Switzerland.
6. Enlightened apple
Ok, maybe the apple itself was not particularly smart, but it followed nature's laws and thus helped with the enlightment of one famous human being.
What am I talking about? Of course, Sir Isaac Newton and his theory of gravitation. It is said that he got the idea when sitting under an apple tree, right after a random fruity missile had hit him on the head.
It is highly unlikely that he actually suffered in such an accident. But his biographers prove that there's a grain of truth in every story. Newton was indeed sitting under an apple tree and watching the fruit falling when the notion of gravity formed in his mind. You could say that he was hit... by the idea.
Learn more about apples from these books
7. Johnny Appleseed
In reality, John Chapman, one of the most famous American pioneers. He loved apples so much that he decided to spend his life in their cultivation. Born in 1774, he travelled across American frontier with bags full of dried apple seeds and started nurseries on his way.
He actually made good business this way. His seeds came free, from cider mills, and he built a whole network of helpers willing to tend to his saplings and collect payments in his name while Johnny himself wandered on.
He was against grafting, so his apples were not much good for eating, but were perfect for cider. Some even say that pioneers loved him so much simply because he brought them booze.
True or not, Johnny Appleseed is remembered as a charitable, atruistic man and one of the most colourful characters of American history.
8. The Big Apple - true and false
Ever wondered why New York is called the Big Apple?
One story says the name came from a famous New York brothel, whose madam was called Eve. As tasty as the tale is, it has nothing to do with the truth.
In fact, we can thank (or blame!) travelling jazz musicians from the beginning of the twentieth century. For reasons unknown, they seemed to call towns 'apples', and if they were headed to New York, they were to visit the Big One!
9. Apple Day
Or 21 October.
Celebrated mainly in the UK, the Apple Day is a festival honouring (surprise!) apples and orchards. Wait, there's a bigger picture, too. Apples come in countless varieties and each has its charms and uses. So in this metaphorical way, Apple Day is also a celebration of local distinctiveness.
The very first Apple Day festivities were held in 1990 in Covent Garden.
So what can you expect when you happen across one such party? Apples in every shapes and colours! Raw, cooked or turned into ciders, be sure to sample nature's best.
10. The biggest, heaviest, weirdest apple
Time for some Guinness World Records.
- The heaviest apple ever grown came from Japan and weighed 1.849 kg
- The largest group of people apple bobbing counted 266 and gathered in Heywood, UK
- The longest string of apple pips was created in Poland and was 250 m long
- The largest collection of apple related items belongs to an Italian couple and includes 2300 objects
Did you like what you've just read? Or maybe you think it's totally rubbish? Or better still, you know some more apple stories and are willing to share? Do not hesitate, type up!