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Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Once upon an apple day...

Today here in the UK it's Apple day, a day intended to be 'both a celebration and a demonstration of the variety we are in danger of losing – not simply in apples, but richness and diversity of landscape, place, ecology and culture too'. The day was established by Common Ground, an organisation which links nature with culture and aims to inspire 'celebration as a starting point for action'.

So in celebration I thought I'd gather together a few links to fairy tales that feature apples. When I started researching this post only Snow White and the poisoned apple came immediately to mind but I soon found myself lost in a whole online orchard of stories! So for today here are just a few that caught my fancy...

The Glass Mountain - a Polish fairy tale, retold by Andrew Lang
Once upon a time there was a Glass Mountain at the top of which stood a castle made of pure gold, and in front of the castle there grew an apple-tree on which there were golden apples...
read on

Little Shepherd, or the Three Apples - a retelling by Myth Woodling of the tale Italo Calvino collected in his Italian Folktales (the book also contains another great apple story 'The Apple Girl' but I couldn't find any versions of it online)
As a little shepherd boy was driving some of his sheep to market, he passed a woman whom he had never seen before. She was carrying a basket of eggs on her head.

He tossed a stone at the basket. The stone caused the basket to fall and all the eggs to break.

The shepherd boy laughed at his mean prank. Yet, this woman was a strega, or witch, and enraged by his wicked deed, she pronounced a maledizione, or curse, upon him: "You shall grow no bigger until you've wed lovely Bargaglina of the three singing apples."

The shepherd boy just laughed again, but from that day on he ceased to grow...
read on

The Silver Plate and the Transparent Apple - a Russian fairy tale
There lived once a peasant with his wife and three daughters. Two of these girls were not particularly beautiful, while the third was sweetly pretty. However, as she happened to be a very good girl, as well as simple in her tastes, she was nicknamed Simpleton, and all who knew her called her by that name, though she was in reality far from being one.

Her sisters thought of nothing but dress and jewelry. The consequence was that they did not agree with their younger sister. They teased her, mimicked her, and made her do all the hard work. Yet Simpleton never said a word of complaint, but was ready to do anything. She fed the cows and the poultry. If anyone asked her to bring anything, she brought it in a moment. In fact, she was a most obliging young person.

One day the peasant had to go to a big fair to sell hay, so he asked his two eldest daughters what he should bring them.

"Bring me some red fustian to make myself a sarafan [coat without sleeves]," said the eldest.

"Buy me some yards of nankeen to make myself a dress," said the second.

Simpleton meanwhile sat in a corner looking at her sisters with great eagerness. Though she was a simpleton, her father found it hard to go away without asking her what she would like him to bring her, so he asked her too.

"Bring me, dear father," said she, "a silver plate and a transparent apple to roll about on it."...
read on

The Nine Peahens and the Golden Apples - a Serbian fairy tale retold by Andrew Lang
ONCE upon a time there stood before the palace of an emperor a golden apple tree, which blossomed and bore fruit each night. But every morning the fruit was gone, and the boughs were bare of blossom, without anyone being able to discover who was the thief...
read on

The Laughing Apple and the Weeping Apple - a Turkish fairy tale retold by Ignácz Kúnos
In olden time lived a Padishah who had three sons.

One day as the youngest was sitting in a kiosk, near which was a spring, there came an old woman to draw water. The boy threw a stone at her jug and broke it. Saying nothing the old woman went away, and presently returned with another jug. Again the youth threw a stone and shattered the jug. The woman went away as before, and returned a third time. The boy saw her, threw a stone at her jug and broke it as on the two previous occasions. Now spake the old woman:
"May you fall in love with the Laughing Apple and the Weeping Apple!" she said. With these words she disappeared...
read on

The Old Witch - an English fairy tale collected by Joseph Jacobs
Once upon a time there were two girls who lived with their mother and father. Their father had no work, and the girls wanted to go away and seek their fortunes. Now one girl wanted to go to service, and her mother said she might if she could find a place. So she started for the town. Well, she went all about the town, but no one wanted a girl like her...
read on

The Apple Tree Man - a song based on a traditional Somerset tale
In Somerset there lived two sons of a farmer who passed away
The elder son was vain and mean, the younger merry and gay
The elder son was left the farm, to his brother naught gave he
Save a tiny plot with a feeble ox, a donkey and apple tree.

(chorus) Old apple tree, we'll wassail thee and hoping thou wilt bear
The Lord doth know where we shall be to be merry another year
To blow well and to bear well and so merry let us be
Let everyone drink up a cup, here's health to the old apple tree.
read on

And of course Snow White as told by the Brothers Grimm
ONCE upon a time in the middle of winter, when the flakes of snow were falling like feathers from the sky, a queen sat at a window sewing, and the frame of the window was made of black ebony. And whilst she was sewing and looking out of the window at the snow, she pricked her finger with the needle, and three drops of blood fell upon the snow. And the red looked pretty upon the white snow, and she thought to herself, "Would that I had a child as white as snow, as red as blood, and as black as the wood of the window-frame"...
read on

There's also a fascinating article on the tale available in the JOMA archives; Snow, Glass, Apples: The Story of Snow White by Terri Windling.

The apple has many connotations in mythologies and folklore from around the world. If you'd like to find out more I'd recommend the following links:

Apple - an interesting article by Susa Morgan Black which explores the apple in folklore and details related traditions.

Apples and Apple Trees in Western European Myths, Legends and Folklore - brief synopses with useful details of sources.

Avalon - some background on the Arthurian 'Isle of Apples'.

And as a starting point for further exploration there are two interesting discussions centred around apples available on the SurLaLune discussion forum archive here and here

I'm off now for a mug of hot apple juice with cinnamon - Happy Apple Day!

The picture of apples above is by photographer Graham Dean (my Dad!) you can see more of his fantastic work here.


  1. Oh Claire! I love the way you think and do things. This post is so useful and amazing!

  2. Boy, I tell you...when putting together a complete curriculum off a piece of fruit...this came in handy!

    Many thanks.

    The Apple Girl is now available on Googlebooks Italo Calvino Italian Folktales

    thank you so much...I look forward to reading your blog in greater detail at some point.

  3. Thank you so much i had to wright an essay on apples and this was perfact. this was so helpful!!!!!!

  4. wow this is amazing! I simply searched fairy tales associated with apples, because I was planning on working on a photography assignment with apples and fairytales. This is helpful! :D