Tuesday, March 1, 2011

"Shut Up, Paige Turner:" Apples

Apples: they keep the doctor away, much like garlic does to vampires. They make for great ciders & even greater pies, or they can be useful snacks because of their portability & sweetness. They have influenced our culture, more than any other fruit & probably more than any food. They show up in religious stories, fables, myths, & scientific discoveries.

One of the most popular use of the apple is in the story of Adam & Eve in the Garden of Eden. Although the Bible never states that Eve picked an apple off the Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil, the fruit is always represented in paintings & pictures as being an apple. This gives us the term "Adam's Apple" for the laryngeal prominence mostly seen in men & gave the reputation that the apple is a seductive, forbidden & evil (the Latin term for apple & evil are almost the same.)

Apples pop up in Greek Mythology numerously. The most known story resulted in the Trojan War. The Goddess Eris tossed a golden apple at a wedding party that said "for the most beautiful one." Goddesses Athena, Hera & Aphrodite all claimed the apple. In order to decide who should receive the apple, they asked the Trojan Prince, Paris, to be the judge. Athena & Hera tempted Paris with gifts, but Paris prefered Aphrodite's gift: the most beautiful woman in the world. He gave the apple to Aphrodite & she gave Paris Helen. Afterwards, throwing an apple to someone became a symbol of affection.

Hercules holding the apple
Hesprides; his eleventh task
was to fetch them from the
Tree of Life. 
Apples show up later in story telling. In the Brothers Grimm tale, Snow White, Snow White gets tricked by the Queen three times, but it was the Queen's third ploy, a poisonous apple, that killed the girl. In American folklore, Johnny Appleseed went around Ohio, Illinois & Indiana throwing apple seed as he walked (there was a real Johnny Appleseed, John Chapman, but he didn't wear a pot for a hat & he was a successful business man who grew orchards at new towns.) And let us not forget about Sir Isaac Newton, who came up with the theory of gravity when an apple fell & hit his head.

Now, why is one fruit so important? Why didn't Adam & Eve eat an orange? Why didn't Eris throw a golden pineapple? Why wasn't Snow White tricked into eating a poisonous kumquat? This isn't rhetorical; I'm actually asking why the apple plays such an important role? I also want to know what other tales & stories of apples being used as a plot device there are.

1 comment:

  1. Could it be that the stories you mention, Paige, come out of Mediterranean and European traditions, and this is why the apple is so prominent? Perhaps if the Snow White story had come out of oh, say, India... the fruit mentioned may have been a mango.

    I don't know, really... I'm just starting a dialogue here, suggesting that where apples are known (and apples played a huge roll in European and American culture--wasn't it safer to drink cider in earlier centuries than water?), apples come up in these cultural narratives. But other fruits probably figure prominently in the stories of other cultures, I'm guessing.