Yellow and red applesSince ancient times, scientists all over the world have tried to find out how the apple became a symbol in so many writings - and it all started with the Bible. The Garden of Eden had many fruit trees, but God told Adam and Eve that only the fruit in the tree of knowledge of good and evil were forbidden. Most likely people thought the forbidden fruit were apples because of the two similar Latin nouns 'malum', which have the same writing, but have different meanings : one means 'evil' and the other means 'apple'.[1] Later, during the Renaissance, the apple appeared in many religious paintings as the forbidden fruit. As a consequence, the most prominent larynx in men's throat was called Adam's apple.[2]

Mandarins

Apples are one of the most cultivated fruit in the world; maybe that's another reason for why they appear in so many fairy tales and myths since ancient times. Moreover, many other fruits were named in comparison to the apple. Datura, for example, is also called thorn-apple, after its round pricky pods. When they were first introduced to Europe, tomatoes were called 'love apples'. Also oranges used to be called 'golden apples' or 'Chinese apples', while potatoes were called 'earth apples'.[3]

Golden apple I madeWhen talking about myths, I always remember the Greek mythological legends I enjoyed so much as a child. That's where I learned about the Garden of Hesperides, where Hercules (Heracles in Greek) was sent to steal the golden apples - that was one of his Twelve Labors.[4] Hesperides were three nymphs who were guarding the golden apples, which were supposed to give immortality to those who ate them. That was Hera's garden and the tree with golden apples was a gift from Gaia when she married Zeus.[5] Hercules had to trick Atlas to steal the golden apples for him.[4]

One of the golden apples from the Garden of Hesperides was subject of another Greek myth, the Trojan War. Paris had to choose the fairest goddess of the three: Hera, Athena and Aphrodite, to whom he had to give a golden apple, the Apple of Discord. All three goddesses tempted Paris with a bribe: Hera offered him Europe's and Asia's kingdom, Athena offering him skills and wisdom in war, while Aphrodite offered him the most beautiful woman, Helen of Sparta, later known as Helen of Troy. Paris gave Aphrodite the golden apple, who, in exchange, made Helen fall in love with Paris. He abducted Helen from her husband Menelaus in Greece, took her to Troy, thus starting the Trojan War, when the Greeks came to get her back.[6]

Golden apples I made by covering them with gold chocolate foilA Romanian fairy tale 'Praslea the Mighty and the Golden Apples'--one of my favorites--also talks about some golden apples, only Praslea the Mighty has to save them from stealing, in his father's (the emperor) garden. A huge dragon used to steal the golden apples every year, just when they were ripening. Praslea, the youngest of the three emperor's sons, managed to stay awake until dawn, when the dragon came to steal the fruits. He wounded the dragon, who ran without stealing any golden apples. The emperor was pleased to finally taste his golden apples for the first time!

Another "evil apple" appears in the famous Brothers Grimm's fairy tale "Snow White." Who doesn't know the famous empress-witch, who gave Snow White a poisoned apple? The Walt Disney adaptation of this fairy tale is the most amazing one of all and the witch, with her poisoned apple, are really impressive. I think it is interesting how the theme of the apple chunk, sticking in the human throat appears again, but this time it is in Snow White's throat -which was a good thing this time, because the poison couldn't get inside her body, to kill her. The apple chunk comes out of Snow White's throat when the Prince's servants stumble upon some roots, while carrying the coffin.

Two red apples on a plateAn interesting and exciting story about an apple, in a more modern tale, is the one of William Tell, who was a real hero, fighting against the Habsburg (from Austria) invasion to his country, Switzerland. He and his son were caught, but the enemy promised to free them if Tell could hit an apple off his son's head with an arrow coming from his crossbow. Tell didn't miss and moreover, he won the battle against the conquerors.[8]

Years later, another famous apple led to one of the most important scientific discovery of Isaac Newton - the famous physicist and mathematician: gravity. While sitting in his garden, he saw an apple falling and asked himself why the apple didn't fall sideways or upwards, but only downwards, perpendicularly to the ground, which led him to the conclusion that it is drawn by the centre of the earth.[9]

All this talk about apples has made me crave one, although it's just a simple apple I bought from the grocery store. But how could I ever eat an apple again, without thinking: what if it was a golden one?

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tree_of_the_knowledge_of_good_and_evil
[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forbidden_fruit
[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_(symbolism)
[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labours_of_Hercules
[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hesperides
[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judgement_of_Paris
[7] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trojan_War
[8] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Tell
[9] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_Newton#Apple_incident