Apples In Art And Storytelling

Harrington Mann (Scottish, 1864 - 1937) Cathleen, 1906 girl with apple

In Judeo-Christian tradition, we have the story of the Garden of Eden. Eve tempted Adam with it. Was it an actual apple, like you’d buy at the supermarket today? In this case, ‘apple’ probably stands in for fruit, which metaphorically stands for temptation of any kind.

Charles Haigh Wood - The Peace Offering ca. 1885
Charles Haigh Wood – The Peace Offering ca. 1885

Apple >> fruit >> sweet >> temptation
Temptation >> fruit >> sweet >> temptation

Lilith and Eve, 1963, by Yuri Klapouh apple
Lilith and Eve, 1963, by Yuri Klapouh
Duane Bryers - Hilda - November 1966 Hilda Calendar apples
Duane Bryers – Hilda – November 1966 Hilda Calendar

Being almost spherical in shape, the apple signifies totality. It is symbolic of earthly desires, or of indulgence in such desires. The warning not to eat the forbidden apple came, therefore, from the mouth of the supreme being, as a warning against the exaltation of materialistic desire. The intellect, the thirst for knowledge—as Nietzsche realized—is only an intermediate zone between earthly desire and pure spirituality.

A Dictionary of Syjmbols by J.E. Cirlot
August Macke (1887-1914) Portrait with Apples, 1909

APPLES AND FAIRYTALE

Man in apple tree is in danger of falling out, Michiel Mosijn, after Adriaen Pietersz. van de Venne, 1640 - 1655
Man in apple tree is in danger of falling out, Michiel Mosijn, after Adriaen Pietersz. van de Venne, 1640 – 1655
https://twitter.com/SaCha1689/status/1308221683002736640
In English folklore, Apple Tree Man is the spirit of the oldest apple tree in the orchard, & oversees growth & ripening. In one tale, a man pours mulled cider on the tree’s roots. Moved by this offering, Apple Tree Man tells him where to find buried treasure, @SaCha1689
Beatrix Potter 1866-1943 Cicely Parsley Makes Cider
The Story of the Weathercock by Evelyn Sharpe 1907 illustrated by Charles Robinson Painting the apples red and gold
The Story of the Weathercock by Evelyn Sharpe 1907 illustrated by Charles Robinson Painting the apples red and goldAPPLE WASSAIL (South-West England): To ensure a good harvest, people gathered in orchards to bless the trees. ‘Old apple tree we wassail thee And hoping thou will bear For the Lord doth know where we shall be ‘Til apples come another year’ (Tradition song).

Fairytales are also full of apples, or temptation.

John Bauer (Swedish painter and illustrator) 1882 - 1918, 'Thank you for the lovely pear', she said. Illustration to Anna Wahlenberg's 'Trollkarlens kappa' (The Magician's Coat) from Among Tomtar and Trolls, 1912
John Bauer (Swedish painter and illustrator) 1882 – 1918, ‘Thank you for the lovely pear’, she said. Illustration to Anna Wahlenberg’s ‘Trollkarlens kappa’ (The Magician’s Coat) from Among Tomtar and Trolls, 1912
Art by James Montgomery Flagg 1912
Art by James Montgomery Flagg 1912
The pile of apples from “Old Mother Frost” or “Frau Holle”, collected by the Grimm Brothers.

As she walked along, she came to a tree full of apples.

The tree cried, “Shake me! shake me! my apples are all quite ripe!”

“Indeed I will!” cried the maiden.

So she shook the tree again and again, until there was not an apple left on its branches.

Then she picked up the apples, one by one, and piled them in a great heap.

Frau Holle

Why do the talking apples call out to the Beautiful Daughter in “Old Mother Frost”? It’s basically a Save The Cat moment. Later, when the Ugly Daughter visits the other realm, she’ll ignore the talking apples. That daughter is punished accordingly.

So if you ever hear apples calling out to be picked, do it.

Alice B Preston The Green Forest Fairy Book Dame Grumble 1920
Alice B Preston The Green Forest Fairy Book Dame Grumble 1920

APPLES IN CHILDREN’S STORIES

I grew up on the Little Critter picturebooks by Mercer Meyer. When I look at them now they seem a little outdated, but only in that nice 1950s sort of way, and hey, aren’t people still making modern films set in that very strange period known as the 1950s?

One thing that bothered me when I was four, however, was the state of discarded apple cores. Mercer Mayer apple cores are no such thing: They are a total waste of apple.

Just For You, by Mercer Meyer
Just For You, by Mercer Meyer

I admit that in this story the apple is meant as a present for the mother and therefore Little Critter may have deliberately left some flesh on the core, but I also remember apple cores strewn around on the ground which had no more than a few bites out of them.

Then again, apple cores are a myth. There’s no reason except for the cultural one why we eat apples to leave the archetypal core.

I don’t remember much about Pinocchio, but I remember someone being so hungry they ate an entire apple, core, seeds and all. A commenter writes on this post:

I remember as a child having the concept of real, actual, starving hunger come home to me for the first time in that book when Pinocchio refuses to eat the apple core, although Gepetto encourages him to, until he is so hungry that later he begs Gepetto for the core and skin of the apple.

I identify with that. I think I even tried eating the core and seeds, but only tried that once. Sometimes it’s the smallest detail that resonates.

Here’s a memorable few paragraphs from one of my favourite adult books, Larry’s Party by Carol Shields:

Larry loves to see a woman with raindrops in her hair.

And he loves to see a woman walking briskly while eating an apple, piercing the skin with her eager teeth. His first wife, Dorrie, was a daring eater of apples, grasping them firmly and gnawing them straight to their economical cores.

The Space Ship Under The Apple Tree 1952 Louis Slobodkin author and illustrator
Louis Slobodkin 1952
Vladimir Suteev
Chihiro Iwasaki
Iela e Enzo Mari, 1970
Feridun Oral
Louis Wain

APPLES, HALLOWEEN AND THANKSGIVING

Ladies Home Journal November 1897 cover by Violet Oakley
by Franklin Wood
Joseph Christian Leyendecker (American artist, pronounced ‘Loin-Decker’) 1874 – 1951 Thanksgiving (Peeling Apples) 1925
Marion H. Matchitt (American, 1899-1967) 1926 bobbing apples
Marion H. Matchitt (American, 1899-1967) 1926 bobbing apples
‘Halloween’ by Howard Chandler Christy, 1915
Suzanne Bruce illustration from Happy Holidays, Book-Elf Book No. 482, 1953

APPLES IN ADVERTISING

1918 – Lucky Strike and Apples

APPLES IN FINE ART

Mom with apples 1929
Winslow Homer (1836-1910) Boston, Massachusetts, Green Apples, 1866
Isaac Levitan (1860 - 1900) Apple Trees in Blossom , 1896
Isaac Levitan (1860 – 1900) Apple Trees in Blossom , 1896
John George Brown (1831-1913) British-American  apple harvest
John George Brown (1831-1913) British-American apple harvest
Howard Chandler Christy The Lover's Moment -- The Beginning of Their First Apple Pie, Cosmopolitan Magazine illustration, c. 1912, American
Howard Chandler Christy The Lover’s Moment — The Beginning of Their First Apple Pie, Cosmopolitan Magazine illustration, c. 1912, American
Randolph Caldecott cat in barn with apples
Randolph Caldecott
Hector Giacomelli – Four-Footed Favourites c.1880

A dish of Apples, 1921, Eden Philpotts (1862-1960) illustrated by Arthur Rackham

ACHTER DE BERGEN (1979) Lilo Fromm apples
ACHTER DE BERGEN (1979) Lilo Fromm apples
Richard Scarry's Chipmunk's ABC by Roberta Miller, illustrated by Richard Scarry (1963) apple tree
Richard Scarry’s Chipmunk’s ABC by Roberta Miller, illustrated by Richard Scarry (1963) apple tree
I never saw… by Jerome Judson,  illustrated by Helga Aichinger, 1974 hedgehog carrying apple
I never saw… by Jerome Judson, illustrated by Helga Aichinger, 1974 hedgehog carrying apple
FOUR AND TWENTY BLACKBIRDS (1937) Robert Lawson apple
FOUR AND TWENTY BLACKBIRDS (1937) Robert Lawson apple

APPLES AND HALLOWEEN

October 31st: Halloween

‘Hallow once meant the same as ‘saint’. Halloween is short for Allhallows Even, the evening before All Saints’ Day. Playing at ‘spooks’ and witches, games of ‘duck apple’, eating roast chestnuts, and listening to ghost stories are, however, customs which have their beginnings in remote times.

October 31st was the eve of Samhain, the Druid New Year. It was also the festival of the dead, for the Druids believed that the spirits of the dead visited the living at this time.

When Christianity took the place of this pagan religion, the feast of All Saints took the place of Samhain. However, a few people never became Christian, but continued to believe the Druid ideas. In secret they carried on many of the Druid ceremonies. As time passed some of these ceremonies changed, and the people who took part in them became known as witches, with Samhain their most important feast.

Eating the fruits of autumn, apples and nuts, was part of the Druid feast. When Samhain became Allhallows Even, Christians continued to enjoy these fruits. Games, like ‘duck apple’ were played around bonfires in which chestnuts were roasted.

Halloween explanation from a Ladybird book

For much more on witches, see this post.

Halloween illustration for a Ladybird book by Roger Hall
Halloween illustration for a Ladybird book by Roger Hall
Charlie Dye (1906-1972) Halloween calendar illustration
Charlie Dye (1906-1972) Halloween calendar illustration
Martin Aitchison toffee apples
Martin Aitchison toffee apples

In this episode, The Folklore Podcast’s creator and host Mark Norman moves from broader folklore themes to something much smaller, and discusses the varying roles of the apple and apple trees in our folklore. Superstitions, traditions and religious imagery are all discussed, and the show additionally includes some of Mark’s field recordings from a traditional wassail ceremony in 2016.

The Rabbits’ Christmas Party - ‘Roasting Apples’, by Beatrix Potter
The Rabbits’ Christmas Party – ‘Roasting Apples’, by Beatrix Potter. Here the rabbits are roasting apples on the hearth. This picture was given to Beatrix Potter’s aunt, Lady Roscoe, wife of Sir Henry Roscoe. The exact date of the watercolour is unknown although it pre-dates the publication of the ‘Tale of Peter Rabbit’ in 1901 when Beatrix had begun publishing some of her rabbit drawings as Christmas cards.
John Winsch 1913 Santa with a sack of apples
John Winsch 1913
Swedish illustrator Lennert Helje (1940-2017) tomte with apple and blackbirds
Swedish illustrator Lennert Helje (1940-2017) tomte with apple and blackbirds
Dmitri Annenkov - Russian  oil on canvas painting
Dmitri Annenkov – Russian oil on canvas painting
Agatha Christie Crooked House apple cover
Agatha Christie Crooked House apple cover
Joseph Christian Leyendecker (American artist) 1874 - 1951 Too Many Green Apples 1933
Joseph Christian Leyendecker (American artist) 1874 – 1951 Too Many Green Apples 1933
Fruit Crate Art Kentucky Cardinal Apples
Fruit Crate Art Kentucky Cardinal Apples
Fruit Crate Art Kentucky Tulip Brand Apples. Funnily enough, fruit crate art didn't always feature the fruit.
Fruit Crate Art Kentucky Tulip Brand Apples. Funnily enough, fruit crate art didn’t always feature the fruit.
Gourmet The Magazine of Good Living September 1956 - Essence of the Apple
Gourmet The Magazine of Good Living September 1956 – Essence of the Apple
Ogopogo Canadian Apples Fruit Crate Label
Ogopogo Canadian Apples Fruit Crate Label
Sliced Apple, 1938, Felice Casorati

Header painting: Harrington Mann (Scottish, 1864 – 1937) Cathleen, 1906. A girl holds an apple secretively.