Storytellers' A to Z Blog Challenge: Apple Tree Folktale

A recent challenge has storytellers posting on topics from A to Z, literally. I decided to join the fray, so here is my first post on the letter A. And what better source of stories for the heart and mind than apples? Here at our homestead apples are a regular part of our diet. From eating them raw to applesauce, apple cider, apple butter, fried apples, apple pie, apple cake, dried apples and just about any other way they can be prepared, apples are just plain delicious. The fruit plays a role in many stories, songs and poems, too. Here's a small selection of some of my favorites. And for more about what we do with apples here at home, check out my other blog's postings about our favorite fruit.

The Apple Tree: An Aesop Fable

A peasant had growing in his garden an apple tree which bore no fruit at all. It served only as a place for crickets, grasshoppers and sparrows to get out of the heat. The little creatures often sat chirping in the tree's branches.

Disappointed that the tree produced no fruit, the man decided to cut it down.

"Please don't destroy our tree," the grasshoppers said. "Where will we sit and chirp if there is no tree here?"

"Please don't cut this tree," begged the birds. "We sit in its branches and sing to you every day. Would you not miss our songs?"

"Please leave the tree alone," said the crickets. "We rest on its bark and make our music to lighten your work. Where will we go if you cut the tree?"

"No," said the man. "The tree gives me nothing. Why should I keep it in my garden? At least its wood will warm me in my fires this winter."

The man picked up his axe and gave a mighty swing. He quickly discovered that other creatures were living in the hollow center of the tree: honeybees! The large swarm buzzed angrily as it protected its large store of honey.

"Aha!" said the man. "This tree is worth keeping after all. Who knew that it contained such treasure?" He picked up his axe and left the tree standing, and its inhabitants continued to sing, chirp and buzz.

Cider Apples

When God had made the oak trees,
And the beeches and the pines,
And the flowers and the grasses,
And the tendrils of the vines;
He saw that there was wanting
A something in His plan,
And He made the little apples,
The little cider apples,
The sharp, sour cider apples,
To prove his love for man.

Unknown (from the website Food Reference).

Here's to thee, old apple-tree,
Whence thou mayst bud,
and whence thou mayst blow!
And whence thou mayst bear apples enow!
Hats full! caps full!
Bushel—bushel—sacks full,
And my pockets full too! Huzza!
--James Herrick

And then, of course, there are Love Apples:

Tomatoes, you might know, were once thought to have aphrodisiacal properties and were called "the devil's fruit" by the Catholic Church.. Meaning you might be looking at your mate a little differently after eating them. Early herbalists believed that tomatoes were poisonous and many people avoided eating them; you can read more about the tomato's checkered paston this great site, The Tomato Guru. This might have been because the tomato is a member of the family if nightshades, and some of its relatives in this family can be toxic. An early herbalist named John Gerardwrote a book in which he cautioned against eating tomatoes and his words carried weight in the 1600's in England and the early US colonies. 

According to the website Tomato Casual, "It is said that if you place a large red tomato on your windowsill, it will scare away evil spirits. You could also choose to place it over the hearth — this is supposed to bring prosperity to the house. Another way to gain money is to place a tomato peeling over your door, which will bring money within four days." I think I might have to try that tomato peeling over the door. (I found another source that noted the tomato on the windowsill belief as coming from Italy : "Tomatoes are also the subject of superstitions. “Some Italians,” reports one treatise, “put a large red tomato on the mantel to bring prosperity to the house. When placed on the window-sill, or in any opening, it wards off evil spirits, and protects the occupants of the house” (DeLys 1989, 249).")

For more fascinating reading about tomatoes, check out these sites:

The origin of the Mortgage Lifter tomato variety: did you know it came from Logan, West Virginia? 

Then there's Aunt Ruby's Green Tomato, which apparently started out in Germany--where tomatoes were called "wolf peaches," and there is a folktale, according to many sources, in which witches turned people into wolves by feeding them tomatoes. I've yet to track down that elusive story, though.

A lesson plan with a story about how food gets to our tables.

What would spaghetti be without tomatoes? Check out Storytelling, Cooking and Kids for the words to On Top of Spaghetti and all kinds of other great activities to do with kids in the kitchen.

Have you ever heard of beating your tomato plants with a broom? Hmmm....

Happy telling!