Folklore surrounding apples comes from many different countries and time periods. The legends are often strange to us today but meant something to people in the past. For instance, the apple has symbolized beauty, purity and sin. If you did certain things with an apple it could tell you the name of your future spouse, bless your crops, cure a fever, poison a princess, etc.
What follows are just some of the legends that involved the apple. You may have to take what these legends with a grain of salt since we can’t vouch for their reliability.
• It is unlucky to build a boat of wood from an apple tree since apple wood was once used to build coffins.
• William Tell, according to Swiss folklore, used his crossbow to shoot an apple that was sitting on his son’s head. (I’ll bet his son wasn’t very happy about this!)
• According to Danish folklore, an apple will shrivel up if someone who has committed adultery comes near.
• It is said that Isaac Newton, having had an apple fall on his head, was inspired to think about gravity and wondered if this same force might also apply to the moon and planets. This was the beginning of the theory of ‘universal gravitation’ – the attraction between the moon and the Earth.
• It has become a custom for children to give a well-polished apple as a gift to their teacher.
• The witch in the Snow White fairytale gave the princess a poisoned apple which put her and the entire castle to sleep for a hundred years.
• According to Irish folklore, a woman must peel an apple in a continuous ribbon, then throw the peel over her shoulder. The shape of the peel when it lands will show the initial of her future husband.
• In south western England there used to be a custom of “apple wassailing” in the cider orchards which was done to bless the trees for the forthcoming season so they would produce a good crop.
• In the Middle Ages in Europe, apples and apple cider were considered to have aphrodisiac qualities and apples were often used in love rituals.
• To get a man to have eyes only for her, a woman should sleep with an apple under her arm, then encourage the man to eat the apple on the following day.
• According to legend, the name of your future spouse was supposed to be revealed in your dreams if you ate an apple on Halloween. This is said to be the origin of bobbing for apples on Halloween.
• In Celtic myths, apples were the “fruit of the gods” and gave them immortality.
• In past times, to cure a fever you were supposed to write the name of a holy person on an apple and eat it over 3 consecutive days.
• It was said that the apples left in the orchard after harvesting, were left there for the pixies.
• Apples represent peace in China and a woman’s beauty is symbolized by the apple blossoms.
While most of us don’t believe in most folklore, it’s fun to look at some of the things that people did believe or thought about apples, what they could do and the magical powers they were supposed to have.