Apples and pomegranates in literature and legend
'Apples and pomegranates,' said Miranda.
'An apple goes right back to the beginning,' said Quintin. 'The Garden of Eden. It was an apple that got us all thrown out of it.'
'An apple and a snake. But the Eleusinian Mysteries go back in time as far as the Hebrew Bible does, and Persephone is tricked into eating a pomegranate seed, which means that she has to go back to Hades for three months every year.'
'Rather than being immortal and staying in the sunlight all the time.'
'Yes, so in a sense, she gets kicked out of Paradise as well, for eating a fruit.'
'An Icelandic saga speaks of the apples of Hell orchard.'
'So the afterlife has an orchard in it, and if you eat its fruit, you have to return to Earth.'
'So it seems.'
'Which would explain a lot,' said Miranda. 'Like all the Irish myths. When Oisín crosses the sea with a daughter of the god Manannan towards the Land of Youth, they see a lady riding across the waves carrying an apple. Bran encounters a strange woman carrying an apple bough full of blossom, who instructs him to cross the sea to a myriad of islands with a Land of Women amongst them, which turns out to be a very similar trip to the one that Oisín took to the Land of Youth. A land of regained youth, perhaps.
'And the mythical Irish hero Connla is given an apple by a mysterious woman, before leaving for the Otherworld,' she continued, warming to her theme. 'The Middle English Breton lai Sir Orfeo has Orfeo's wife abducted into the Otherworld while she is sitting in an orchard. He rescues her from this Otherworld where dead people are living and brings her back to Winchester. And a king in an Icelandic saga called the Saga of the Volsungs is given an apple as he sits on a mound. Perhaps a grave mound. Perhaps his grave mound.'
'There are more apples than that in Norse mythology,' said Quintin. 'The apples of the goddess Idun kept the Norse gods young and healthy. Loki stole them once and all the gods became old. And very cross.'
'And what about that Middle English verse narrative where the women on an Isle of Ladies are sustained by magic apples which are gathered from another island in the sea?' suggested Miranda. 'The principal lady goes to collect them every seven years, and it keeps them all free of illness and death.'
'Well, did you know that the name Avalon may come from the Welsh word Abellon, meaning 'apple'?' asked Quintin. 'Apples. 'So in that case, a journey to Avalon, to be healed of your wounds like King Arthur, would be a journey to an Isle of Apples.
'Yet some men say in many parts of England that King Arthur is not dead,' quoted Miranda from Sir Thomas Malory, 'but rather I would say: here in thys worlde he chaunged hys lyff.'