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Three Apples Fell From Heaven: Unfamiliar…
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Three Apples Fell From Heaven: Unfamiliar Legends of the Trees

by Natalia Maree Belting

Other authors: Anne Marie Jauss (Illustrator)

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Published in 1953, one year after her The Moon Is A Crystal Ball: Unfamilar Legends of the Stars, this anthology of eighteen arboreal folktales appears to be Natalia Belting's second such collection. It is certainly akin to the first, both in its subtitle ("Unfamiliar Legends"), and in its illustrator, Anne Marie Jauss. The ninth, and most likely final, Belting title I will be reading, as part of my folklore project, it also happens - by pure good fortune - to have been my favorite! These tales are engaging and well-told, and (with one exception), have made me long to track down the original source material, where available. Selections include:

Sungold and the Remarkable Cow, a Scandinavian tale in which the beautiful daughter of peasants, setting out on the back of her family's talking cow, after the death of her parents, eventually finds herself married to a handsome young king. This was an interesting variant on the Norwegian tale of Kari Woodencoat (which can be found, amongst other places, in the D'Aulaires' East of the Sun and West of the Moon), although the heroine is not a princess, and wins the king through the power of a magical golden-apple tree.

The Tree That Flew, a Russian tale in which the youngest, and most foolish, of three brothers, wins the hand of the Tsar's daughter, with the help of a flying tree, and the seven friends with extraordinary abilities, that he picks up along his journey. Substitute a flying ship for the tree, and this is essentially the tale of The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship.

The Tree That Shadowed the World, a tale from the Khasi people of India, in which a massive tree, growing in the Valley of the Wailing River, eventually comes to shadow the world, until a group of woodcutters manage to chop it down, with a little help from Ka Phreit, the wren.

The Laurel Maiden, a Greek folktale concerning a maiden, born as laurel berry, who grows into a beautiful laurel tree, until a young man, seeing her in her human form, kisses her, putting an end to her arboreal existence.

A Yard of Nose, an Italian tale, in which a young man, discovering a type of fig that makes the nose of whoever eats it grow a yard, uses this unusual fruit, and its antidote, to make a fortune. This was the only selection in Three Apples Fell From Heaven, that I did not like, as it involved the young "hero" beating an older woman until she agrees to let him marry her daughter.

The Tree That Walked, an odd and melancholy Scots tale, in which a quarrel over a treasure leads to one friend killing another. The dying man, calling upon the tree under which they fought to bear witness, puts a curse on his murderer, who (unbeknownst to himself) is followed from that time forth by the tree.

The Tree From Adam's Grave, a tale from Palestine, in which the tree growing on Adam's grave - itself an offshoot from the Tree of Life, from the Garden of Eden - plays a role in the subsequent story of Lot, and King Solomon. This was a fascinating glimpse of the Arabic tradition involving the figures of the Hebrew bible.

The Three Lemons, a Slovenian tale, in which a king's son goes to search for a bride, encountering the three gigantic sons of Jezibaba - Mother Winter - in his travels, before eventually coming to a crystal mountain, with a lemon tree on top. Scaling the mountain, the prince carries off three lemons, one of which is to provide his bride, if he can get home without eating all of them!

The Kettle and the Chestnut, a Seneca tale in which a young man, surreptitiously observing his uncle, discovers the existence of a magic chestnut and kettle, only to endanger these blessings, when he uses them without permission. This was an interesting variation on the Sorcerer's Apprentice type tale, in which an unschooled youngster attempts to use his elder's tools, with disastrous results, although in this version, the transgressor sets all to rights by questing after more magical chestnuts.

The Weeping Willow, an Arabian folktale explaining the existence of the willow and frankincense trees, which came from the repentant tears of King David.

The Shepherd and the King's Daughters, a German tale featuring a merry king with three beautiful daughters. When one of the diamonds on the king's crown is stolen, the irate ruler sends his daughters out to search for strawberries. When the youngest is the most successful, her older sisters murder her, and return with a story about a savage beast; but a local shepherd, carving a new flute out of a maple tree (the transfigured princess) soon puts all the rights...

The Fairy Tree of Doolas Woods, an Irish tale, involving the fairies, the giants, a prince and princess taken captive by the enemy king who killed their father, and a faithful little robin who aids the princess.

How the Coconut Tree Came To Be, a selection from the Philippines, in which an older couple are finally granted their hearts' desire: a child. But their child isn't quite as others are, and when he rolls off the window sill one day, a new kind of tree grows where he landed... This was an interesting explanation of why coconuts give "milk," something that must have greatly puzzled early people.

The Wood Nymphs, a second German selection, in which a beautiful forest of wood-nymph trees is clear-cut by an invading army of men, under an "emperor." Only three trees survive, having convinced the man who "owns" the land on which they stand, that they will help him with his crops. Eventually, after his death, they too are cut down. This story made me feel rather ill...

The Blue Palm Tree, an Arabian tale involving an impoverished pilgrim who is given a chance at good fortune, by Gorek, protector of the wise, only to waste the opportunity, through his own greed, and inability to follow instructions.

The Arrows That Became Trees, a Creek tale in which the great hunter, Tookme, being so successful at what he does, is targeted by the buffalo, eventually finding himself stranded at the top of a cottonwood tree. Luckily, he has his bow and arrows...

The Nightingale and the Cotton Tree, a story from Calcutta, in which a greedy nightingale, convinced that the cotton tree will produce delicious fruit, shoos all the other birds away.

And finally, The Wonderful Bed, an Indian tale in which the lazy son of wealthy grain merchants, finally forced to fend for himself after the death of his parents, creates a magical bed out of a mango tree. ( )
1 vote AbigailAdams26 | Apr 30, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Natalia Maree Beltingprimary authorall editionscalculated
Jauss, Anne MarieIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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An international collection of folktales featuring trees. Includes: Sungold and the Remarkable Cow (Scandinavia) / The Tree That Flew (Russia) / The Tree That Shadowed the World (Khasis/India) / The Laurel Maiden (Greece) / A Yard of Nose (Italy) / The Tree That Walked (Scotland) / The Tree From Adam's Grave (Palestine) / The Three Lemons (Slovenia) / The Kettle and the Chestnut (Seneca) / The Weeping Willow (Arabia) / The Shepherd and the King's Daughter (Germany) / The Fairy Tree of Doolas Woods (Ireland) / How the Coconut Tree Came To Be (Philippines) / The Wood Nymphs (Germany) / The Blue Palm Tree (Arabia) / The Arrows That Became Trees (Creek) / The Nightingale and the Cotton Tree (Calcutta) / The Wonderful Bed (India).
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