An apple, the alleged original Forbidden Fruit (see below). Few others have attracted so much Faux Symbolism than the good ol' Malus domestica.
Golden apples seem to be especially popular and serve, throughout myth, as a generic universal MacGuffin and Plot Coupon, or a good way to produce Discord.
For simplicity's sake, this can cover most mythical fruit.
For a different use of apples (especially rotten ones), see Produce Pelting.
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Anime and Manga
In Revolutionary Girl Utena, Akio and Anthy feed Kanae an apple pin-cushioned by forks. It is strongly implied that they're poisoning her, and the apple also obviously stands for Anthy's swords of hate. One of the background music tracks, which plays during Akio and Anthy's familial bonding is called "Fruit of Sin", as well. Make of that what you will.
Death Note: "DeathGods only eat apples!" Ohba (the writer) actually requested apples just because he thinks they look cool, if you'll believe it. But Obata (the manga artist) and the person who designed the first OP sure didn't know that.
Covers most mythical fruit, eh? How about the Misa-Persephone symbolism?
The "forbidden fruit" metaphor is stated pretty directly in the first opening credit sequence of the show.
In the second volume of the manga, an actual appleseed becomes key to saving the day.
The Tokyo Mew Mew Playstation game introduces Mew Ringo (apple). Her origins are different from the rest of the cast, being both a Mew Mew and fused with a Mew Aqua, and she's the only healer in the franchise.
The pomegranate-as-the-fruit may explain Mew Zakuro's association with Creepy Cool Crosses, but we may be giving Ikumi-sensei and Yoshida-sensei too much credit.
The Dragon Ball Z movie "Tree of Might" features evil space-gardeners planting the eponymous tree, whose giant fruit apparently offer enormous power, but of course its growing requirements are enough to drain the planet Earth's biomass dry. It's reminiscent of the Chinese peaches of immortality, below, considering Dragonball draws on Journey to the West.
"God is in heaven, and all is right in the world."
In Bizenghast, there are apples that can cure severe illnesses and even possibly bring someone back from the dead, Dinah is warned to take only one - but is convinced to surreptitiously take another one (which of course later revealed to have turned deadly by the fact she stole it)
Zan Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei Bangaichi's second opening: Series' standard psychedelic flair, Deranged Animation, and a falling apple that is caught by Kafuka, who almost bites but throws it away, at which point it becomes an apple outline with shifting colours and textures. Schoolgirls with apples for heads, headbanging and dancing. To what tune, you ask? "Apple Plucking Beam".
In the latter half of the Soul Eater anime, Medusa, a snake witch, is associated with apples several time.
Rachel, the child Medusa takes over, watches something on TV. What, you ask? A little girl reaching for a certain red fruit which is then repeated several times: "An apple! An apple! An apple!"
In his Pet the Dog moment, Johan gives the all-but-blind Schubert an apple to convince him that the woodland of his younger days is still there. Though given that this is Johan he probably didn't mean for it to be a Pet the Dog moment.
At the end of the 2003 anime version of Fullmetal Alchemist, Riza is shown peeling apples and feeding them to the recovering Roy Mustang; in the end credits, they're in a marketplace where she is ostensibly buying more apples.
Mawaru-Penguindrum, another Kunihiko Ikuhara work, features the apple motif heavily, although it has yet to play a huge part in the story except for the fact that Ringo's name essentially means "apple".
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: The queen disguises herself as a peddler in order to kill Snow White, and the third and successful attempt involves a deliciously looking, but poisoned apple.
Used with several levels of irony in With Strings Attached. Upon the arrival of the four in Ta'akan, John procures a bag of apples. Besides the unstated connection to Apple, there's a comment about John probably eating a worm from an apple, and George goes through a whole bunch of apple symbolism in his head before eating one. Some time later, John and Ringo play with an apple core.
Death And Ker is rife with apple symbolism, including allusions to Eris's apple of discord, Snow White's poisoned apple, and the golden apples of immortality tended by the Hesperides. During one confrontation, Minako is even tempted with an apple.
In DC Nation, the apple of desire was passed around during the Olympics plot. Jesse Quick sees a world where her father's still alive. Donna Troy saw a world where she was reunited with her family, Titans and Terry Long. It is enough to shock Donna into realizing that she really wants to be with her living family and give up her dead children to Persephone's care so she can return to the Titans.
It's also because the undead pirates can't eat without the food turning to ash in their mouths. He just wants to taste something again.
Nearly every time a pig is shown being spit-roasted, it will have an apple in its mouth. Therefore, it is a common visual motif that someone with an apple in their mouth is about to be cooked.
In the regrettable Howie Long film Firestorm, the smokejumpers (parachuting fire fighters) must perform their first jump holding an apple in their mouths, as a homage to this trope.
François Truffaut's 1966 film of Fahrenheit 451 featured a bowl of apples in the house which is confiscated and burned in the opening sequence. At the end of the film, the owner of that house is seen once again, munching an apple.
The titular character of Fantastic Mr. Fox is eating an apple shortly before getting trapped in a cage, along with his wife, which sets off the plot of the film. At the end, he eats a genetically modified apple that has stars on it.
In the 2009 Star Trek film Kirk produces and eats an apple with great satisfaction as he breezes through his (rigged) Kobayashi Maru in a nod to The Wrath of Khan.
And of course, in Wrath of Khan, Kirk is munching on an apple while marooned in the cave awaiting rescue. The whole movie is rife with references to The Book of Genesis.
Averted in Labyrinth when the Goblin King makes a magical peach to seduce Sarah from her quest.
King Leonidas in 300 munches an apple while supervising his men, as they search through piles of dead enemy soldiers after a battle, killing survivors.
Leonidas: *chewing and talking* I mean... There's no reason we can't be civil about this, is there?
Artemis: *stabs survivor* None sire.
In Fright Night, Jerry Dandridge is usually seen snacking on apples (unless he's snacking on someone's neck instead).
In the commentary for Eve's Bayou, the director and writer points out that even she thought her use of Eve and the apple and Eve and the snake were a little heavy handed.
In TRON: Legacy, Clu sees his reflection in a silver apple, recalls his creation by Flynn (who he has come to passionately hate), and loses his temper.
In K-PAX, mental patient/possible extraterrestrial prot interrupts his first conversation with Dr. Powell to ask for one of the apples in the basket on his shelf. He proceeds to loudly munch it throughout the conversation, and continues to request and devour copious amounts of fruit throughout the film.
Definitely played for the Forbidden Fruit angle in a Deleted Scene of Lolita (1997) where Dolores eats an apple while sitting on the sofa with Humbert. As they tussle over a magazine, Dolores inadvertently starts to sexually excite Humbert who has repeated flashbacks of her biting into the apple as he approaches and then has an orgasm.
In Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange, the droogs use the word ‘yarbles’ or ‘yarblockos’ (from Russian yabloko, apple) instead of ‘balls’ (as in ‘testicles’).
The quote from Good Omens above, in which Adam Young's mischievous apple-scrumping is directly (and not disapprovingly) compared to that other Adam. (Not to mention that the actual serpent from the Garden is one of the main characters of the book.)
The phrase is also literally uttered by Hastur (to Crowley, the aforementioned serpent, so possibly as a lampshade.)
The second book of Meredith Ann Pierce's The Darkangel Trilogy, A Gathering of Gargoyles, features a tree that fruits differently for each person who crosses the Sea-of-Dust. (All the fruit are called apricoks, though.) The fact that several of the same fruit grow for Aeriel and she takes them with her on her journey later becomes very important.
Terry Pratchett's Discworld short story "The Sea And Little Fishes" opens with the line "Trouble began, and not for the first time, with an apple".
In the last book of A Series of Unfortunate Events, an enormous apple tree grows in the middle of the arboretum of forbidden knowledge, and at a pivotal moment the Incredibly Deadly Viper offers one of its apples to the orphans because they have just realized the apples contain an antidote to the Medusoid Mycelium, but are too weakened by the fungus to get one for themselves.
In the Young Wizards series, the Magitek computers are all Apples, but the symbol is of an apple without a bite taken out of it. This is symbolic of the universe before The Lone Power's rebellion.
Avalon from King Arthur's legend derives its name from Welsh noun 'afal' meaning 'apple'.
Phyllis Ann Karr's The Idylls of the Queen concentrate on the task of identifying the poisoner of the apples served at the Queen Guenevere's feast.
In Vilhelm Moberg's The Emigrants books, Kristina's astrakan apple tree is almost its own character. There was an astrakan apple tree at her parents' farm in Sweden and growing up she loved the fruit from the tree. To help cure her homesickness in America Karl Oskar asks her father to send them seeds from an apple so that she can grow her own tree at their new home. The tree becomes her pride and joy. In the fourth book the tree finally bears fruit as Kristina lays dying. Karl Oskar picks the first apple off the tree and gives it to her. She manages to take a bite but dies before she can swallow, the apple falling out of her hand. Before she dies she feels the taste of the apple and cries out that she is home.
The first Sword of Truth book features a scene of the two leads sharing an apple in a rather sexy way, nearly leading Kahlan to lose control of her Confessor's power.
In Tanith Lee's The Dragon Hoard, Jasleth gets a (short-lived) job in an apple orchard, hoping to find that one of the apple trees bears magic apples or is an enchanted princess. Much later, he encounters a grove of magic fruit trees that grow fruit made of gold; the varieties mentioned include oranges, plums, damsons and, inevitably, apples.
prot[sic], the fruit-obsessed mental patient/possibile extraterrestrial in the K-PAX novels requests an apple at the beginning of his first session with Dr. Gene Brewer. He's brought two, and eats every bit of both including the core and seeds. Brewer narrates "I have never seen anyone enjoy something so much in my life".
Live Action Television
In Angel this is invoked by Eve, who offers Angel an apple to represent the power Wolfram and Hart offers. He takes a bite out of it.
Holtz also offers Wesley a slice of apple when Wesley comes to betray Angel.
The catch phrase is used on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys by Aphrodite as she wreaks havoc with a golden apple that causes the holder to be a love magnet. Hercules echoes this line when he uses the same apple to solve the problem.
The opening titles of Desperate Housewives use an apple motif. A giant one with the show's name written on it falls on Adam (in the painting shown at the beginning) and the four main characters are shown catching apples at the end. Much of the show's promotional material also makes use of the motif.
In the Doctor Who episode "The Eleventh Hour", the Doctor persuades Amy to trust him by showing her the apple she gave him as a child.
In the Tom Baker story The Pirate Planet, the Doctor told Romana that he had dropped the apple on Sir Isaac Newton's head(see Real Life below). Newton's response was to tell the Doctor to get out of his tree, so the Doctor explained it all over dinner.
Kamen Rider Faiz's opening prominently features hero Takumi Inui biting into one.
Kamen Rider Gaim has all of its Riders be fruit-themed; for instance the primary form of Gaim himself is based on an orange. Considering the resident Mega Corp. is named Yggdrasil, there seems to be a "fruit of the World Tree" idea going on.
The Collector: The Devil peddles weird black apples "plucked from the tree of knowledge you'd rather not have". They make people realize unpleasant things about themselves, sometimes by restoring forgotten memories.
Once Upon a Time: Regina Mills (otherwise known as Snow White's evil stepmother) had a carefully cultivated and tended apple tree in her back yard. Emma takes a chainsaw to one of its branches when Regina goes over the line harassing her.
Boardwalk Empire: Al Capone, first introduced in the pilot as a young, childish thug under the watch of Johnny Torrio, undergoes a maturation process during the first season that ends with a scene where he guns down a rival mook, takes an apple from the fallen and eats it. By the next season, he shows contempt at the idea of being anything but a gangster.
On Heroes episode "Strange Attractors", Sylar bites into a apple and invokes Forbidden Fruit as he torments Matt Parkman's sanity and home life. The apple is seen again after it's revealed that after Matt blacked out from drinking too much, Sylar has taken over his body.
Mythology and Religion
This goes all the way back to the stories of the Ancient Greeks. The Apple of Discord was inscribed ΚΑΛΛΊΣΤῌ ("For the fairest") by Eris, Goddess of Strife, and thrown into the round of undeniably vain Olympians, eventually resulting in the Trojan War. Gods sure tend to overreact... Then there's also Hera's orchard of golden apples in the Garden of the Hesperides, the apple by means of which Akontios tricked Kydippe to marry him, and the golden apples Hippomenes used to win a race against Atalanta, earning the right to marry her. Don't get 'em mixed up.
The Bible: The Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. Contrary to popular conception, The Bible does not, in fact, name the original Forbidden Fruit an "apple." Some researchers believe than it was Lost in Translation back in Ancient Rome, since "malus/malum" can mean both "evil" and "apple" in Latin. So, technically, the Biblical apple is likely a Fanon coupled with absorbing Greek notions of the Apple Of Discord. And an Incredibly Lame Pun. An alternate explanation for the 'Latin mistranslation' is that "apple" in English used to be a generic name for all fruit, and it changed its meaning.
In fact, Judaism presents in the Talmud a rather large selection of possible contenders for the original fruit, stating that God deliberately did not identify it in the Bible so as not to cause a backlash against it (the fruit, after all, wasn't at fault here). The candidates include commonly known fruits in the Middle East (not apples), such as figs, dates, pomegranates, etrogs (a citrus fruit kind of like a giant, sweet lemon), and wheat.
Some say that given the climate of the supposed garden and the location scholars had given, the fruit was probably a pomegranate, this would have some added symbolism, including the legend that the pomegranate has 613 seeds, the same as the number of laws in the Torah.
Fun fact: Carl von Linne, the creator of the Linnaean species naming system, was convinced that the Forbidden Fruit was a banana. Considering one interpretation of the whole "temptation" bit (and trust us, Carl Von Linnewould make that connection) that actually makes a strange amounts of sense.
Hieronymus Bosch, the Dutch painter, liked to use exotic (to him) oranges for his Forbidden Fruit. Probably partly because Oranges are called Sinaasappel (Chinese Apple) in Dutch.
Some sources describe the angel of death Azrael as using apples to entice souls from dead bodies.
In Islam, the forbidden fruit is traditionally wheat. This has interesting implications, placing the Fall of Mankind with the agricultural revolution. Rousseauwould be pleased, as he had much the same opinion.
Some have also proposed the passionfruit. On the one hand, it just sounds so much more tempting than a plain old apple. On the other, it makes a clever call forward to Jesus, who had to basically Set Right What Once Went Wrong in the garden.
Idunn's golden apples in Norse Mythology granted one immortality. For a while, anyway. If the gods don't continue munching those apples, they get old. This aspect was explored in a tale involving Loki and the frost giant Thiazi.
Greek myth has all food in the underworld serve similar to Biblical Forbidden Fruit, and of course only fruit become story-relevant. Eating it dooms you to never being able to leave; Hades tricks Persephone into becoming his wife this way. She ate between three and seven pomegranate seeds and has to spend that same number of months out of the year with Hades, the rest she spends above ground with her Overprotectivedad Mom—who causes winter (or summer, whichever is more destructive in the region where the story is told) every year out of grief when her daughter's gone. (Note that not only does 'pome-granate' mean 'seeded apple', but considering other Greek myths, this is probably some kind of euphemism.)
The legend of a great archer forced by a king to demonstrate his archery skill by shooting an apple balanced on his own son's head. He readies two arrows, but successfully hits the apple with the first one. When the king asks about the second arrow, the archer explains that if the first arrow had gone into his son, the second arrow would have gone into the king. (The most familiar version of this story is the Swiss legend of William Tell, in which incidentally the Feudal Overlord involved isn't a king, but similar legends exist in many European countries.)
Another Armenian folktale example: The Stinger of just about every Armenian folktale usually comes with some variant of the phrase "Three apples fell from heaven; one for the storyteller, one for the listener, and one for whoever pays good attention."
In Warhammer40000, Leman Russ is looking for apples from the Tree of Life to get the Emperor back on his feet. He's been looking for ten damn millenia.
In chapter 7-3 of Super Paper Mario, Peach takes a bite of an apple that tastes so good it causes her to fall into a 100-year sleep. Mario manages to wake her up by feeding her one that tastes terrible.
In the Assassin's Creed games, the Apple is a relic created by Those Who Came Before. It tempts those who seek it with great knowledge and powers over the minds of people at the cost of individual freedom.
One of the goals in Professor Layton and the Curious Village is the hunt for the village's great treasure, the Golden Apple. Turns out the Golden Apple is the late Baron's daughter Flora, who has an apple-shaped birthmark.
Shin Megami Tensei I: To pass Cerberus to get to Tokyo Destiny Land, you need a golden apple. If you fused Pascal with a demon to make Cerberus, it will be a reunion. Regardless if you fused pascal or not; Cerberus will join your party
Minecraft sports both regular and golden apples; the latter will heal you fully and grant regeneration for half a minute.
Since Party Of Sin is heavily inspired by the Bible, apples are, or grant access to, power-ups for the Sins (red ones restore some health, the rare silver ones briefly bestow invulnerability, and the green ones are used for buying permanent upgrades in the in-game shop).
In Level 4 of Dragon's Lair II: Time Warp, Dirk has to heed the advice of the Purple Snake and lure Eve into temptation with an apple of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (in belief that he would rescue Daphne), all the while fighting off its green snake twin who can't hesitate to devour him. And while in the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, you have to carefully find the two Golden Apples in this level, which are two of the eleven hidden treasures needed to move on to the final two stages.
Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis makes reference to both the eastern and western sides of this trope, with the Youthful Apple (raises max hit points) and Eternal Peach (raises max mana meter) items.
In The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, Eris is a character, and instead of being something gods fight over, the apple of discord is an object with vaguely defined magical abilities to create chaos. It has a huge "K" on it (it's short for "Kallisti" or "for the fairest," she didn't misspell "chaos," though that might have been the joke).
Also, when Nergal Junior poses as Mrs. Butterbean to get revenge on Sperg for bullying him, he eventually stuffs all the apples Sperg used to bribe the teacher into his mouth, while saying "How you like them apples" and breaking out into a wicked Slasher Smile.
It does get fought over, for those very powers, when 'entrusted' to the three leads in one episode.
Garfield and Friends' parody of Snow White And The 7 Dwarves had Lanolin Sheep (wearing a purple hood and a basket of apples labeled "poison apples") offering a poison apple and openly saying it's poison note In foreign dubs of the episode, she says it's just an apple to Snow Wade while the other dwarves are still in the house. Just like in the story, Snow Wade then eats it and dies. His reason? "I'll accept anything that's free!"
In the Hercules TV series, Hercules had to help Upper-Class Twit Adonis get golden apples to bribe Gaia into sparing Adonis' life.
And of course there's the apocryphal story of Isaac Newton either witnessing the fall of an apple or (in some versions) being hit on the head with it, inspiring the theory of gravity.
Johnny Appleseed. What most people don't realize is that the apples he grew weren't fit to eat, and were instead used to make hard cider, which was very valuable in the frontier, where its high alcohol content made it easy to store and safer to drink than water in many cases.
Apple Computer is so named partly to be ahead of Atari in the phone book, and partly because of the long association of the fruit with intelligence and rational enquiry (from Eve through to Newton). Before Apple came along, however, the fruit had something of a negative association in computing, as a cyanide-laced apple was Alan Turing's chosen means of death (he was a fan of Snow White).
Bringing a whole new meaning to giving an apple to a teacher, physicist and "father of the atomic bomb" J. Robert Oppenheimer (unsuccessfully) tried to poison his tutor with an apple covered in toxic chemicals.
Apples are ofted used as academic symbols at many schools. This is why stereotypically a teacher will have an apple on their desk.