Iduna: Keeper of Apples

“Brita as Iduna” by Carl Larsson

According to Wikipedia: “In Norse mythology, Iðunn is a goddess associated with apples and youth.” Iðunn is “a keeper of apples and granter of eternal youthfulness.” (Idun, Iduna, Idunn, Ithun, Idunna)

A few words following about October and apples, which we are enjoying daily since we went apple-picking last weekend. Nothing like crunching into a juicy McIntosh fresh from the tree! An old saying keeps popping into my head: an apple a day keeps the doctor away.

Now’s the time when children’s noses
All become as red as roses
And the colour of their faces
Makes me think of orchard places
Where the juicy apples grow…

~ Katherine Mansfield
(Autumn Song)

There is no season when such pleasant and sunny spots may be lighted on, and produce so pleasant an effect on the feelings, as now in October. The sunshine is peculiarly genial; and in sheltered places, as on the side of a bank, or of a barn or house, one becomes acquainted and friendly with the sunshine. It seems to be of a kindly and homely nature.
~ Nathaniel Hawthorne
(The American Note-books)

When my father was a boy growing up on a New England farm during the Great Depression, his family picked as many apples as they could and stored some of them in a barrel in the root cellar. Of course he ate as many as he could while picking them, but his parents had a rule about the ones in the barrel he found exasperating. If anyone wanted an apple later in the fall or winter, he was required to take one that was the least fresh. By the time they got to the fresher ones they had also become much less fresh! So all winter he was having to make do with eating not-so-great apples. If only he had known he might have called on Iduna to keep the apples fresher longer!

To appreciate the wild and sharp flavors of these October fruits, it is necessary that you be breathing the sharp October or November air. The outdoor air and exercise which the walker gets give a different tone to his palate, and he craves a fruit which the sedentary would call harsh and crabbed. They must be eaten in the fields, when your system is all aglow with exercise, when the frosty weather nips your fingers, the wind rattles the bare boughs or rustles the few remaining leaves, and the jay is heard screaming around. What is sour in the house a bracing walk makes sweet. Some of these apples might be labeled, “To be eaten in the wind.”
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Wild Fruits: Thoreau’s Rediscovered Last Manuscript)

“Apples & Leaves” by Ilya Repin

12 thoughts on “Iduna: Keeper of Apples”

  1. A post about apples and October! Brilliant!
    I love the picture of the little girl – and thanks for the introduction to this artist’s work – of course I had to google him and I shall enjoy looking at more of his work.
    🙂

    “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” makes me giggle with nostalgia too, but for different reasons. It’s a phrase I used to try using on my dad (while waving an apple in the air in front of him) when I was a child, when he was pissing me off. He was a doctor. It never worked!
    😉

    1. Oh Val, you’re in for a treat! I discovered Carl Larsson when I was in high school. A gift shop in our area carried note cards with his paintings on them. I collected most of the ones available there. And where I live now there is a Scandinavian import shop, Bestemors, and every other year or so I get a Carl Larsson calendar. I wanted to raise my own children in the same kind of environment that he created for his children. Even though I have a coffee table book of his work, every once in a while I come across a painting of his that I never saw before.

      You must have been a very adorable little one wielding such a delightful sense of humor! I can almost picture you waving the apple in front of your father, the doctor! 🙂

  2. “What is sour in the house, a bracing walk makes sweet…” What wise words from our old friend, true and timeless. As always, I’ve enjoyed walking down the page of your blog, like holding hands with a dear friend and strolling under wet black branches that wait to drop multicolored leaves, so they may show their winter glory and shine like polished jet against a snow-deep sky.
    I never heard of Idun – this was a delightful little lesson in Norseness, and I notice that when you pronounce the “I” in Idun with the Latin “ee” sound, the name becomes Eden. Makes me wonder if the little Scandinavian apple girl originates from the early Christian monks, or even earlier peoples – such as mentioned in the original old testament Hebrew story (Talmud).
    Funny how your Dad remembers the sweetness desired and the rotten received. Poor little chap. Makes you want to go and buy him a ripe juicy pomme de terre. How lovely to start my Friday on your page!

    1. I loved that Thoreau line, too. You describe a wonderful autumn walk – maybe as the future unfolds we may one day find ourselves actually meeting and taking a meandering stroll together! It’s something to look forward to… That’s an interesting idea about the possible Eden-Idun connection. Each generation and culture takes an original story and reweaves the threads so it is new, but ancient at the same time. It’s funny how there is nothing new under the sun, and yet every day, every person, every storyteller, is new.
      Had to laugh – Dad also had four bossy sisters to contend with. His teeth are pretty much gone now and he refuses to accept dentures, so I like to bring two apples when I visit. One I peel and cut up for him and I eat the other one. It’s a little ritual we have. He told me the apple story when I was little, but his short-term memory is shot so he keeps telling it to me over and over again. 🙂 But I don’t mind, it’s such an easy thing to do to, listen to him reminisce as he enjoys a fresh apple!

  3. Thanks for ushering in October so beautifully, Barbara. I especially love the art work, and the Thoreau quote you chose. A fresh apple (I like the Empires) while out hiking in the fall is a wonderful thing!

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Cait! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I’m going to try and drag Tim out for a walk in the woods this weekend. 🙂 My dad likes Macouns – it’s great the way everyone has a favorite apple, almost like having a favorite sports team. I’ve been impressed with the art work available in the public domain at Wikimedia Commons. I’m still trying to imagine your cinnamon-scented woods!

  4. I think I shall call upon Iduna! We picked a bushel of apples and I can’t fit all of them into the fridge! There are in bags nearby and each time I sit at my computer I can smell them. Not necessarily a bad thing, but I keep hoping they won’t go bad too quickly!

    1. 🙂 As soon as you eat the ones in the fridge you can add more from the bags to the fridge! Or, I guess you can eat the ones from the bags first and then move on to the ones in the fridge! I’m not sure which method would result in having more fresh apples at eating time!? Oh Iduna, what will we do? 🙂

  5. I am shoulder deep in apples these days, although 7 of the ancient graven stein’s did not set this year in my yard – I have 3 lug boxes of Liberty apples and no freezer space left for sauce or juice….we are eating these delights like crazy…Waldorf salad is crisp and good.

    I keep them on the floor in the garage, but it is too warm – summer has finally arrived in the PNW!

    I am using the Hawthorne quote on a post I am writing about Cauliflower this month… I is just such a fine one.

    I came over from Val’s post and I thank her for the fine introduction

    1. Hi Patricia, thanks for stopping by! It’s nice to know that so many of us are drowning in an abundant apple harvest! Sounds like you might need another freezer! (My folks used to have two big freezers…) I’m off to take a peek at your blog – I’m glad you liked the Hawthorne quote – I’m a quotoholic… 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

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