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Why I Threw an Apple

Mary Soon Lee was born and raised in London, but has lived in Pittsburgh for over twenty years. She writes both fiction and poetry, and has won the Rhysling Award and the Elgin Award. Her two latest books are from opposite ends of the poetry spectrum: "Elemental Haiku," containing haiku for each element of the periodic table (Ten Speed Press, 2019) and "The Sign of the Dragon," an epic fantasy with Chinese elements (JABberwocky Literary Agency, 2020). She tweets at @MarySoonLee and reports that her antiquated website (marysoonlee.com) has finally been updated.

The simplistic answer is because I was, rightly, irritated that they didn't invite me to the wedding. Hence I threw the golden apple to cause trouble. And kindly note my superlative success. The resulting squabble between those three stuck-up bitches, Athena, Aphrodite, and Queen bloody Hera, escalated delightfully into a decade-long war. Ah, Troy--those sweet, sweet years, and Paris, that sweet, sweet youth, a morsel as pretty as Helen.
Anyway, yes, I threw the apple to cause trouble, but why an apple? Why not a fig? Or a pomegranate? Or an emerald greener than spring grass etched with the words, te kalliste, for the fairest, fateful and precious?
My reasons were threefold. First, I had one to hand, having earlier purloined it from Hera's tree. Second, being from Hera's tree, I judged it would doubly provoke her. Third, the Moirai will have their way.
The Moirai? Fate's three ancient handmaidens, they who spin destiny with every twitch of their gnarled fingers.
Mount Olympus is not what it once was, the gods demoted to fairy tale. But, acknowledged or not, the Moirai still rule us. And they have never cared for apples.
You doubt me? Consider the tale of Eve and the unspecified forbidden fruit with which she tempted Adam. With a thread shifted here, a snip there, the three Moirai wove the ambiguous Hebraic fruit into its popular depiction as an apple.
Or Isaac Newton, watching the apple fall, what he made of that. Some say he ushered in the Enlightenment. Enlightenment! As if its fruits were all benign.
Or, more recently, take Snow White. Now there's a tale one could unpick: racism, the symbolism of dwarves, the issue of consent. And what does the villainous queen use to poison Snow White? An apple.
So, like many another before me, I plead that the deterministic tyranny of the Moirai was ultimately to blame.
Had they shifted the threads just a little, had sweet Paris sought me out, had he spared me even one admiring, long-lashed, golden look, then matters might have taken quite a different turn.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, October 25th, 2021

Author Comments

I usually make a note of how story ideas came to me, but in this case I'm not exactly sure. Looking back at that day's page in my writing journal, I see that I jotted down "unicorns as evil," although no unicorns, evil or otherwise, appear in the story! After that, there are a scattering of apple-related jottings, including the names of Eris, Hera, and Aphrodite. And those jottings are probably distantly connected to the long-ago days when I studied Ancient Greek in high school. Of the language itself, I remember little more than the alphabet, but I do remember some of the myths.

- Mary Soon Lee
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