Writer: Elizabeth Hobbs
Once upon a time there was a kingdom known as the Land of the Golden Apples. These magical apples, for which the land was named, grew by the sea and emitted warmth that kept cold from mountains of the North at bay. No one ever picked them, as they were very precious to the kingdom.
The Land of the Golden Apples was ruled by a King and Queen. They dearly loved their people and their people love them very much in return. The kingdom was filled with laughter and love as the people tended the golden apples and lived in harmony with the animals of land, the creatures of the sea and each other. No one wanted for anything.
One day it was announced the Queen was having a baby and on the day she was to be born the entire kingdom came to celebrate and welcome the new child. The fish came from the seas to offer pearls from the ocean, the squirrels and deer came to honour the child with fresh plants from the forest, and the birds came to sing the baby beautiful lullabies. Everyone waited patiently outside the castle for news that the child had been born. They waited and they waited.
Suddenly from inside the castle a horrible wailing was heard and a bird flew into the castle to see what he might see, only to return screeching the terrible news, “The Queen is dead!” With her last breath, the beloved Queen named her baby Summer. Greatly saddened by the news, broken hearted, the kingdom returned to their homes in disbelief. Consumed by grief, the King shut himself in his rooms, and refused to see the new princess.
The King descended into a sorrow so deep that he talked to no one. He could not even bear to look at Summer, for every time he tried his heart broke all over again. Her nursemaid Magda raised Summer as her own with strict instructions to keep Summer away from anything or anyone that could possibly hurt her and the King locked Madga and the princess in the highest tower of the castle. He withdrew further into himself, never leaving his rooms and his once warm heart grew bitter and cold. He forbade laughter in the kingdom because the sound of it hurt his ears. He forbade love and new marriages deciding that losing love was far worse than never loving in the first place. The King’s heart grew colder and colder until one day it turned to ice and a dark curse descended upon the Land of the Golden Apples. The people who loved the King and Queen the most were transformed into Wolf People and became the Kings secret police to uphold his tyrannical laws.
Everyone became suspicious and seldom talked to each other for fear they might laugh and be turned over to the wolves. Afraid to leave their houses for fear of becoming a frozen statue. They stopped tending the golden apple trees and the orchard began to whither. Never had the kingdom been so cold and the people were certain that they would perish. Stealthily, they snuck out of their houses to pick golden apples to keep their homes warm and the power of the curse grew stronger and the kingdom grew colder. The once beautiful castle became a foreboding fortress of ice. Soon the kingdom had no warmth left at all and the people’s hearts soon grew as cold as that of the King.
There was no love left in the kingdom except for in the highest tower of the castle. Princess Summer had grown into a beautiful young woman and there was abundant love between her and her nursemaid Magda. Behind the tower walls, safe from the King’s ears, Magda told Summer her favourite stories of happy times in the Land of the Golden Apples. Between them they managed to exude enough love and laughter that their rooms never got too cold.
Meanwhile, in a neighbouring kingdom, a young Prince grew up hearing tales of a cursed kingdom ruled by an evil king and his beautiful daughter locked in the tower of a frozen castle and guarded by a band of terrifying wolf people. Searching for his first true love, Prince Gerald decided to go on a quest to save the princess. He packed his warmest clothes and had his kingdom’s magician create a pendant of permanent warmth that he could hang around his neck to keep out the cold.
As Prince Gerald travelled through the Land of Golden Apples it became colder and colder and every living thing had turned into a statue of ice and snow. Menacing wolf people were everywhere and more than once he narrowly escaped capture. If not for the beautiful princess he would surely have turned back.
News of the handsome Prince’s trespass reached the castle long before he did. Princess Summer had never met anyone outside of Magda and the castle servants. She longed for true love and instinctively knew this man, who she had never met, was the key to lifting the curse of her beloved kingdom and its people. With love in her heart, Summer snuck out of the castle to find the Prince.
The next morning Magda awoke to find Summer gone and went running to the King with the news. He was furious and demanded that Magda leave the castle immediately to find the Princess. Fearful of the wolf men, but more fearful of the King, Magda set out to find the princess. Several days went by, and no one returned. The King, whose cursed heart had felt nothing but cold for so long, suddenly felt the tiniest corner of it melt enough to recognize the love for his daughter. For the first time in 18 years the King left the castle to find Summer himself.
As the prince and the princess wandered through the woods in search of each other, a giant blizzard blew into the forest. By sheer chance both the prince and the princess blindly stumbled into a magnificent snow cave. It took a few moments for them to sense each other’s presence, but when they did they each recognized the other as the person they had been searching for. Shy at first they quickly lost their reserve as they got to know each other. They shared stories of their childhoods and soon nothing else in the world mattered but each other. Echoes of their laughter mingled throughout the snow cave, and unbeknownst to them, their love-filled hearts began to melt the ice around them.
Searching frantically for days, Magda was nearly ready to give up and mourn the loss of her surrogate daughter when she saw something that she hadn’t seen in years and years. The mountain of ice before her had started to melt and tiny rivulets of water were running down the side of it. Hurrying over to get a closer look, she heard laughter and voices. As she ducked her head around the corner she was overjoyed to find Summer and Gerald locked in conversation, oblivious to the rest of the world. Magda urged Gerald to go away, knowing that the King would be furious if the princess and prince were found together but neither Gerald nor Summer would listen to any of Magda’s reasoning.
At that moment the king came upon the cave and discovered the trio. Princess Summer and the King stared at each other in silence. As the king gazed upon his daughter, he thought, for a brief moment, that he was looking at his dead wife in all her beauty. His frozen heart, that had carefully protected him from feeling anything, threatened to burst within his chest. Slowly Summer stepped towards him, put her hand to his cheek and whispered “Papa?” All of this was just too much for the king and he pulled his daughter close and tears fell from his eyes as the ice surrounding his broken heart melted away. Much to the amazement of Magda and young Gerald, a tree started growing in the very spot the Kings tears had fallen. As he hugged his daughter, she hugged him back; the golden apple tree miraculously grew into a magnificent arbour. Every golden apple started emitting a warm glow and melted away the fear and grief that had cursed the Land of the Golden Apples for far too many years…
The curse was lifted and the good people of the Kingdom, who were once wolf people, returned to their human form. The north winds subsided and the warmth emitting magic of the Golden Apples returned the lands to their former glory.
Ashamed that their evil deeds nearly destroyed the Land of the Golden Apples, the people’s hearts grew heavy and just a little cold began to creep back into the kingdom. Quickly the King proclaimed that each year the kingdom would write down any thoughts that made them sad or any fear or regret that chased love from their hearts and burn them. As the fires burned so did any chance of the curse returning to the kingdom and each Golden Apple in the land shined a little brighter on this special day.