Rumanian Bird and Beast Stories | Annotated Tale

COMPLETE! Entered into SurLaLune Database in September 2018 with all known ATU Classifications.

Why is there a worm in the apple?

The Story of God and the False Teachers.

BEFORE God came upon the earth there were a number of men who were very clever, and who followed the rule of the devil. They claimed that they could change themselves into dogs and cats, for the devil, who took much pleasure in his clever people, helped them. Those who saw them, believed them to be gods, and worshipped them and brought them gifts. The devil almost jumped out of his skin with delight, for he hoped that all the nations would do likewise, and soon God would be forgotten. But God was watching the doings of the devil quietly from above, until at last, seeing to what lengths he was going, he said:

               "By God! it is no good sitting here with my hands in my lap. I must go down and put matters straight."

               So God took on the form of man, and went down among the people, going from country to country and from village to village. At last, one day, he made it known through all the land that all the clever men should come together at a certain place to perform their arts, and whoever would win in that competition, he would give him a sackful of gold.

               On the appointed day, all the clever men came together in a big hall which God had prepared. It was surrounded by numerous apple-trees on all sides. The clever men did what they could, each one more clever than the other. They changed themselves into cats and dogs. At last God said to them:

               "You have all done very well, but I would ask you to make me an apple like those on the trees here around."

               In vain did they try to make an apple, but they could not succeed. So God sent lightning among them, which so terrified them that they crawled into the apples to hide themselves there. And God turned them into caterpillars that can only live in apples. This is the origin of the worm (Carpocapsa pomonella) which infests the orchards of apples and pears. In order to protect them from this pest the Rumanians of Bukovina keep a special Day of the worms, on the Tuesday in the first week of the month of May. On it, it is strictly forbidden to work, and it is good to give away a cake and other good things in alms for the benefit (of the souls) of these men turned into flies. It is also good to bring into the orchard a red Easter egg, which has been taken to Church.

               Whoever catches an orchard worm and spits on its head, he spits on the devil between the horns.

               Whoever throws any of these worms into the fire throws into it the devil's servant.


If we should call the "clever" men by the name of "Perfecti," of which the former is an excellent translation, we might find in this legend a slightly changed report of an act of accusation raised by the Inquisition against the Albigenses and Cathars whose teachers went by the name of "Perfecti." These men were accused of being the servants and tools of the devil, and of possessing the power of changing themselves into animals, the cat being the special animal of the devil. It was said, moreover, that they enticed the world to the worship of the devil, and that they had almost succeeded in turning whole nations away from the true worship of God, so that it required his own interposition in order to save the world from the machinations of these men. He turned them into worms, which at any rate continued to exist in apples and pears--the Inquisition has turned them into dust and ashes. And yet their memory is preserved, in spite of persecution and lives on in the memory of the people.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Why is there a worm in the apple?
Tale Author/Editor: Gaster, Moses
Book Title: Rumanian Bird and Beast Stories
Book Author/Editor: Gaster, Moses
Publisher: Sidgwick & Jackson
Publication City: London
Year of Publication: 1915
Country of Origin: Romania
Classification: unclassified

Back to Top