The Apple Dumpling Story
Illustrated By: Elizabeth Rocha
ONCE UPON A TIME there was an old woman named Agnes. More than anything, she loved to eat an apple dumpling for dinner. One day, Agnes said, “I will bake an apple dumpling tonight!” Looking about, she said, “I have plenty of flour. I have plenty of butter. I have plenty of sugar, too. And I have plenty of spice. Why, I could make ten apple dumplings if I wanted to!” Then all of a sudden, she stopped. “Oh, dear!” she said. “I have no apples!”
In the old woman’s back yard was a tree full of plums. You never saw more plums as round and red than those. But you cannot make an apple dumpling with plums, and there is no use trying.
Agnes could not stop thinking about wanting an apple dumpling. At last, she had an idea. She took her basket out to her back yard and filled it with plums. She covered the basket with a white cloth and hung it on her arm. She said, “There may be those in the world who have apples, and who need plums.” And so Agnes went out the door.
Before long, Agnes came to a yard with many hens and many geese. What a noise they made! Ca-ca, quawk, quawk! In the middle of all these birds there was a young woman. She was feeding them corn, and she waved to Agnes. Agnes waved back. Soon the two women were talking away.
The young woman told Agnes about her hens and geese. Agnes told the young woman about her plums, and how she hoped to trade them for apples. If she could trade her plums for apples, she might have an apple dumpling that very night.
“Ah!” said the young woman when she heard this. “There is nothing my family likes better than plum jelly with goose! But I have no apples to trade for your plums.” She said, “The best I can give to trade with you is a bag of feathers. Would you take my feathers for your plums?”
“Well, it is not apples," thought Agnes, “but why not? One person happy is better than two who do not have what they want.” The old woman poured the plums into the young woman's apron. She took the bag of feathers, put it in her basket, and went on her way.
Agnes said, “Maybe I am no closer to an apple dumpling than I was before. But at least I am no farther away. And feathers are more light to carry than plums - everyone knows that!”
Trudge, trudge, up a hill and down. Past a farm, and past a brook. Then, such a lovely smell filled the air. “Ah!” Agnes said as she came up to a garden gate. Roses, lilies, lilacs - oh! never had she seen a more wonderful garden.
From the garden, Agnes heard the sounds of a man and a woman talking loudly. They were not happy.
"Cotton!" said the woman.
"Straw!" said the man.
And so they went, back and forth. Then the two of them saw Agnes at the gate.
“Here is someone who can help us decide,” said the woman. She opened the gate. “Good mother,” she said. “If you were making a cushion for your grandfather’s arm chair, would you not stuff it with cotton?”
“Cotton? I do not think I would,” said Agnes.
“I told you so!” cried the man. “Straw is the very thing. And you need to go no farther than the barn for it.” But Agnes shook her head. “Nor would I stuff the cushion with straw.”
“Oh!” said the man and woman. They did not know what to think! Agnes took out the bag of feathers very fast. “I have something better,” she said, handing it over. “Here! A cushion stuffed with feathers will be one that is fit for a king.”
“My goodness!” said the man. "What a fine cushion these will make!" said the woman. The were very happy, and asked what they could give the old woman in return.
“If you must know, apples would be just the thing,” said Agnes. “That is what I am looking for.”
“Ah, but we have no apples!” said the man.
“At least, let us give you something for the feathers,” said the woman.
The man and woman cut one flower here, and another there. Soon the had more lovely flowers than their arms could hold. Oh, never was there a sweeter bunch of flowers! And they handed it all to Agnes.
“A good bargain," said Agnes, "and not all of it in the basket.” For she was glad that the two young people were now happy with each other. She wished them both well, and went on her way.
Soon Agnes came upon a young lord, dressed in very fine clothes and with a gold chain around his neck. But such a frown on his face! He looked as if he had no friend left in the whole wide world.
“A fair day and a good road, my lord,” said Agnes.
“Fair day? Good road?" said the young lord. “Maybe for you! But for me, the court jeweler did not finish the ring I gave him to make. Now I must go to my lady love with nothing in my hands to give her.”
“Is that what is the matter?” said the old woman. “Then you shall have a gift for your lady!” Agnes handed the flowers from her basket to the young lord. “Though I may never have an apple dumpling!” The flowers made the lord so glad that he smiled from ear to ear.
The young lord said, “A fair trade is no robbery.” He took the gold chain from around his neck and put it around Agnes's neck. Then the young lord skipped away, holding the flowers to his chest.
“Why, it's a gold chain!” cried Agnes. “With this, I will be able to buy all the apples in the king’s market I could want, and have coins left to spare!” She hurried to town as fast as her feet could go.
But Agnes had gone no more than the turn of the road when she came upon a mother and her children, standing in a doorway. Their faces were as sad as her own was happy.
"What is the matter?" she asked, as soon as she reached them.
“Matter enough,” answered the mother, “when the last crust of bread is eaten and not a coin left in the house to buy more.”
“What a day!” cried Agnes. “I cannot think of eating an apple dumpling for supper while those near me have no bread.” She put the gold chain into the mother’s hands and rushed off.
But the mother and children, every one of them laughing and happy, ran up to her.
“We have little to give you,” said the mother, who was the happiest of all. “But here is a little dog. His barking will keep loneliness from your house, and our thanks goes with it.”
The old woman did not have the heart to tell them "no." So into the basket went the little dog, and very snugly he lay there.
“A bag of feathers for a basket of plums, a bunch of flowers for a bag of feathers, a golden chain for a bunch of flowers, and a dog for a golden chain. All the world is give and take. Who knows if I may have my apple dumpling yet,” said Agnes as she hurried on.
Sure enough, Agnes had not gone a half dozen yards when, right before her eyes, she saw an apple tree as full of apples as her very own plum tree was full of plums. This apple tree grew in front of a house as much like her own as if they were two peas in the same pod. And on the porch of the house sat a little old man.
“That is a fine tree of apples you have!” called out the old woman as soon as she was close enough to talk to him.
“Aye,” said the old man. “But apple trees and apples are poor company when a man is growing old. I would give them all if I had even so much as a little dog to bark on my door-step.”
“Bow-wow,” barked the dog in the old woman’s basket. And in less time than it takes to read the end of this story, the little dog was barking on the old man’s door-step. And Agnes was on her way home with a basket full of apples.
“If you try long enough and hard enough, you can always have an apple dumpling for supper,” said Agnes. That night she baked herself a delicious apple dumpling, and ate it down to the very last crumb.
- Why did the old woman give away her flowers and her golden chain without asking for anything in return?
- Why did the old woman finally get her apple dumpling at the end?
The story "The Apple Dumpling" is from The Story Teller, by Maud Lindsay, published by Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Co., 1915.
Adapted by Elaine Lindy, ©2001. All rights reserved.
To see the "Apple Dumpling" Play script adapted from this story, click here https://storiestogrowby.org/play_script/apple-dumpling/