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"I could not enjoy myself better anywhere-I can lay on my back, look up at the stars and it seems almost as though I can see the angels praising God, for he has made all things for good."—Johnny Appleseed
Johnny Appleseed is an American legend. Wearing a pan on his head, he traveled across the northern fledgling United States, planting apple trees left, right, and center for the American people to enjoy. Taking no money for himself, he did it entirely out of the kindness of his heart. He dedicated his life to wandering about the land, continuing this work for the benefit of all.
Or so the tales go.
In reality, Appleseed (born John Chapman), was a shrewd businessman and Swedenborgian missionary, who traveled across what is now Ohio and Indiana. He specifically left apple tree nurseries in the care of other farmers, and later returned to collect the profits of the tree sales. As he was frequently willing to accept barter goods or credit instead of money, he was never very monetarily wealthy; most of his wealth was in the frontier land that he had claimed as his own. And he owned a lot. His will left over 1200 acres of land to his sister, and had he pursued the legal rights, he could have owned even more.
His generosity and kindness were hallmarks of his character. He was known, when he received barter goods such as clothes as payment, for keeping the worst of them for himself and selling or trading away the better quality ones. He frequently entertained children with various stories he heard, and regularly promoted his own religion, often leaving pages from his Bible behind.
The majority of the apple trees he planted, incidentally, were of the crab-apple variety, mostly used in the production of hard apple cider. Hence a large part of his popularity during his lifetime came from the fact that he helped bring alcoholic drinks to the frontier, rather than the apple trees themselves, or their fruit.
As a Historical Domain Character, he shows up quite often in folklore, and in some other forms of fiction as well. Most fictional accounts of the man have a tendency to Disney-fy him, emphasizing his personal poverty and generosity, and downplaying his religious views and mercantile accomplishments.
Either way, his influence is felt to this day, as many tales and stories indicate. Oh, and a type of apple is named after him.
Tropes associated with Johnny Appleseed:
- Fill It With Flowers: Trees variant.
- Friend to All Living Things: To the point of supposedly putting out his own campfires to avoid harming mosquitoes.
- The Missionary: He was one, of a smaller Christian sect known as Swedenborgianism.
- Pro Bono Barter: In some of the stories. In reality, barter was more common, so this trope doesn't really apply there.
- Self-Made Man: One of the earlier examples in American history.
- Tall Tale: Despite being a historical person, his life has been so embellished that it became the subject of Tall Tales.
- Walking the Earth: A Real Life case of this. While he was hardly the only one doing so at the time, he was certainly the best known.
Works in which Johnny Appleseed appears:
- Many Apple corporation ads use him as a slogan character, for obvious reasons.
Film - Animated
- One of the shorts of Melody Time is dedicated to retelling his story.
Film - Live Action
- The Stoner Flick parody Johnny Appleweed; the main character is inspired by Mr. Appleseed to spread pot plants across the US.
- Neil Gaiman's American Gods has him making an appearance. Which is slightly odd, even if All Myths Are True, he was a real person.
- In Incompetence, references to Johnny turn up at Klingferm's apartment when Harry snoops around after Klingferm's death. It's a clue as to the motives of the Big Bad, who turns out to be Klingferm after faking his death in order to draw Harry as part of his mission from the U.S. government to subvert European interests.
Live Action Television
- On Thirty Rock, Liz wanted to do a Johnny Appleseed sketch on TGS, but Appleseed's descendants wouldn't let them use the name. They had to settle for Johnny Bananaseed, until it turned out to be the name of a serial killer.
- "Johnny Appleseed", by NOFX.
- While he never shows up directly, in Wild Arms 5 his name is one of only two things Avril remembers, and thus is central to the plot.
- In one of The Simpsons anthology episodes, Lisa took the role of a Distaff Counterpart of Appleseed.
- Garfield and Friends parodied him, with Jon playing the role of Johnny Ragweedseed while Garfield played his faithful cat, Roosevelt. Every town formed an angry mob and chased them out whenever they planted ragweed, because as we all know, ragweed makes people sneeze.