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The Star Apple

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By Taffy Thomas, MBE —Storyteller

The Star Apple is an English fairy tale originating from Kendal Castle in Cumbria. It involves a princess who is imprisoned by an evil ogre. To escape, she has to solve this riddle: A golden box without a lid, and deep inside a star is hid.


These teachers’ notes accompany the PRINT ONLY guided reading leaflet in Literacy Time PLUS Ages 7 to 9, March 2009.

Shared teaching and learning

Before reading

  • In small groups, discuss and list traditional fairy tales that involve princesses’ imprisonment, such as ‘Rapunzel’, ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and ‘Rumpelstiltskin’.
  • Look out for adverbs: menacingly, defiantly, magically. Identify the suffix added to each adjective.
  • Jot down the names of the varieties of apple that appear. Remind the children that the initial capital letters indicate that they are names.

Previous learning

Children should be familiar with traditional fairy tales that involve a princess who is imprisoned. They should be able to recognise common elements, such as a heroine performing tasks to secure her freedom.

Key learning outcomes:

  • To tell stories effectively and convey detailed information for listeners;
  • To create roles showing how behaviour can be interpreted from different viewpoints;
  • To use knowledge of word structure/origins to understand word meanings;
  • To develop and refine ideas in writing using planning and problem-solving strategies;
  • To write non-narrative texts.

Shared reading

  • Read the story and identify what constitutes a riddle: a puzzle to be solved by thinking about literal and metaphorical meaning of words.
  • Look again at the title. Does it answer the riddle? Cut an apple horizontally and reveal how the pips form the star inside the golden box.
  • List other varieties of apple. The children can look for more names next time they visit a supermarket. How might the story have differed if the apple were a Royal Gala instead of a Golden Delicious. (A ruby box?)
  • Recall the comparatives used to describe the ogre’s news – bad, worse. What would the ultimate comparison be, say, if the ogre had killed the princess? (Worst.) Ask the children to find some good, better and best news, as the story continues, such as spotting the apple; the tree helping her; sharing the apple as the ogre sets her free.
  • Explain that in some countries it is traditional to hang apples on Christmas trees. Can they guess why? (Because of the star in the apples which links to the Christmas story.)
  • Find which word means shake (tremble); tired out (exhausted), threateningly (menacingly), a difficult, trying experience (ordeal), winning (triumph). Add to vocabulary books. Discuss the meaning of but one (branch) – only one.

Shared writing

  • Use the activity sheet below to explore and invent more riddles.
  • Choose one riddle around which to plan and write a similar story. What might change (the ogre? the building?) and what might be similar (solving the riddle to secure release)? Might something inanimate (like the tree) be personified?
  • Retell the story in the persona of the Golden Delicious tree. How might the tree have felt when Rachel was trying to solve the riddle?

Further reading

Riddle Me This: Riddles and stories to sharpen your wits Hugh Lupton, illustrated by Sophie Fatus (Barefoot Books, 978 19052 36923). Colourful collection of mind-bending riddles and riddling stories from around the world. Raps, Riddles and Concrete: Years 3/4 Pie Corbett (Adventures in Literacy – Start Poetry, Chrysalis, 978 18445 81870). Tips on how to write riddles and poems. Katie Morag and the Riddles Mairi Hedderwick (Red Fox, 978 00994 14186). Can Katie solve the riddles and get back in everyone’s good books?

Taffy’s Teasers

For eight weeks, starting from Monday 2 March, Taffy Thomas will be setting a new riddle every week here on the Literacy Time PLUS website for you to solve in Taffy’s Teasers. There will be audio/visual clues should you get stuck, and the previous week’s answer will be revealed with each new riddle. So have fun!

To find out more about the history of riddles in storytelling, read Taffy’s Feature Article.

Group and individual work

  • Research varieties of apple: sharp, soft, hard, suitable for baking in pies, where grown, when harvested. What drinks come from apples? Create a class directory or ‘Guide to apples’.
  • Research and write favourite recipes for dishes made from apples.
  • Think up headlines for retelling the story as a newspaper report: Princess Missing; Ogre on the Run. Write the report using a journalistic style.

Speaking and listening

  • Explain that the author of the story, Taffy Thomas, is a storyteller. (See also on-screen resource 2. The Stanhope Fairies.) Working in pairs, invite the children to retell the story orally, varying voice, tone, pace and volume to retain the listener’s attention. Point out the advantages of reading aloud: you have eye contact with the audience, your hands are free to gesture, and you can move around.


  • Invite children to recommend a partner who retold the story well. Listen as a whole class to their retelling and analyse how far and why it succeeds.
  • Hear the children’s own riddles and invite others to guess the answers.


  1. Addie
    on 22 July 2011

    Curious about the Star Apple..

    I find myself curious about the Star Apple story, but I cannot find an original source for it. Did the author find it in a book?