The Quest for the Golden Apple

by - June 22, 2017

Starting this post off with an explanation of how inspirational mythology and folklore are to me and how influential Norse, Japanese, Egyptian, etc. legends are to pop culture would be unnecessary. A tad condescending, even. Hence why I will skip the introductions and jump straight to the main body of the text: the lesser-known mythology of the Balkans.

 This is where Studio Zmei comes in. They are a team of talented, hard-working animators and storytellers with a brave, but entirely possible dream: to create a fantasy animated series based on the folklore and legends of the Balkans, and to share it with the entire world.

 The animation, called The Golden Apple, takes place in an enchanting (and enchanted) realm where mists spill from the gossamer hairs of the elemental spirits and you might just catch one of the seasons roaming the forests and pastures of the land. Just be wary if you hear singing coming through the trees, lest the beautiful samodivi lure you in. Their haunting song can be both a blessing and a curse, and you can not always be certain which one it is.

 In this world, things do not happen just "because magic", as they often do in fantasy. Kuker magic, for one, uses the musical sound of enchanted bells and follows a dance-to-writing system. Each move reflects and spells out a letter from the Glagolitic script, the oldest known Slavic writing (read more here). The more experienced a kuker warrior is, the faster he can cast spells with his dance. You can learn more about kuker warriors in the video The Legend of the First Kuker Warrior.

It is said that once every 100 years a comet crosses the sky and falls on top of the legendary Kuber Mountain. Out of it grows a tree, bearing a single golden apple, with the power to fulfil wishes...
 And who better to set off in search for this treasure than the most unlikely team of heroes, who are only just coming of age: the kuker warriors Bran and Vlad, the half-human, half-zmey Vihra and the samodiva Tina-Pakostina (or Tina the troublemaker). Of course, we cannot omit to mention the adorable animal sidekick who won the heart of many people: the one and only Haralampy the sheep (or simply Harry for short).

 Obviously, there will be a myriad of obstacles standing in the way of the main characters, including the monsters and nightmares of their world. In our folklore, however, there is no black-and-white division between good and evil. All of these magical creatures can both help and harm, depending on one's actions towards them.
 Furthermore, as with many other cultures, a deep respect towards nature is crucial to our lives. Much like our reality, the world of The Golden Apple has to deal with the issues brought about by uncontrolled industrialisation.
 Finally, this fictional world is just as diverse as our own. As such, its population is no stranger to social prejudice and exclusion. Our folklore's very goal to instil a sense of belonging in people. Though characters in the series are very different from each other, they all have a desire to help not only themselves, but their community as well. The only way for them to achieve this is by working together.

  Incidentally (or not), these values still matter, even in our contemporary society. By retelling old stories in a modern, eye-catching manner, The Golden Apple aims to convey the morals they carry, whilst simultaneously introducing the world to the colourful folklore of the Balkans. Legends are lessons, as a wise fictional queen once said.

 I have been following this project closely ever since its announcement in 2014. Unfortunately, Studio Zmei need more funds to create their pilot episode. Due to lack of sponsorship, they have resorted crowdfunding. You can follow the link to their campaign on Indiegogo here. If the overall price of the project comes as an unpleasant surprise to you, you will be relieved to learn that it is now half the original sum stated, as the studio decided to split the pilot episode in two separate parts. In other words, we're almost there! Every little helps, and I do mean every. If you cannot donate, simply sharing the campaign is more than enough.
 If you are still having doubts as to why an animated series should cost so much, Studio Zmei have uploaded a video detailing the animation process, in order to be as transparent with their supporters as possible.

 The reason I so adamantly want this project to be brought to life is because I, too, ignored the mythology of my homeland for years before I found out how truly beautiful and intricate it is. Now, I feel like we have finally found the perfect project to represent Bulgaria in front of the entire world.

 Thank you for reading, and I hope you have a fantastic weekend.


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