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The symbolic sharing of friendship

Early on in Kingdom Hearts, Riku and Sora, two of the male leads, are hanging around, shooting the breeze as island kids are wont to do. They talk about a strange, star-shaped fruit called paopu fruit. According to lore, anyone who shares a paopu fruit will have their lives inextricably linked.

Throughout the entirety of the Kingdom Hearts series, paopu fruit takes on an important symbolic role, that of friendship. Now, it’s arguable as to whether there needs to be yet another metaphor for friendship in Kingdom Hearts, being as Donald, Goofy, and Sora, the characters controlled by the player, beat the idea of the power of friendship like a dead horse. But paopu fruit stands for a particular kind of connection: that of effortless, destined friendship—or more.

Paopu is not a fruit of love, per se, but being linked with such heavyweight ideas as “destiny” imports it with quite a bit of power. At one point in Kingdom Hearts, Riku tosses Sora a paopu fruit while explaining the lore surrounding it. The two soon compete to share a paopu fruit with Kairi, their friend and hopeful lady love.

Love fruit from Phil and Pam on Flickr

Greece has its own version of paopu fruit in quince, a yellow, sweet-tart fruit featured heavily in myth. Some scholars believe that many references we associate with apples in the modern day are actually quinces, including Eden’s forbidden fruit and Aphrodite’s golden apple.

Aphrodite is associated with quince. Greek wedding customs often center on this tart, astringent fruit. Brides, for example, eat the fruit to freshen up their breath before entering the boudoir. Quince is linked to love and fertility, much like the goddess herself.

In Edward Lear’s “The Owl and the Pussycat,” a nonsensical poem about a nonsensical love, the two lovers dine on quince after being married by a turkey on a hill:

They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon[…]

True, Lear’s use of “quince” could have been a happy accident. But the association between quince and marriage may have spread beyond Greece by that point. Quince connotates connection, and regardless of intention, Lear communicates its symbolic value well.

Interestingly, paopu fruit and Eden’s forbidden fruit have something in common: whatever fruit was shared between Adam and Eve, there’s no question that it “inextricably linked” their lives!

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