The Curious Case of Friedrich Schiller and His Rotten Apple Drawer

Evan Swensen
3 min readJun 12, 2024

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Everyone has their quirky habits, but some are more unusual than others. For those who thrive on creativity, these habits can range from peculiar to downright bizarre. One such eccentricity belongs to Friedrich Schiller, the renowned German poet, playwright, and philosopher of the 18th century. Schiller, known for his towering contributions to literature and philosophy, had an oddly fragrant muse: the smell of rotten apples.

Schiller’s life and works are a testament to his creative genius. He wrote extensively, with masterpieces such as The Robbers, Don Carlos, and Wallenstein. His philosophical essays explored themes of beauty, ethics, and aesthetics, deeply influencing German literature and thought. But behind the scenes, Schiller’s creative process involved a peculiar ritual that might raise a few eyebrows today.

According to historical accounts, Schiller found the smell of rotten apples to be creatively stimulating. He kept these decaying fruits in his desk drawer, using their aroma to conjure the muses when inspiration ran dry. This unusual habit might sound off-putting, but for Schiller, it was a source of creative energy.

The story goes that Schiller’s wife once discovered his stash of rotting apples and was understandably perplexed. She couldn’t fathom why her husband, a man of intellect and refinement, would harbor such an odorous secret. When questioned, Schiller confessed that the smell of the decomposing apples had an invigorating effect on his mind, helping him to focus and create.

Schiller’s affinity for the smell of decaying apples adds a layer of humanity to his persona. It reminds us that even the greatest minds have their quirks and that creativity often thrives in the most unexpected ways. His works, including Mary Stuart and William Tell, resonate with the depth and passion of a man who found beauty and inspiration in the most unlikely of places.

But why rotten apples? The science behind smell and creativity is an interesting field. Olfactory stimuli can evoke memories and emotions, potentially enhancing cognitive function and creativity. Even when rotting, The scent of apples could have triggered specific neural pathways in Schiller’s brain, helping him think more clearly or unlock new ideas. It’s a fascinating intersection of psychology and sensory experience.

In the grand tapestry of literary history, Schiller’s apple-scented creativity stands out as a delightful anecdote. It shows that the journey to artistic greatness is often paved with peculiar habits and personal rituals. These little-known trivia facts not only humanize our literary heroes but also offer a glimpse into the diverse ways in which inspiration can strike.

So, the next time you’re struggling with a creative block, consider the quirky habits of Friedrich Schiller and his rotten apples. While it might not be everyone’s cup of tea (or, in this case, preferred scent), it serves as a reminder that inspiration often comes from the most unexpected sources. Embrace your quirks and let them fuel your creativity — you never know what masterpiece might emerge from the process.

Whether you’re a writer seeking inspiration or a reader curious about the habits of literary giants, these fun trivia facts highlight the unique ways in which creativity can be nurtured. Embrace the oddities, celebrate the quirks, and remember that sometimes, the path to brilliance is paved with rotting apples.

𝐖𝐞 𝐃𝐨𝐧’𝐭 𝐖𝐚𝐧𝐭 𝐭𝐨 𝐖𝐫𝐢𝐭𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐋𝐚𝐰𝐬; 𝐖𝐞 𝐖𝐚𝐧𝐭 𝐭𝐨 𝐏𝐮𝐛𝐥𝐢𝐬𝐡 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐁𝐨𝐨𝐤𝐬
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Evan Swensen

Book publisher, editor, author, Author Masterminds charter member, founder of Readers and Writers Book Club, and bush pilot.