Saturday, October 17, 2009

Three Legends on the Origin of the Moon

Category: Issue 16

Harris Tobias
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When the Earth was very young, before there was a moon in the sky, there was a beautiful girl whose beauty shone with an inner light. The beautiful girl’s name was Tanoom which meant ‘Glowing Flower’ in her long lost language.  Tanoom was desired by all the men of the village. Young men wished to impress her with their skills at hunting and their bravery in battle. Old men would see her and wish they were young again and try to impress her with their wisdom or their wealth. But Tanoom’s father, Tak, would have none of it. He told Tanoom often that he alone would decide whom she would marry.
“These poor boys are not for you,” Tak would say. “When the time comes to marry, you will fetch a great price and we will all live well.”
Tanoom would simply bow her head and say, “Yes, father.” For Tanoom was also a most obedient daughter.
Everyday the young warriors would find excuses to pass by Tanoom’s house hoping to catch a glimpse of her. One young warrior named Book was so in love with Tanoom that whenever he saw her, his heart would lift and his face would break into a smile. He would get so happy he would shout for joy. When Tanoom would hear Book shout, her face would flush and she would try to hide her smile from her father who was not very fond of the love sick young man.
It wasn’t long before the two young people were in love. Tanoom would wait anxiously for Book’s return and she would hide her smile each time he gave his joyous shout. Book was from a poor family and the bride price of such a beauty as Tanoom was far beyond his means. But he saved his furs, gathered his horses and his courage and one day he approached Tak with his offer. “Twenty furs and four horses,” Tak said, “is that all you think my daughter is worth?”
“Her worth is beyond price,” said Book, “but this is all I have to offer. This and my undying love.”
“There are many who would offer ten times as much,” said Tak dismissing Book with a wave of his hand.
“But there are none who can love her more,” said Book calling after Tak. Tanoom heard these words and she knew she would love no other man but Book. And she appealed to her father to let her marry the man she loved but Tak said, “My child, love is fleeting and not real and you will learn to love the man I choose for you.” And since she was an obedient child she put aside the feelings of her heart and heeded her father’s wishes.
Not many days later. Tak made an arrangement with Mat’anon, the richest man in the village. It didn’t matter to Tak that Mat’anon was old and toothless; that he already had two wives who were sure to resent Tanoom; and that he was fat and smelled like spoiled meat. What mattered to Tak was that Mat’anon would pay a bride price that would make him rich for the remainder of his days. Tak and Mat’anon smoked a pipe and sealed the deal. Mat’anon purchased Tanoom for sixty furs and forty ponies—a tremendous sum for a wife.
When Tanoom heard the news, she could not hide her tears. She threw herself on her bed and cried. When Book heard the news, he too cried and cursed his poverty and his fate. That night Tanoom sneaked away from her house and met Book in the forest where they pledged their love.
The next day Tanoom was married to the rich man, Mat’anon, but she could not bear to be his wife. She could not bring herself to look at him or to have him touch her. All she could do was cry. One night she slipped out of the rich man’s house, climbed the great cliff that overlooked the village and threw herself off. What she did not know was that she was carrying Book’s child.
When Tanoom died, the spirits were so moved by the sadness of her story that they set Tanoom in the sky as the moon and turned Book into a wolf that he might howl his love for her every night. And every night the moon waxes larger and larger as if to mimic the pregnant Tanoom and the growing child the two lovers never got to see.


Once, when the earth was new, there was only day, there was no night. The Sun was lonely in the sky, it shone on the Earth without rest. All the people and plants and beasts of the forest grew and grew until they became fat and lazy. “The Sun does all the work for us, we have no need to struggle.” Indeed the plants bore fruits all year long and the animals multiplied and the people didn’t need to plant or hunt.
After many years, the Sun grew suspicious. “Are they taking me for granted?” asked the Sun. “What would they do if I quit. ”
Every year fewer and fewer people thanked the Sun for all his work and every day the Sun grew angrier and angrier until. one day, the Sun said, ”I’ve had enough,” and stopped shining and went home to rest.
All of a sudden there was night and the people and the creatures were frightened. And then it got cold and the plants and animals shivered and were afraid. All the people and the plants and the creatures of the Earth called out to the Sun to return. “Please come back,” they cried, “we are cold and we are afraid of the dark.” But the Sun did not hear their cries because he was fast asleep in his bed worn out from all that shining.
At first the creatures of the Earth suffered mightily, but slowly they adapted. The people huddled around their fires for light and warmth, the animals grew long shaggy coats and hid in their burrows, and the plants did the best they could. The big trees lost their leaves and went to sleep. It was a time of discovery and adaptation.
When the Sun had rested, he got out of bed and looked around. Everything had changed. There was no life to see. The once green Earth was covered in blankets of white snow and blue ice; all the plants were shriveled and brown and the people and the animals were shivering in their dens. The Sun felt sorry for the Earth. He decided to change into a young man and see for himself if the inhabitants of the Earth were truly sorry and wanted their sun back.
The first inhabitant the Sun found was a giant old oak tree on the edge of a great forest. “How is life without the sun?” the Sun asked the oak tree.
“Well,” answered the tree, “I’ll tell you, it’s not really so bad. At first I thought it would be the worst thing but now I’m not so sure. I lost all my leaves and I can’t grow but having a chance to rest has been a good thing. The cold has killed all the insects that used to eat me and if the people don’t chop me down for firewood, I’ll be fine.”
The next inhabitant the Sun found was rabbit looking for food in a snowy field. “How is life without the sun?” the Sun asked the rabbit.
“To tell you the truth,” replied the rabbit, “it’s not really so bad. At first I was afraid but now I kind of like it. There’s not as much to eat but, on the other hand, I don’t need as much as I sleep for weeks at a time. And best of all, I can hear my enemies coming from far away. Whenever I hear them crunching across the ice, I have a deep burrow to run to. My burrow is safe and warm and I can sleep as long as I like.”
The Sun was beginning to think that no one missed him and that no one would care if he ever returned. The next inhabitants the Sun found were an old man and a little boy sitting around a fire, wrapped in furs. “How is life without the sun?” the Sun asked the pair.
“Well,” said the old man, “It was pretty scary at first but we found this cave and figured out how to make fire. We use animal skins for clothing and have learned to hunt for food. The fire gives us heat and light and we sit around it and tell stories. It’s not all that bad.”
That was the last straw, the Sun was feeling more unwanted and unloved than ever. He was about to return to his bed and never shine again when the little boy spoke up, “I miss the sun,” the little boy said. “I miss the mornings and the afternoons, I miss the sparkle of light on the water and the green grass. I miss the rainbow when it rains. But most of all, I miss the days when I could swim in the river and gather apples from the trees. I hate the cold and I’m afraid of the dark. I wish the sun would shine again.”
The Sun was very pleased to hear these words. He became even happier when the old man agreed that he too missed the sun. “My grandson is right. We make the most of our situation but life was better when the sun shone.”
The Sun was pleased. This was what he hoped to hear and made plans to go back to work, but first he set some new conditions. For example, he only worked for part of the day and then he quit. For half the year he worked even less and let the Earth get good and cold, that way the plants, animals, people, and the Sun itself could get some rest. And as a special gift to the world, the Sun arranged for spectacular sunrises and sunsets to glorify his comings and goings. And lastly, the sun put a light in the night sky so that the children would not be so afraid of the dark. He called this light, the Moon.


Before there were kings, before there were human beings, way way back before there was an Earth itself, there were gods. The gods had their own world and in that world the gods loved and fought just like people. But being gods, these beings had the power to create and destroy entire worlds. They could make a world or unmake one. They could create oceans and mountains or unmake them however they liked. As a result, all the worlds lasted only a brief time before one or another of the gods got bored or jealous and destroyed it.
All of that changed when Serenda, the goddess of beauty, had a child. No one could be sure whose child it was since Serenda was both desired and possessed by all of the other gods. After all, gods were just like people in this regard— they all wanted a little beauty in their lives.
When the baby was born, all the gods came to admire her. Each god thinking that they were the parent, they praised the child’s beauty and agreed to make a wonderful world for the baby to live in.
”I will make high, snow topped mountains for my child to climb,” said Alec the god of mountains.
“I will give my child vast and mysterious oceans to play in,” said Seth the god of the sea.
“I will give my daughter green forests filled with flowers to walk in,” said Arbor the god of the woods.
“And I shall give her birds and animals to protector her,” said Proctor the god of hunting.
One by one all of the gods came before the child and gave her their finest gifts. Before long the world they created was filled to brimming with magnificent beasts and plants, flowers and fish, clouds and rainbows. Helios put a sun in the sky for light and warmth. Stella spangled the night sky with diamonds.
The child was named Luna and she grew to love her world. All of the gods loved Luna too and swore a mighty oath to never destroy the world they had created.
Before long Luna grew to be as beautiful as her mother and was soon desired by all of the gods who went to great lengths to win her love. They turned themselves into swans and serpents, fish and unicorns, plants and peacocks, and did their best to seduce the young goddess. But Serenda was vigilant. She guarded her daughter’s chastity and permitted none of her fellow gods near her. 
After a while Luna grew lonely and since Serenda could not trust her fellow gods to keep Luna company, she created a creature for Luna to play with. The new creature was fashioned in the likeness of a god but with the flesh and mortality of a beast. She called this creation Man.
Luna loved her new playmates and spent many centuries playing with them. She taught them to hunt and fish, to make clothes and shelters, to plant crops and make fires to build cities and make art. And the people, in turn, loved Luna. They praised her and obeyed her in all things.
Before long the people multiplied and gained more and more knowledge. They discovered writing and science, philosophy and poetry. They began acting like gods themselves. The gods grew concerned that Luna would teach them too much. So they created another world for her, a world without plants or animals, a world without air or water. A world without any of the gifts they gave to the earth with the exception of beauty, which Serenda insisted upon.
Luna was placed on her new world. She gazed longingly at her old earth and never turned her face from it. The people of the Earth never forgot their goddess either and to this day they revere their moon which they call Luna in her honor. 

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