Saturday, July 20, 2019

StorySpotting: Moon Landing Special

StorySpotting is a weekly or kinda-weekly series about folktales, tropes, references, and story motifs that pop up in popular media, from TV shows to video games. Topics are random, depending on what I have watched/played/read recently. Also, THERE WILL BE SPOILERS. Be warned!

Today's post is a little bit different from the usual, but it had too great a topic to miss.

Where was the story spotted?

Today is the 50th anniversary of a human being first setting foot on the Moon.

What happens?

A human being walks on the moon.
Also, a pop culture connection: I am a big fan of the Changeling: The Dreaming role-playing game, where July 20th, 1969 marks the Resurgence, the moment when so many people experienced wonder at the same time that the gates of the Dreaming opened again, and magic and belief returned to our world.

What's the story?

Since the whole Moon Landing is the culmination of millennia of dreams and stories, I decided to celebrate today by spotting some of my favorite tales about people (or, occasionally, animals) visiting the Moon.

The Prince of the Dolomites: A prince, raised by his widow mother, dreams about going to the Moon from an early age. One night he sees a princess in the moonlight and falls in love with her; after that, he becomes Prince Moonstruck, and admires the Moon every night, wishing to travel there to meet the princess. Luckily, he befriends a group of Dwarfs who help him ascend to the Moon - but they warn him that if he stays too long, he will go blind. Prince and princess fall in love, but when the prince starts to lose his sight, they decide to move back to Earth. To ease the princess' homesickness, the Dwarfs paint the Dolomites with the shining colors of the Moon, and they have been like that ever since.

Shooting the Moon: A Yao folktale about how long ago there was a fiery, burning moon in the sky. The archer Ya La and his wife Ni Wo worked together to assemble a magic bow and arrow to shoot it down. When chipping stars off the fiery moon was not enough, they shot up Ni Wo's embroidery that covered the Moon's surface, and cooled it down - but it also sucked the wife herself up to the sky. Not wanting to live apart from his wife, Ya La called to Ni Wo, who let her long braid down so that her husband could climb up to her. Ever since then, they have been living on the Moon in a little hut with a cassia tree and a flock of sheep - all of which you can see in the dark shapes on the surface.

Matanako and the Moon: A folktale from Tuvalu about a boy who has a special connection to the Moon. As a baby, he only sleeps in moonlight, and when he learns to talk, he says he wishes to go to the Moon. He convinces his father to take him, and they board a ship together, sailing for the place in the East where the Moon rises from the sea. On the way they pass various spirit islands, and lose some of their crew to spirit diseases. When they reach the horizon, the father throws Matanako at the Moon, and he has been living up there ever since. The dark shapes on the surface are the shape of his body.

Why the Skunk Lives Underground: A Quechua folktale about a skunk and a fox who are unlikely best friends. Fox's biggest dream is to go to the Moon, while Skunk would like to feast on the worms that live underground. When the Moon lets down two ropes for them, they decide to climb up together. Skunk doesn't really want to go, but he agrees to accompany his friend. In some versions, a guinea pig chews Skunk's rope through and he falls back down; in others, he decides that going to the Moon is not for him after all, and comes back down to live comfortably underground. Fox makes it happily to the Moon, and thus both friends fulfill their own dreams.

The Fox who was in Love with the Moon: Another Quechua story, and a very cute one. A fox falls in love with the Moon, and wants to reach her, but no matter how many mountaintops he climbs, he can't get any closer. Eventually he climbs the highest, most daunting mountain, and from the top, he jumps into Moon's arms. He's been cradled there ever since.

True History
: Lucian of Samosata wrote this piece in the 2nd century AD as a parody of the "true stories" of ancient travelers. He claims to have sailed to the Moon on a ship picked up by a whirlwind. The Moon, he says, is inhabited by Vulture Riders, people riding giant vultures into battle, ruled by Endymion, the Moon Goddess' mortal lover. They are waging a war against the Ant Riders of the Sun over who gets to colonize the Morning Star. The Armies of the Moon have 80,000 Vulture Riders, 20,000 Cauliflower Riders, Garlic Warriors and Millet Slingers. They are joined by 30,000 Flea Archers (archers riding giant fleas) and 50,000 Wind Runners. Lucian describes the whole war in great and elaborate detail. He also shares wild tales about the Moon society, including how they harvest babies from trees that grow from men's testicles planted in the ground, how their rich people dress in glass clothes, and how they have honey instead of snot.

Orlando Furioso: In one of my favorite epic moments, the knight Astolfo borrows a hippogriff (and then Elijah's chariot) to fly to the Moon, where all lost things can be found, to search for the wits/sanity of his friend Orlando, who lost them due to his love for a woman. Among the great collection of lost things on the Moon there are such curiosities as lost fame, lost desires, lost tears, lost kingdoms, wasted efforts, lost favors, unhappy marriages, lost charms... and lost time, which is the only thing one cannot claim back. Astolfo is shocked to find a bottle with his own name on it: it contains a portion of his own lost wits, which he never even realized was missing.


There are countless other folktales and legends about traveling to the Moon; most cultures seem to have at least one. This is what made the actual Moon Landing so fascinating in the eyes of the storyteller: Humanity achieved something that it has collectively been dreaming of for millennia.
So, which dream should we tackle next?


  1. Some lovely stories here! Don’t forget the one about the moon rabbit! And the girl. When the Apollo 11 astronauts were going up, someone joked that they should keep an eye out for a pretty girl up there.

  2. Folklore got their first. One giant leap.