The Story of the Many Moons
Once, when it was very dark, the horned moon felt curious and went to speak to Mother Sky. “How many sisters do I have?” she asked.
“I’m not sure,” Mother Sky answered. “Does it matter?”
“Maybe not,” the horned moon admitted, “but I still want to know.”
“I really can’t tell you. You’ll have to find out for yourself.”
“Then that’s what I’ll do,” the horned moon concluded, and left Mother Sky’s side.
She didn’t know how to find out how many sisters she had, but she was determined that she would, no matter what.
“Do you know how many sisters we have?” she asked the first of her sisters she came across.
“I have no idea,” her sister, the waxy moon, replied. “What does it matter? There are always moons in the sky.”
The horned moon asked several of her other sisters the same question, but their answers were no different. The wide moon didn’t know, the new moon had no idea, and the silvery moon was clueless. Even the full moon herself was without a clue.
The horned moon decided she would have to set out on a journey to seek her answer. Surely down in the lands below someone would have counted the number of moons in the skies above their heads. Surely!
Soon after she arrived on the flat lands by the curved mountains, she found the face of Mother Earth. “Mother Earth, how many sisters do I have?” the horned moon asked. If Mother Sky didn’t know, then maybe Mother Earth knew!
“I don’t really know,” Mother Earth admitted. “Doesn’t Mother Sky know? They cross her face, after all.”
The horned moon shook her head. “No, she doesn’t know, either. That is why I am on a journey to find out how many moons there are.”
“Very admirable of you, my dear,” Mother Earth told her proudly. “Be sure to take care on your trip. Not everyone on the surface of the lands below is as kind as your mothers and sisters.”
The horned moon promised to take care, and went on her way.
She soon came across a clan of wolves as they howled at the sky. “What is this noise?” she asked.
“We offer up our prayers to the crescent moon,” the wolves told her.
“Oh, I see. She is my sister!” the horned moon exclaimed excitedly. “Do you know how many other sisters I have?”
The wolves conferred quietly for several minutes, then howled at the horned moon’s sister in exasperation. “Your sister asks us an unfair question as a test!” the wolves told the crescent moon in their howls. “Make her stop! We’ve always been your faithful worshippers!”
The crescent moon frowned down at the horned moon and told her to leave the wolves alone.
The horned moon scowled and moved on. How silly wolves were! Why would they worship her sister, anyway? She wasn’t any prettier than any of her other sisters! However many that was…
She vowed to leave wolves alone from now on, and continued on her way. If wolves were no wiser as to the number of moons in the sky, perhaps some other animal would be.
She continued until she came across a lone panther on the prowl in the forest. It looked at her warily. “You are not prey,” it commented. “What do you want from me?”
“I want to know how many sisters I have. Do you know?”
“Too many,” the panther told her in a snarl. “I cannot hunt when my prey can see me too well! I only like the thinnest moon, because she leaves so many deep shadows upon the land, in which I can hide so easily. All the others are too thick, and take away too many shadows.”
“You scare away my dinner with every moment you spend here!” the panther snapped at her.
“Very well, I’ll leave,” the horned moon replied. Panthers, clearly, were no better than wolves. Were there no better creatures in the lands below?
The next animal she came across was a rabbit. It seemed quite timid, and tried to hide when it saw her. “Don’t eat me!” it squeaked at her.
“I don’t eat,” she assured it. “Do you know how many sisters I have, little rabbit?”
The rabbit shook its head, and its ears flopped with the motion. “Not at all!” it exclaimed. “But one of them is so very pretty! She shines just before the full moon, and on her face there’s a lady rabbit who pounds rice cakes! I stare at her and stare at her and ask her to come down for tea, but she never does! Why won’t she come down for tea? Does she like coffee better?”
“Er…I don’t think any of my sisters has a rabbit on her face…” the horned moon answered, confused. She wasn’t sure she knew all of her sisters, of course, but surely she would know about it if one of them had such a bizarre practice, wouldn’t she?
The rabbit continued to insist that one most definitely lived on her sister’s face, until the horned moon politely excused herself and went on her way.
She decided that there must be better ways to seek information than to ask these dumb beasts, but as she continued to decide what that would be, she came across a tavern. The horned moon had seen humans and their structures before, of course, but only from above, and she had never been quite sure what to think of them. Now that she was close to one, she could hear many unusual—even unique!—sounds from within, some happy, but some decidedly not.
Sometimes humans left places like this in a very pleasant mood, with dances and warbled tunes, but other times they left with curses and quarrels, and sometimes they even ended up wounded or dead in a ditch.
Perhaps it would be best to avoid the place.
And yet, many humans were to be found in taverns, travelers from far and wide. There could be someone within who knew the answer to the horned moon’s question. To pass by this opportunity would surely be a decision she would rue.
With her mind set, the horned moon opened the door and went inside. The tavern fell silent, and everyone stared at her. “My, what a pretty orb!” the proprietress cooed at her. “Seems we’ve a moon come to call on us! Are you one of those moons who takes away pretty boys and lets them sleep forever while you have your way with them? Because I’ve a lazy boy here that you can take with you,” she said, and indicated a handsome youth with a jerk of her thumb.
“It is nice to meet you, Lazyboy,” the horned moon said politely, despite that she was very confused, “but I am not here to take anyone anywhere.”
“That’s not my name,” the youth replied with a scowl.
“Of course, I’ll want recompense for the satiation of your lust,” the proprietress continued. “A pretty moon like you must have plenty of silver.”
“I have neither silver nor lust,” the horned moon assured her. “I only want some information.”
“And no pretty boys at all?” The woman who ran the tavern sounded very disappointed by that.
“I’m sorry, but I have no use for boys, pretty or otherwise. I only want to know if any mortals have counted the number of my sisters,” the horned moon told her.
“Count ‘em yourself,” the proprietress snapped at her, then pushed the horned moon back out of the tavern. It was very rude of her indeed!
It took the horned moon some time to recover herself, and when she did, she saw that Lazyboy had followed her out of the tavern. “What is it, Lazyboy?” she asked him.
“I told you, that’s not my name,” he moaned. “Look, if you want to know about the other moons, you should ask the astronomer,” Lazyboy told her. “Anyone can tell you that, even me.”
“What is an astronomer?”
“He’s a man who studies stars,” Lazyboy answered. “How do you not know that, Moony?”
“That is not my name,” the horned moon answered coldly.
“C’mon, I’ll show you to his tower. This way.” Lazyboy started to lead the horned moon away from the tavern, towards the seacoast. “That woman isn’t really my mother, you know,” he told her. “Found me washed up on shore, she always tells me. Says I should be thankful she took me in and didn’t leave me there to be eaten by whales. As if whales ate babies!”
Lazyboy continued to complain the entire time they walked to the tower of the astronomer. His ability to talk—and his vocabulary!—was actually quite impressive, and the horned moon would have complimented him on it, if she had been allowed to a moment to do so, but he would not stop to allow her to say even one word of her own.
The astronomer’s tower was very plain. It was just a plain rock circle that jutted up into the air, without any windows except one in the roof. There was only the one door, but the horned moon entered it without any trepidation, then introduced herself to the astronomer.
He was an old man with a tremendous beard that sputtered dust when he bowed before her. “To what do I owe this superlative honor?” he asked.
“I want to know how many sisters I have,” she replied, “and I was told you would know.”
“Why you have one sister for every day of the lunar cycle, of course,” the astronomer told her, with a supercilious smile. “One moon for every day of the month, naturally.”
The horned moon felt a little disappointed by his answer. It was too easy. It was too obvious. She wasn’t at all sure it could be correct, in fact. No, it wasn’t correct, she was sure of it: what about the blue moon, and the red moon, moons who didn’t occur in the ordinary cycle? They didn’t fit his answer at all!
No, if she wanted the answer, there really was no point in this journey of hers. She had no choice but to return home and count her sisters one by one until she knew how many there were. How dull that would be!
“Thank you for your time,” she told the astronomer, since her mothers had always told her to be polite. “I must return home now.”
“No, no, you really must stay,” the astronomer replied.
“It really isn’t—“ the horned moon started.
“I insist,” the astronomer repeated coldly, his tone a threat.
“What can you mean?” the horned moon asked.
“It is much too rare for one of the moons to come down to the earth and visit. You simply cannot return to the sky. There are so many that you won’t be missed,” the astronomer assured her. “You will stay here and I’ll study you, and make my fortune.”
Suddenly, he laid his hands upon her, and the horned moon panicked a bit.
If Lazyboy hadn’t been there, her story could have come to a very bad end. But he was there, and he struck the astronomer in his beard. The old man wailed unhappily and released the horned moon, who quickly floated up and out of the hole in the roof of the astronomer’s tower.
Lazyboy ran out of the door of the tower and followed the horned moon as far as he could. “Wait, take me with you!” he shouted at her.
“Why?” she asked.
“Didn’t I just save you?” he retorted.
“I could have escaped on my own,” she insisted. “Eventually,” she added, in the spirit of truthfulness.
“Please, just take me with you! My life is miserable here!” Lazyboy pleaded.
“It’s not that I’m opposed to the idea, but how am I supposed to do so?” the horned moon asked.
Even as she asked, Lazyboy leapt into the air, to follow her, but he fell, and sploshed into the ocean below. The horned moon continued her journey back into the sky, and Lazyboy ended up miserable and wet, with no option but to return to the tavern and his foster mother who didn’t love him.
Her sisters were happy to see the horned moon returned safely from the lands below, and Mother Sky was beside herself with joy. All of them were entertained by the horned moon’s tales of the odd creatures of the earth, none of them liked the idea of standin’ around idly while the horned moon tried to count them all…
First posted on 7/13/2015.