Monday, 14 April 2014

Nigeria - Why The Moon Waxes and Wanes

There was once an old woman who was very poor, and lived in a small mud hut thatched with mats made from the leaves of the tombo palm in the bush. She was often very hungry, as there was no one to look after her.

In the olden days the moon used often to come down to the earth, although she lived most of the time in the sky. The moon was a fat woman with a skin of hide, and she was full of fat meat. She was quite round, and in the night used to give plenty of light. The moon was sorry for the poor starving old woman, so she came to her and said, "You may cut some of my meat away for your food." This the old woman did every evening, and the moon got smaller and smaller until you could scarcely see her at all. Of course this made her give very little light, and all the people began to grumble in consequence, and to ask why it was that the moon was getting so thin.

At last the people went to the old woman's house where there happened to be a little girl sleeping. She had been there for some little time, and had seen the moon come down every evening, and the old woman go out with her knife and carve her daily supply of meat out of the moon. As she was very frightened, she told the people all about it, so they determined to set a watch on the movements of the old woman.

That very night the moon came down as usual, and the old woman went out with her knife and basket to get her food; but before she could carve any meat all the people rushed out shouting, and the moon was so frightened that she went back again into the sky, and never came down again to the earth. The old woman was left to starve in the bush.

Ever since that time the moon has hidden herself most of the day, as she was so frightened, and she still gets very thin once a month, but later on she gets fat again, and when she is quite fat she gives plenty of light all the night; but this does not last very long, and she begins to get thinner and thinner, in the same way as she did when the old woman was carving her meat from her.

You can read the original 1910 publication, 40 Nigerian Folktales here.

Magic Torch are sharing Commonwealth folktales as part of the 2014 Commonwealth Games celebrations. In addition to publishing a book and comic, which retell some commonwealth tales, we are also sharing traditional tales on our blog. We are presenting the stories exactly as collected, without editing or rewriting. Some of the tales have been recorded recently, others, many years ago in traditional forms, more often than not using dialects and local mannerisms - the "voice" of the people telling the tales. We have opted not to change this.

The Herald and Sunday Herald Children of the Commonwealth series will run over the coming months as the Queen's Baton travels the world on its way to Scotland. As well as bringing readers inspiring stories from key locations on the baton route, it is also raising money for UNICEF, an official charity partner of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

There are a number of different ways to donate: you can call 0800 044 5777; or you can click on; or you can text 'CHILD' to 70111 to donate £3. UNICEF is the world's leading children's organisation, working to save and change children's lives.

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