A Kingdom Lost For a Drop of Honey



We will try to do an activity post soon, but in the meantime here is a little extra post from Robin.



When I was working on the endpapers for Julie Flett's Owls See Clearly at Night, I was given lot of beautiful illustrations to work with—hard to choose! We settled upon a nighttime scene, with buffalo in the front and a rabbit in the back, making them a simple two-colour vignette. The back endpapers were reminding me of something but I couldn't think what. Yesterday it popped into my head. It is the tale of The Old Man in the Moon from A Kingdom Lost for a Drop of Honey (and other Burmese folktales).

This is a book I had as a child, and is still on my bookshelf. I found the stories very fascinating. They have a similar structure to European folktales, but sometimes the outcome is surprising. For example, in the tale of Mister Luck and Mister Industry, it is Mister Luck who prevails — the structure is very different to The Ant and the Grasshopper). The setting, Burma, is full of tigers, elephants, monkeys, and little glimpses into daily life,



"It was the cool season, during which people travelled from one village to another, and there were many wayside stalls selling fried fish and fried cakes."

Anyway, the tale of The Old Man in the Moon goes like this (paraphrased):

There was an old man who made his living pounding paddy. He was alone, except for a rabbit as a companion. He pounded the paddy all day and into the night. His rabbit friend crouched nearby, eating the chaff.

One night the old man was tired of sifting the grain from the chaff after pounding it all day and he said, "If I only had an old woman with me, she could do the sifting, and also keep me and rabbit company." [I like that he is concerned about his rabbit's loneliness as well as his own.]

The Moon-goddess took pity on him and began to visit him during the day, taking the form of an old woman. She sifted and he pounded and at night she returned to the sky. After a few weeks the old man said, "Who are you? Why do you go away when night falls?" The old woman replied that she was the Moon-goddess and she then agreed to take the old man and his rabbit to her moon and let them stay with her forever.

You can still see them when the moon is full.