Short Stories

The girl and the moon man

(traditional tale of the Tchuktchi people)

He once lived among the Tchuktchi people, a man who had only one daughter. The daughter was the best of aids her father could have. He spent the summer away from camp, watching over his father’s reindeer herd. And when winter came, he had to take the pack even further. Only occasionally did she go to camp for food.

One night, as she was heading to camp in her sleigh pulled by a faster reindeer, she lifted her head and looked up at the sky.

– Look look! She shouted.

The girl looked and saw the Moonman coming down from the sky in a sleigh pulled by two reindeer.

– Where does he go? And what will he do? Asked the girl.

“He wants to take you,” answered the reindeer. The girl was very scared.

– What should I do? He is quite capable of taking me with him! She exclaimed.

Without saying a word, the reindeer began to paw a hole in the snow.

– Come on, hide in this grave! – she said.

The girl stepped inside, and the reindeer began to put the snow back on it. After a while the girl had disappeared, and only a small snowdrift marked where she had been.

– That’s weird! Said the Moonman. “Where did she get in?” I can’t find her! It is best to leave and come back later. I’m sure then I’ll find you here, and I’ll be able to take you with me.

Saying this, he returned to the sleigh, and the reindeer carried him through the heavens.

As soon as he disappeared, the reindeer cleared the snow again, and the girl emerged from the hole.

– Let’s hurry to camp! She said. “Let’s go before the Moonman sees me, and come back here again.” I won’t be able to escape you a second time.

The young woman climbed into the sleigh and the reindeer set off faster than lightning. As soon as they reached the camp, the girl ran to her father’s tent. But the father was not. Who would help her now?

The reindeer said:

– You have to hide because the Moonman will come after you.

“But where can I hide?” Asked the girl.

“I’ll turn you into anything … a stone, for example,” said the reindeer.

– No, that won’t do anything, he finds me anyway.

– Then I’ll turn you into a hammer.

– It won’t do either.

– At a stake.

– Neither.

– On a fur.

– No, no.

“Then what shall I make you?” I already know! I become a lamp!

– It’s ok.

– Then lie down on the floor.

The girl lay down, the reindeer clapped her paw on the floor, and soon there she became a lamp that shone so brightly that it illuminated the whole tent.

Meanwhile the Moonman had been searching for the girl among his reindeer, and was now arriving at the camp.

He attached the reindeer to a pole, entered the tent and continued to search for it inside. He searched among the pegs that supported the tent, examined all the objects and utensils, dug into his fur, searched under the beds and everywhere – but not even the girl.

As for the lamp, he didn’t even notice it because it shone so brightly, its light was as bright as the light of the Moonman himself.

– That’s weird! Said the Moonman. “Where can she be?” I have to go back to heaven!

He left the tent and went to fetch the reindeer. He had already sled his sleigh and was about to sit on it when the girl, pulling away the furs at the door, put her head out and said, laughing:

– I’m here! I’m here!

The Moonman let go of the sled and ran into the tent, but the girl had become the lamp again.

The Moonman started looking for her. She searched through the leaves and branches, through the skins lying on the ground … but the girl’s not even a trace.

How strange was all that! Where could she be? It seemed that he would have to return to heaven without her.

But as soon as he was out of the tent, as he was preparing to enter the sled, the girl’s face appeared again among the furs of the entrance:

– I’m here! I’m here! She shouted, laughing out loud.

The Moonman rushed back to the tent and began looking for it. He searched for a long time, turned the tent inside out, but not the girl.

These searches tired him so much that he became very thin and very weak, barely able to move his legs or raise an arm.

At this point the girl felt that there was no reason to be afraid of him anymore. He took his own form, stepped out of the tent, turned the Moonman on his back, and tied his hands and feet with a rope.

– There! Moaned the Moonman. “You want to kill me, I know!” Well then, kill me. I deserve death because it all happened because of me, for wanting to take you with me. But before I die, cover me with fur, and let me warm, that I am cold.

The girl looked at him in wonder.

– Ice cold?! Are you cold? You who have no house, who have no tent? You belong outdoors, and that’s where you should go on. What do you need my skins for?

Then the Moonman began to mourn. And here is exactly what he said to the girl.

“Since I have no home, as you say, and I am condemned never to have, let me go and let me fly through the skies.” I swear your people will like to see me, I swear I will give them pleasure. Set me free, and I will be a beacon to your people, guiding them through the tundra. Set me free, and I will turn night into day. Set me free, and I will measure the time for your people. First I will be the Moon of the Old Reindeer, then the Moon of the Birth of the Cubs, then the Moon of the Waters, then the Moon of the Leaves, then the Moon of Change, then the Moon of Love among the Reindeers, then the moon of the first winter, then the moon of the waning days …

“And if I set you free and you recover your old forces – will you not come back from heaven to earth to take me with you?” Asked the girl.

– Never! Shouted the Moonman. “I promise I’ll try until I forget the path that leads to your house.” You are too smart. Set me free, and I will give light to heaven and earth.

Then the girl freed the Moonman. He rose, and flew across the sky, flooding the earth with light. Traditional Tales of the Soviet Union Russian Federation Lisbon, Raduga Editions, 1990

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