Why the Moon Waxes and Wanes: A Efik Folktale

Cross River State Nigeria - Folkli
General Location: Cross River State / Map data ©2018 Google

This Efik folktale tells the tale of the moon, who took pity on a starving old woman until the people scared her away. 

There was once an old woman who was very poor. She lived in the bush, in a small mud hut thatched with mats made from tombo palm leafs. And since there was no one looking after her, she was often very hungry.

In the old days the moon often came 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. 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 as 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 people began to grumble, and to ask why 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 time, and had seen the moon come down every evening in order for the old woman to cut her supply of meat. And as she was very frightened, she told the people all about it.

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 fled back into the sky, and never again came down to the earth. The old woman was left to starve in the bush.

Ever since that time the moon hides herself most of the day. And while she always gets fat again, giving plenty of light, this never lasts. Soon she begins to get thinner and thinner, just like in the days of the old woman who carved her meat.

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