Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Rabbit in the Moon

Tomorrow, February 3, marks the start of the Lunar New Year; the rabbit is being honored this year, which reminds me of an interesting and charming Japanese folk tale.
When you look at the moon, do you see a rabbit? What Americans normally refer to as the “Man in the Moon” looks like a rabbit to East Asians (particularly Koreans and Japanese).
The story goes something like this:
A long, long time ago, four animals – a monkey, an otter, a jackal and a rabbit – got together and resolved to be charitable the next time a full moon appeared in the night sky. Soon, they got their chance when an old man happened by and begged for food.
The man built a fire as the animals instructed. Then the monkey ran off and gathered some fruit, which he gave to the man. The otter raced to a nearby river and caught some fish for the old man. The jackal stole a lizard and a pot of milk curd to add to the meal.
Because he only knew how to gather grass, which he knew the old man wouldn’t find tasty or nourishing, the rabbit instead made the ultimate sacrifice, throwing himself on the fire and offering himself as a meal.
Touched by the rabbit’s sacrifice, the old man revealed his true identity, that of Sakra, lord of the devas (gods/deities) and ruler of Heaven. To honor the rabbit, he drew its likeness on the moon for all to see and admire.
Look up the next time there’s a full moon and check out the rabbit.


Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you! I always saw the rabbit when I was a kid and still do. I never could see "the man".

Craig Miyamoto said...

I totally agree with you, Anonymous. I used to look up and ask, "Where the heck is the man?"