The Girl Who Lost the Moon
Long and long ago, when the stars were new and the trees we think of as old were still just tiny seeds and acorns, there lived a Lady and a Lord, and they made their home in a Sacred Grove. They were known to people all across the world by different names. Some people called them Ceridwen and Cernunnos; some called them Asherah and El; some called them Zeus and Hera; but there was one person in the entire world who had a special name for them: she called them "Mother" and "Father".
Her name was Coralune, which is a terribly long name for so small a person, so (except when she was in trouble), everyone, even her mother, called her "Luna".
On Luna's seventh birthday, the Lady and Lord brought her a gift at the ending of the day. Luna began to open the box, and as the sun's rays disappeared behind the mountains to the west, she gasped, for something inside the box was glowing. There, upon a cushion of softest moss, was a round stone, as round as a ball, and it was set on a fine silver chain.
Only half of the Stone was bright; the left half was so dark that in the dimness of the shadows under the trees, she could barely see it. No matter which way she turned
the Stone, no matter how she looked at it, the half on the right was bright, and the half on the left was dark. Luna thanked her parents, for she was a polite young lady,
and she hung the Stone around her neck by the chain.
As the days passed, Luna noticed that the bright part of the Stone was growing larger. After perhaps a week, the whole face of the Stone glowed brightly in the night,
and Luna could even use the light to find her way through the darkened forest. Then, after a few more days, the light started to fade, and the Stone grew dark upon
the right side.
Luna was afraid that she had broken the Stone somehow, so she ran to her father and asked him if he could fix it. "It is not broken, little Luna; that is the magic of this
Stone. Thirteen times each year, it will pass from darkness into light and then back to darkness again. It is a symbol of life itself, which is born in darkness, and grows
strong and bright for a time, and then fades away again to make room for future generations. As we do not fear the cycle of life, you should not fear that your Stone will
fail. As long as life endures, your Stone will mark its passing."
It became known to many of those who lived near the Sacred Grove that Luna's Stone told the passing of the days, and people began to seek her out, asking questions
like "Mistress Luna, how many times has the Stone turned since midwinter? For we would like to know when the time is right to plant our crops." Or, "Mistress Luna,
how many times has the Stone turned since midsummer? For we need to know when to make the harvests of grain and other crops." Luna answered every one of these
questions, and it made her feel good and important to be able to help so many people.
One day, Luna was playing in the shallow waters of the river that ran through the Sacred Grove. As she stepped from one stone to another, her foot slipped, and she
struck her head upon a rock, and she lost her wits for a time. The water of the river bore her downstream, past the boundaries of the Sacred Grove, and into another
part of the forest.
There, in the wilder forest, upon the bank of the river, there sat a man. He was a man who, like Luna's parents, had many different names. When he traveled among the
Drum People of the far east and south, he wore the form of a spider, and they called him Anansi, and were ever careful around him, for he was full of mischief. When his
journeys carried him to the north, the People of the Long Boats named him Loki, and he brought tricks and deception even to their gods. The Feathered People to the
west named him Coyote, who could create as well as destroy. Even the animals had names for him, for he had traveled everywhere there was to go, and done everything
there was to do, and been everything there was to be. But for now he lived upon the bank of the river, and the people who lived nearby had a different name for him.
As he sat upon a log, feeding stones to the fish to see if they would sink, he saw that there was a girl-child floating down the river toward him. He was a curious man, and
a mischievous one, it is true, but not an evil man; and he used a long branch to pull the girl out of the river. And what did he see upon her chest, but a round Stone, set in silver. And didn't that Stone shine brightly? Didn't it just?
After a moment, Luna stirred, and looked up to see a strange man peering down at her. He was just taking his hand out of his pocket, and he smiled. "You must be the young lady Luna that I have heard so much about. My name is Robin."
"Robin!" she said. "I have heard about you!" She looked around, bewildered, and said, "But how did I get here? You do not live in the Grove."
"Indeed I do not, young child. As to how you got here, the bump on your head tells me you took a fall. The river brought you here, and I pulled you out. Follow the river that way," he pointed upstream, "and it will take you back to your Grove and your home." He smiled, and there was a sparkle of laughter in his eye, but Luna did not know why.
She followed the bank as he had told her, and soon she found herself among familiar trees, and ran home, calling for her mother.
"What is wrong, Luna?" her mother asked, putting down a squirrel she had been talking to.
"I fell in the river, mother! I hit my head on a rock!
" The Lady looked, and saw the bump upon Luna's head, and laid a healing hand upon it. Then she said, "Luna, where is your Stone?"
Luna looked down, for until that moment, she had not realized that the Stone and its chain were gone from around her neck. "Oh, no, mother! It must have come off my neck when I fell in the river! I have to find it!" She ran back toward the water, and the Lady ran with her.
But the Stone was not there in the shallows, though they searched for it long and hard. Luna did not know where it could have gone, and feared that the river had carried it away. With tears on her face, she turned to walk home, holding her mother's hand.
That night, her father tried to comfort her, saying "Do not cry so. The Stone was just a thing, and it is more important that you are safe. Be thankful that the river did not carry you too far; for that way, in the Wilder Forest, lives Robin the trickster. He calls himself 'Goodfellow', but that is just another deceit. You must never ever go down the river past the edges of the Grove, Luna. Robin is a dangerous man, and he would take from you anything that you were not careful to keep safe. Promise me you will not go down the river."
"I promise," said Luna, and so stern was her father that she feared to tell him that she had already been down the river, and already met Robin the Goodfellow.
She was sad at the loss of her Stone, but as the Lady and Lord had told her, it was just a thing, of no real importance. Until the people began coming to her, and asking when to plant the seeds, and when to harvest the crops, and she could not tell them, for the Stone was gone. And that was a very bad year; the crops were planted too early, and many died in a late frost. And the harvest was taken too late, and the autumn rains destroyed much of the grain.
Luna saw that the people were hungry because she had foolishly lost the Stone, and she determined to find it. She thought she knew of one person who might know where it was: the one other person who had seen her after her fall. She dressed in a robe of palest green woven spider silk that her mother had asked the orb-weavers to make for her (and one must ask spiders very nicely indeed to make anything at all). The sleeves of the robe flowed in a shimmer from her arms in the breeze.
Biting her lip, knowing that she was breaking her promise to her father, she set off down the river to find the home of Robin Goodfellow.
She found him on the bank, not far from where she had seen him before. He was tying feathers to snakes and tossing them in the air. "Did you know," he said as she approached, "that snakes refuse to fly?"
"If snakes could fly, Robin Goodfellow, we would call them birds," she said.
Robin thought about this, and nodded. "What can I do for you, Mistress Luna?"
"I have lost my Stone, and the people are suffering because of it. I lost it on the day you found me in the river. Have you seen it?"
"Lost your Stone? Dear me, how simply awful. And you have not seen it since? You've no idea where it is? No idea at all?"
"No. I was wearing it when I went to the river, and I fell, and when I woke up, I was here with you, and it was gone."
"I cannot tell you where your Stone is," he said, "but perhaps I can help you to search for it."
"Oh, would you?" she cried, clapping her hands. "That would be wonderful!"
"You are a clever girl, but there is only so much you can see from the ground. Would it not be easier to search for your Stone if you could fly?"
"But I cannot fly, master Robin. And I do not think that tying feathers to me and tossing me into the air is going to work any better than it did for the snakes."
"No, no feathers. For you, I have something different. I can put a spell upon you, child, that will let you fly even above the trees. But I must have your permission to do so. Will you let me?"
"But what if I fall? What if the spell stops working?"
"You shall not fall, and you have my promise that the spell will last not a moment longer than it takes you to touch your Stone again. And," he said with a gleam in his eye, "not a moment less. You shall not fall."
"Very well, then," she said, "you have my permission."
As evening crept across the world, Robin spoke a few words in a language that has long been lost to men, and Luna began to feel herself change. She was shrinking, but her eyebrows grew long and tall, like antennae. Each leg became two legs, and with her arms made six. And her spider-silk robe stiffened, grew onto her back, and the long trailing sleeves became wings of palest green. Robin reached down to where she crouched upon the ground, and lifted her up. The tips of her wings stretched from his wrist to the tips of his fingers. He lifted her to his face, and she was afraid. "A moth you are, Luna, and a moth you shall remain, until you touch your Stone again. Search this world until you find it." He grinned, showing her his teeth, and tossed her into the sky. "Snakes may not be able to fly, young Luna, but you can," he said as she fluttered into the sky to search for her lost Stone.
When she was gone, Robin giggled to himself, and reached into a pocket, pulling out a long silver chain. On the end of that chain was Luna's Stone, at the brightest part of its cycle. Robin danced around in a circle, laughing to himself, laughing at Luna the Moth-child. The light from the Stone cast bobbing shadows among the trees, making them seem to dance along with him. So pleased with his own cleverness was Robin that he did not stop dancing until he heard a voice.
"Robin Goodfellow. Renart the Fox. Loki. Seth. Coyote. Anansi. Compere Lapin. By these seven names, among all the names you hold, I bind you." And Robin's feet would not move from where they touched the earth, and his arms were as tree branches, held out from his body. The Stone hung swinging from his left hand, as the Lord of the Sacred Grove stepped out of shadow and took it from him.
"So it was you who took my daughter's Stone. I should have guessed. And now she is gone, and I have no doubt that you are involved in that as well. Tell me what happened. What you have done to her. Speak!"
Robin is a clever one, but the Lord of the Sacred Grove is no fool, and over many hours, Robin told him what he wished to know. But one thing he could not tell was where Luna had gone, for the wind answers not to Robin Goodfellow, not even to the Lord and Lady, and so the Lord returned home without his daughter. He knew that until Luna found and touched her Stone again, she would never return to them, so he and his Lady set the Stone in the sky, and named it Luna after their lost daughter, in the hopes that each night it might lead her back to them.
There are some who say that Robin the Trickster still stands in the forest, rooted like a tree where he danced on that night, and some fewer still who say that all trees dance in memory of that night, when the wind blows over the face of the world.
I cannot tell you whether that is true; for the dancing of trees is another tale. But I can tell you this, and it is as true as water and earth and wind and sun:
Luna still searches the world for her Stone, so that she may find her home again. If you ever see her, the Luna Moth, do not touch her, for her wings are as fragile as spider silk. But remember to tell her where the moon was in the sky when last you saw it, so that she can fly up and touch it, and go home at last.