|The Man in the Moon|
OriginThe surface features of the moon that are visible from Earth have been interpreted by many cultures as the face or figure of a man, most often called the Man in the Moon in English. Many cultures additionally have a moon god, whether attributable to this pareidolia or not. Therefore, there are various explanations as to how there came to be a Man in the Moon.
A longstanding European tradition holds that the man was banished to the moon for some crime. Christian lore commonly held that he is the man caught gathering sticks on the sabbath and sentenced by God to death by stoning in the book of Numbers XV.32–36. Some Germanic cultures thought he was a man caught stealing from a neighbor's hedgerow to repair his own. There is a Roman legend that he is a sheep-thief.
One medieval Christian tradition claims him as Cain, the Wanderer, forever doomed to circle the Earth.
John Lyly says in the prologue to his Endymion (1591), "There liveth none under the sunne, that knows what to make of the man in the moone."
Some early texts are cautionary and stress the severity of the Man in the Moon’s punishment by emphasizing its long duration or his physical isolation. However despite this, he is often depicted as quite easily observing and even communicating with characters on earth. For example, in Queen Zixi of Ix, Queen Lulea effortlessly interacts with him merely by gazing up at him and having a conversation as if he were only a short distance away. Similarly, in an illustration accompanying “A Message to Mother Goose,” the Man in the Moon, while still sitting on the moon, is close enough to the Man so Wondrous Wise as to even place his hand on him while they talk.
Despite his supposedly eternal banishment, imposed by God Himself according to many stories, the Man in the Moon nevertheless visits the earth quite frequently and with relative ease. In L. Frank Baum’s story “The Man in the Moon,” he visits earth by sliding down a moonbeam, and in the famous nursery rhyme, he literally tumbles from the moon to land on earth without any noteworthy ill effect. In fact, the only injury he is described as sustaining is his burning himself eating earthly food. (However, Mother Goose’s Melodies depicts a different character, “The man in the south,” as the one who burns himself, and in Five Mice in a Mouse‐Trap, the Man in the Moon states that the nursery rhyme story is apocryphal anyway.) In “The Lumber Room,” he has no problem visiting earth repeatedly for long intervals, so long as he returns nightly because lighting up the moon is his responsibility, something that apparently would not occur were he not there. He also makes an impromptu visit to earth just to help Piggy escape from prison in “Tito’s Home‐made Picture‐Book,” and he is later able to attend the wedding ceremony in The Marriage of Jack and Jill.
The appearance of the Man in the Moon varies greatly in public‐domain works, depending in part on whether it is the perception of his face or of his figure in the moon that serves as inspiration. He is sometimes depicted merely as a full or crescent moon with a face but is also sometimes depicted as a normal man; in between those two extremes is a range of more‐or‐less humanoid interpretations with varying degrees of moonlike face. He is often depicted carrying either an alcoholic beverage, presumably claret, or carrying the thorn bush or bundle of sticks that originally led to his banishment, along with a lantern that represents the moonlight. He is sometimes accompanied by his dog, which can also be seen in the moon’s surface features in some interpretations.
A few sources refer to him only as the Moon, blurring the distinction between the moon itself and the man therein, and in The Marriage of Jack and Jill, he has the name Mr. Maninmoon.
In Egyptian mythology, the god Iah, whose name means ‘Moon’, is the deified moon, but the more prominent gods Thoth and Khonsu were lunarized and thus also became moon gods. Other Near Eastern moon gods include Kaskuh or Kusuh (Anatolian), Nanna or Sin (Mesopotamian) and Yarikh (Levantine), and the Turkic moon god is Ay Ata. There is also a Talmudic tradition that the image of Jacob is engraved on the moon, although no such mention appears in the Torah.
The Indian moon god is Chandra.
In Chinese mythology, the goddess Chang'e is stranded upon the moon after foolishly consuming a double dose of an immortality potion. She is accompanied by a small group of moon rabbits. The Chinese also have Wu Gang, a man eternally punished on the moon, as well as the god Yue Lao, the “old man under the moon,” and the Japanese have a moon god named Tsukuyomi.
In some traditions, the characters who are visible on the moon are not the same as the moon god, but rather have been placed there by him. In Norse mythology, Máni is the male personification of the moon who crosses the sky in a horse and carriage. He is continually pursued by the Great Wolf Hati who catches him at Ragnarok. The name Máni simply means Moon. Máni is a male god in nearly every source, but in “Jack and Jill: A Scandinavian Myth,” is portrayed as a motherly female and is called “queen of the moon.” In the Prose Edda, Máni takes the children Hiuki and Bil (the Norse Jack and Jill) to be eternally on the moon, and so it is they who are visible from earth rather than Máni.
In Haida mythology, the figure represents a boy gathering wood, who was taken up from the earth by the Moon as a punishment for disrespect.
There are a number of different tales in Maori mythology about Rona, who is sometimes portrayed as a lunar deity and sometimes as the human brought to the moon by such a deity (and is described as male in some stories and female in others). The Cook Islanders have a moon god named Marama.
Public Domain Literary Appearances
Of more than one version of the character
- Teutonic Mythology, by Jacob Grimm, 1835, trans. James Steven Stallybrass, 1883.
- Shakespeare’s Puck, and His Folkslore, …, by William Bell, 1852.
- Curious Myths of the Middle Ages, by Sabine Baring‐Gould, 1866.
- “The Moon,” English Folk‐lore, by T. F. Thiselton‐Dyer, 1878.
- Moon Lore, by Timothy Harley, 1885.
- Luniolatry; Ancient and Modern …, by Gerald Massey, .
- Classic Myths: Greek, German, and Scandinavian, …, by Mary Catherine Judd, 1896.
- The Book of Nature Myths, by Florence Holbrook, 1902.
- Oriental Studies, by Lewis Dayton Burdick, 1905.
- Dictionary of Mythology Folklore and Symbols, by Gertrude Jobes, 1961.
Of the Man in the Moon (Anglosphere and Medieval Christian tradition)
- “Mon in þe Mone” (song), Harley manuscript 2253, ca. 1340.
- “A Song upon the Man in the Moon,” Ancient Songs, from the Time of King Henry the Third, to the Revolution, 1790.
- “The Man in the Moon Drinks Claret” (song), 1621, incorporated into later songs.
- The Man in the Moone: or A Diſcourſe of a Voyage Thither … (reprinted as The Strange Voyage and Adventures of Domingo Gonſales, to the World in the Moon …), by Francis Godwin, 1638.
- “Mad Maudlin, to Find out Tom of Bedlam,” Songs Compleat, Pleasant and Divertive …, words by Thomas d’Urfey, 1719.
- “To the Man in the Moon,” The Humouriſt, by Thomas Gordon, 1720.
- The Man in the Moon; or, Travels into the Lunar Regions, …, by William Thomson, 1783.
- “The Man in the Moon” (nursery rhyme).
- Gammer Gurton’s Garland: or, The Nursery Parnassus …, 1810.
- Mother Goose’s Melodies …, 1833.
- The Nursery Rhymes of England …, 1842.
- “The Man in the Moon” (folk song).
- Four Books of Choice Old Scotish Ballads …, 1868.
- The Ballad Book, 1885.
- The Man in the Moon, by an undergraduate of Worcester College, Oxford, 1839.
- An Introduction to Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, by James Halliwell‐Phillipps, 1841.
- “A Shrewd Old Fellow’s the Man in the Moon” (song), words by Charles Sloman, 1848.
- “The Man in the Moon” (folk song), Roud 21397, collected by Alfred Williams.
- “The Man in the Moon” (reprinted as “The Lumber Room”), by Elizabeth Prentiss, The Man in the Moon and Other Tales, 1872.
- “The Giant Watabore,” by Mary Mapes Dodge, St. Nicholas, Dec. 1873.
- The Man in the Moon and Other People, by Rossiter W. Raymond, 1874.
- Five Mice in a Mouse‐Trap …, by Laura E. Richards, 1880.
- “A Christmas Dinner with the Man in the Moon,” by Washington Gladden, St. Nicholas, vol. 8, Dec. 1880.
- “The Man in the Moon,” by James Whitcomb Riley, The Indianapolis Journal, 12 May 1883.
- “Goody Santa Claus on a Sleigh‐Ride,” by Katharine Lee Bates, Wide Awake, vol. 28, Dec. 1888.
- “Dutch Lullaby” (reprinted as “Wynken, Blynken, and Nod”) (poem), A Little Book of Western Verse, by Eugene Field, 1889.
- “Elfie’s Visit to Cloudland and the Moon,” St. Nicholas, vol. 18, Apr. 1891.
- “My Sweetheart’s the Man in the Moon” (song), by James Thornton, 1892.
- “The Man in the Moon,” Mother Goose in Prose, by L. Frank Baum, 1897.
- “The Old Man in the Moon,” anonymous, and “Little Man in the Moon,” by Gussie Packard DuBois, in Cinderella and Other Stories …, ca. 1900.
- The Man in the Moon or the Unexpected, by Bertram Dendron, 1901.
- The Surprising Adventures of the Man in the Moon …, by Ray M. Steward (pseudonym of Edward Stratemeyer), 1903.
- “Tito’s Home‐made Picture‐Book,” by George Frederick Welsford, St. Nicholas, vol. 31, May 1904.
- Queen Zixi of Ix; or, The Story of the Magic Cloak, by L. Frank Baum, St. Nicholas, vol. 32, Nov. 1904.
- “A Message to Mother Goose,” by Ellen Manly, St. Nicholas, vol. 32, Dec. 1904.
- “Man in the Moon,” Brand’s Popular Antiquities of Great Britain, by W. Carew Hazlitt, 1905.
- “The Man in the Moon,” Cassell’s Popular Science, ca. 1900–06.
- “Two men in a Balloon” (rhyme), The Bull Moose Mother Goose, by Sallie Macrum Cubbage, 1912.
- “The Man in the Moon” (folk song), Roud 19710, reprinted in “Beliefs and Customs,” by Paul G. Brewster, The Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore, vol. 1, 1952.
- The Marriage of Jack and Jill, by Lilian Clisby Bridgham, 1913.
- “Ivory Adventures: The Man in the Moon,” John Martin’s Book, reprinted in St. Nicholas, vol. 43, Mar. 1916.
- Sandy, Skip and the Man in the Moon, by Inez Hogan, 1928.
- “About Saint Nicholas,” Gay Legends of the Saints, by Frances Margaret Fox, 1942.
Of Iah, Thoth and Khonsu (Egyptian mythology)
- Egyptian Mythology, by Wilhelm Max Müller, 1918.
Of Nanna, Sin and Yarikh (Mesopotamian and Levantine mythology)
- “Ur of the Chaldees,” by Edgar James Banks, Monumental Records, vol. 1, June 1900.
- A Popular Handbook of Useful and Interesting Information for Beginners in the Elementary Study of Assyriology … (revised as Bible Student’s Handbook of Assyriology), by Francis Collins Norton, 1908.
- Sumerian Hymns from Cuneiform Texts in the British Museum, by Frederick Augustus Vanderburgh, 1908.
Of Chandra and Soma (Indian mythology)
- The Mythology of the Hindus …, by Charles Coleman, 1832.
Of Máni (Norse mythology)
- Prose Edda, compiled by Snorri Sturluson, ca. 1220.
- The Prose or Younger Edda …, trans. George Webbe Dasent, 1842.
- Trans. I. A. Blackwell, Northern Antiquities; or, An Historical Account of the Manners, Customs, Religion and Laws, Maritime Expeditions and Discoveries, Language and Literature of the Ancient Scandinavians …, 1847.
- The Younger Edda: Also Called Snorre’s Edda, or the Prose Edda; …, trans. Rasmus B. Anderson, 1879.
- The Prose Edda, trans. Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur, 1916.
- Northern Mythology …, by Benjamin Thorpe, 1851.
- Norse Mythology; or, The Religion of Our Forefathers …, by Rasmus B. Anderson, 1875.
- Lincolnshire and the Danes, by G. S. Streatfeild, 1884.
- Myths of Northern Lands, by H. A. Guerber, 1895.
- In the Days of Giants, by Abbie Farwell Browne, 1902.
- Myths of the Norsemen, by H. A. Guerber, 1908.
- Teutonic Myth and Legend, by Donald Alexander Mackenzie, .
- Norse Mythology, by the Oregon Elementary English Project, 1971.
Of the Moon in Haida mythology
- The Hydah Mission, Queen Charlotte’s Islands, by Charles Harrison, 1884.
Of Rona and Marama (Maori mythology)
- Narrative of a Voyage to New Zealand, Performed in the Years 1814 and 1815 …, by John Liddiard Nicholas, 1817.
- The Ancient History of the Maori, His Mythology and Traditions, by John White, 1887.
- “Marama: The Moon‐God,” by Arthur Henry Adams, The Monthly Review, vol. 9, Oct. 1902.
Public Domain Film Appearances
Public Domain Comic Appearances
- All Good Comics (1944)
- Blue Ribbon Comics #1
- Crack Comics #31
- Spy Smasher #8
- There is a tradition that the Man in the Moon enjoyed drinking, especially claret. An old ballad runs (original spelling):
- "Our man in the moon drinks clarret,
- With powder-beef, turnep, and carret.
- If he doth so, why should not you
- Drink until the sky looks blew?"
- In the English Middle Ages and renaissance, the moon was held to be the god of drunkards, and at least three London taverns were named "The Man in the Moone."
- He is assigned to four code points in the Unicode text standard: 🌚 (U+1F31A New moon with face); 🌛 (U+1F31B First quarter moon with face); 🌜 (U+1F31C Last quarter moon with face); 🌝 (U+1F31D Full moon with face).
- Wikipedia (Man in the Moon)
- Wikipedia (Wu Gang)
- Wikipedia (List of lunar deities)
- Comic Vine (Khonshu)
- Comic Vine (Tsukiyomi)
- Grand Comics Database
- Oz Wiki
- Muppet Wiki