Native American Legends
Rabbit and the Moon Man
A Micmac Legend
Long ago, Rabbit was a great hunter. He lived with his grandmother
in a lodge which stood deep in the Micmac forest. It was winter
and Rabbit set traps and laid snares to catch game for food. He
caught many small animals and birds, until one day he discovered
that some mysterious being was robbing his traps. Rabbit and his
grandmother became hungry. Though he visited his traps very early
each morning, he always found them empty.
At first Rabbit thought that the robber might be a cunning wolverine,
until one morning he found long, narrow footprints alongside his
trap line. It was, he thought, the tracks of the robber, but they
looked like moonbeams. Each morning Rabbit rose earlier and earlier,
but the being of the long foot was always ahead of him and always
his traps were empty.
Rabbit made a trap from a bowstring with the loop so cleverly fastened
that he felt certain that he would catch the robber when it came.
He took one end of the thong with him and hid himself behind a clump
of bushes from which he could watch his snare. It was bright moonlight
while he waited, but suddenly it became very dark as the moon disappeared.
A few stars were still shining and there were no clouds in the sky,
so Rabbit wondered what had happened to the moon.
Someone or something came stealthily through the trees and then
Rabbit was almost blinded by a flash of bright, white light which
went straight to his trap line and shone through the snare which
he had set. Quick as a lightning flash, Rabbit jerked the bowstring
and tightened the noose.
There was a sound of struggling and the light lurched from side
to side. Rabbit knew the tugging on his string that he had caught
the robber. He fastened the bowstring to a nearby sapling to hold
the loop tight.
Rabbit raced back to tell his grandmother, who was a wise old woman,
what had happened. She told him that he must return at once and
see who or what he had caught. Rabbit, who was very frightened,
wanted to wait for daylight but his grandmother said that might
be too late, so he returned to his trap line.
When he came near his traps, Rabbit saw that the bright light was
still there. It was so bright that it hurt his eyes. He bathed them
in the icy water of a nearby brook, but still they smarted. He made
big snowballs and threw them at the light, in the hope of putting
it out. As they went close to the light, he heard them sizzle and
saw them melt.
Next, Rabbit scooped up great pawsful of soft clay from the stream
and made many big clay balls. He was a good shot and threw the balls
with all of his force at the dancing white light. He heard them
strike hard and then his prisoner shouted.
Then a strange, quivering voice asked why he had been snared and
demanded that he be set free at once, because he was the man in
the moon and he must be home before dawn came. His face had been
spotted with clay and, when Rabbit went closer, the moon man saw
him and threatened to kill him and all of his tribe if he were not
released at once.
Rabbit was so terrified that he raced back to tell his grandmother
about his strange captive. She too was much afraid and told Rabbit
to return and release the thief immediately. Rabbit went back, and
his voice shook with fear as he told the man in the moon that he
would be released if he promised never to rob the snares again.
To make doubly sure, Rabbit asked him to promise that he would
never return to ear, and the moon man swore that he would never
do so. Rabbit could hardly see in the dazzling light, but at last
he managed to gnaw through the bowstring with his teeth and the
man in the moon soon disappeared in the sky, leaving a bright trail
of light behind him.
Rabbit had been nearly blinded by the great light and his shoulders
were badly scorched. Even today, rabbits blink as though light is
too strong for their eyes; their eyelids are pink, and their eyes
water if they look at a bright light. Their lips quiver, telling
of Rabbit's terror.
The man in the moon has never returned to Earth. When he lights
the world, one can still see the marks of the clay which Rabbit
threw on his face. Sometimes he disappears for a few nights, when
he is trying to rub the marks of the clay balls from his face. Then
the world is dark; but when the man in the moon appears again, one
can see that he has never been able to clean the clay marks from
his shining face.
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