Hawaiian Folk Tale: The Moon Lady by Eugene Field

Story type: Literature

Once there were four maidens who were the daughters of Talakoa, and they were so very beautiful that their fame spread through the universe. The oldest of these maidens was named Kaulualua, and it is of her that it is to tell this tale.

One day while Kaulualua was combing her hair she saw a tall, fair man fishing in the rivulet, and he was a stranger to her. Never before had she seen so fair a man, though in very sooth she had been wooed of many king’s sons and of chiefs from every part of the earth. Then she called to her three sisters and asked them his name, but they could not answer; this, however, they knew–he was of no country whereof they had heard tell, for he was strangely clad and he was of exceeding fair complexion and his stature surpassed that of other men.

The next day these maidens saw this same tall, fair man, but he no longer fished in the rivulet; he hunted the hares and was passing skilful thereat, so that the maidens admired him not only for his exceeding comeliness but also for his skill as a huntsman, for surely there was no hare that could escape his vigilance and the point of his arrow. So when Talakoa, their father, came that evening the maidens told him of this stranger, and he wondered who he was and whence he fared. Awaking from sleep in the middle of that night, Kaulualua saw that the stars shone with rare brilliancy, and that by their light a man was gazing upon her through the window. And she saw that the man was the tall, fair man of whom it has been spoken. So she uttered no cry, but feigned that she slept, for she saw that there was love in the tall, fair man’s eyes, and it pleaseth a maiden to be looked upon in that wise.

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When it was morning this tall, fair man came and entered that house and laid a fish and a hare upon the hearthstone and called for Talakoa. And he quoth to Talakoa:

“Old man, I would have your daughter to wife.”

Being a full crafty man, as beseemeth one of years, Talakoa replied: “Four daughters have I.”

The tall, fair man announced: “You speak sooth, as well becometh a full crafty man. Four daughters have you, and it is Kaulualua that I would have to wife.”

Saith that full crafty man, the father: “How many palm trees grow in thy possession, and how many rivers flow through thy chiefdom? Whence comest thou, gentle sir, for assuredly neither I nor mine have seen the like of thee before.”

“Good sooth,” answered the tall, fair man, “I will tell you no lie, for I would have that daughter to wife, and the things you require do well beseem a full crafty man that meaneth for his child’s good. I am the man of the moon, and my name is Marama.”

Then Talakoa and his daughters looked at one another and were sore puzzled, for they knew not whereof Marama spake. And they deemed him a madman; yet did they not laugh him to scorn, because that he had come a-wooing, and had laid the fish and the hare upon the hearthstone.

“Kind sir, bringing gifts,” quoth Talakoa, “I say no lie to you, but we know not that country whereof you speak. Pray tell us of the moon and where is it situate, and how many kumes is it distant from here?”

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“Full crafty man, father of her whom I would have to wife, I will tell you truly,” answered Marama. “The moon wherefrom I come is a mighty island in the vast sea of night, and it is distant from here so great a space that it were not to count the kumes that lie between. Exceeding fair is that island in that vast sea, and it hath mountains and valleys and plains and seas and rivers and lakes, and I am the chief overall. Atua made that island for me and put it in that mighty sea, for I am the son of Atua, and over that island in that sea I shall rule forever.”

Great wonder had they to hear tell of these things, and they knew now that Marama was the child of Atua, who made the universe and is the all-god. Then Marama said on:

“Atua bade me search and find me a wife, and upon the stars have I walked two hundred years, fishing and hunting, and seeing maidens, but of all maidens seen there is none that I did love. So now at last, in this island of this earth, I have found Kaulualua, and have seen the pearl of her beauty and smelled the cinnamon of her breath, and I would fain have her to wife that she may be ruler with me over the moon, my island in the vast, black sea of night.”

It was not for Talakoa, being of earth such as all human kind, to gainsay the words of Marama. And there was a flame in Kaulualua’s heart and incense in her breath and honey in her eyes toward this tall, fair man that was the son of Atua. So the old father said to her: “Take up the fish and the hare and roast them, my daughter, and spread them before us, and we will eat them and so pledge our troth, one to another.”

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This thing did Kaulualua, and so the man from the moon had her to wife.

That night they went from the home of Talakoa to the island in the sea of night, and Talakoa and the three maidens watched for a signal from that island, for Kaulualua told them she would build a fire thereon that they might know when she was come thither. Many, many nights they watched, and their hair grew white, and Time marked their faces with his fingers, and the moss gathered on the palm trees. At last, as if he would sleep forever, Talakoa laid himself upon his mat by the door and asked that the skies be opened to him, for he was enfeebled with age.

And while he asked this thing the three sisters saw a dim light afar off in the black sea of night, and it was such a light as had never before been seen. And this light grew larger and brighter, so that in seven nights it was thrice the size of the largest palm leaf, and it lighted up all that far-off island in the sea of night, and they knew that Kaulualua and the moon-god were in their home at last. So old Talakoa was soothed and the skies that opened unto him found him satisfied.

The three sisters lived long, and yet two hundred ages are gone since the earth received them into its bosom. Yet still upon that island in the dark sea of night abideth in love the moon-god with his bride. Atua hath been good to her, for he hath given her eternal youth, as he giveth to all wives that do truly love and serve their husbands. It is for us to see that pleasant island wherein Kaulualua liveth; it is for us to see that when Marama goeth abroad to hunt or to fish his moon-lady sitteth alone and maketh moan, and heedeth not her fires; it is for us to see that when anon he cometh back she buildeth up those fires whereon to cook food for him, and presently the fires grow brighter and the whole round moon island is lighted and warmed thereby. In this wise an exceeding fair example is set unto all wives of their duty unto their mates.

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When the sea singeth to the sands, when the cane beckoneth to the stars, and when the palm-leaves whisper to sweet-breathed night, how pleasant it is, my brown maiden, to stand with thee and look upon that island in the azure sea that spreadeth like a veil above the cocoa trees. For there we see the moon-lady, and she awaiteth her dear lord and she smileth in love; and that grace warmeth our hearts–your heart and mine, O little maiden! and we are glad with a joy that knoweth no speaking.

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