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The Moon Festival Story

Item (direct transcription):

So a long time ago… long, long time ago… very long time ago… there were twelve suns. When I say “suns,” I mean S-U-N-S, not S-O-N-S. So there were twelve glaringly hot suns a long time ago. So it was very hard to grow things for farmers. They were like, “Shoot, it’s so hot, we can’t grow anything.” So a fierce warrior came amongst them and then shot down eleven of those suns. With the eleven suns gone, he left one sun up there, so now there was only one sun. So you think that’s the end of the story, but it’s not the end of the story!

The fierce warrior was very loved by the people, because now they could grow food, and now people could live not-so-miserable lives. So they made him king. But that started a very bad regime. He was a very bad king. Because he could do anything. And then, one day—he had a girlfriend—and he was chatting with his girlfriend and was like, “You know, I wanna live forever.” So he asked his prime minister: “Find me the medicine that makes me live forever.” So the prime minister knew he had to find it, or else he would die.

So he goes and he scourges and he finds the medicine. It’s two pills. He goes back to the king, and he says, “Okay, here’s how it works. There’s two pills. If you eat one pill, you live forever, but if you eat two pills, you float to the moon.” And the king’s like, “Sounds good. You know, I could eat this pill now, but for the sake of the story, I won’t.” So then he goes to bed.

So he goes to bed, and his girlfriend overhears about these two pills and their qualities. And she knew in that moment that she could not let this man live forever, because there’ll be a bad king that lives forever. So she does the unspeakable. She eats two of the pills—stuffs them into her mouth—and immediately she starts floating towards the window. Before she left, she knew she needed company as she went to the moon, [clap] so she grabbed a bunny, and they floated to the sky. So the king started looking, like, “Where are you going?” And she said [in fading voice], “Try to be a good king.” And then the king’s girlfriend floated to the moon, and legend has it—because she lived forever—she’s still on the moon… with her bunny. And the king heard his girlfriend’s words and decided: “You know what? I should be a good king.” And that’s the end of the story.

Background Information:

The informant was taught this story by his “elders” in the Chinese community. He has heard the story many times from many different people.

The informant made it clear that he does not believe the story is true, and that he does not think the people who told it to him believed it was true. Thus, though it resembles a legend, to this informant the story is in fact a tale.

Interestingly, the informant does not believe that there is any meaning or moral to the story. When his elders taught him the story, it was presented as important not due to its truthfulness or meaning, but due to its ancientness. For that reason, he believes that the story is told simply for the sake of perpetuating a tradition from generation to generation.

Contextual Information:

This story is only told on the day of the Chinese Moon Festival, ostensibly to honor the king’s girlfriend’s sacrifice.

Analysis:

The tale serves as an interesting example of how a story can have different significances to different people at different times. Presumably, this story was at one time believed to be true or at least plausible. It is likely that some active and passive bearers of the story somewhere in the world still believe that it is true. For them, the story is a legend, or perhaps even a myth. However, due to the context in which the story was related to the informant, for him it is merely a tale.

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