|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).
Public Domain Literary Appearances
Of more than one version of the character
- “Sky and Stars” („Himmel und Gestirne“), ch. 22 of Teutonic Mythology (Deutsche Mythologie), by Jacob Grimm, 1835, trans. James Steven Stallybrass, 1883. (Internet Archive)
- Shakespeare’s Puck, and His Folkslore, Illustrated from the Superstitions of All Nations, but More Especially from the Earliest Religion and Rites of Northern Europe and the Wends, ch. 5, by William Bell, 1852. (Internet Archive)
- “The Man in the Moon,” in Curious Myths of the Middle Ages, by Sabine Baring‐Gould, 1866. (Internet Archive)
- “The Moon,” ch. 2 of English Folk‐lore, by T. F. Thiselton‐Dyer, 1878. (Internet Archive)
- “The Man in the Moon,” “The Moon Mostly a Male Deity,” “The Moon a World‐wide Deity” etc., in Moon Lore, by Rev. Timothy Harley, 1885. (Internet Archive)
- “The Man in the Moon: German Myth” and “Jack and Jill: A Scandinavian Myth,” in Classic Myths: Greek, German, and Scandinavian, Retold for Primary Pupils, by Mary Catherine Judd, 1896. (HathiTrust)
- “The Children in the Moon” and “Why There Is a Man in the Moon,” in The Book of Nature Myths, by Florence Holbrook, 1902. (Internet Archive)
- “Notes on Faiths and Folk‐lore of the Moon,” ch. 3 of Oriental Studies, by Lewis Dayton Burdick, 1905. (Internet Archive)
- Dictionary of Mythology Folklore and Symbols, by Gertrude Jobes, 1961. In the public domain from failure to renew copyright. Entries for Chandra (p. 310), Face in the moon (543), Jacob (858), Khensu (923), Mani (1058), Moon (1119), Sin (1456), Thoth (1562), Tsukiyomi (1604) and Wu Kang (1693). (HathiTrust)
Of the Man in the Moon (Anglosphere and Medieval Christian tradition)
- “Mon in þe Mone” (song), Harley manuscript 2253, booklet 6, text 81, ca. 1340.
- “A Song upon the Man in the Moon,” in Ancient Songs, from the Time of King Henry the Third, to the Revolution, ed. Joseph Ritson, 1790. (Internet Archive)
- “The Man in the Moon Drinks Claret” (song), Roud Folk Song Index no. 20006, possibly from a play by the same name, 1621, and incorporated into later songs published as broadsides.
- “The Man in the Moon Drinks Claret …,” Bagford Ballads and Roxburghe Ballads. (UCSB) (Internet Archive)
- “A New Mad Tom of Bedlam …,” words possibly by William Basse, music possibly by John Cooper, Bagford Ballads and Roxburghe Ballads, reprinted in Songs Compleat, Pleasant and Divertive …, vol. 3, 1719, and elsewhere. (UCSB) (Internet Archive) (Internet Archive)
- The Nursery Rhymes of England, Collected Principally from Oral Tradition, collected by James Halliwell‐Phillipps, 1842. (HathiTrust)
- The Man in the Moone: or A Diſcourſe of a Voyage Thither by Domingo Gonſales the Speedy Meſſenger, by Francis Godwin, 1638.
- Reprinted as The Strange Voyage and Adventures of Domingo Gonſales, to the World in the Moon; Containing an Account of the Iſland of St. Hellena; the Place Where He Reſided Some Years in, and Where He Planned This Wonderful Voyage; His Entering on Board One of the Homeward‐Bound Eaſt‐India Ships for Spain; Their Running on the Rocks near the Pike of Teneriff, to Avoid an Engliſh Squadron of Ships, That Were in Purſuit of the Spaniſh Fleet; Gonſales Had Just Time to Fix His Machine, Which Carried Him in Safety to the Pike of Teneriff, Having Reſted His Ganſas on the Mountain, Whence Was Purſued by the Savages; When Giving the Signal to His Birds, They Aroſe in the Air with Him for Their Journey to the Moon: The Wonderful Apparitions and Devils He Met with in His Progreſs; Their Temptations to Him, Which He Avoided, and Their Supplying Him with Choice Provisions; His Leaving This Helliſh Crew, and Proceeding on His Voyage to the Moon; His Safe Arrival There; the Manners, Cuſtoms, and Language of the Emperors, Kings, Princes and People: His Short Stay There, to the Great Grief of the Lunars; the Ineſtimable Preſents in Jewels the Author Received at His Departure; His Repaſſing to Our Earthly Globe Again, and Was Set down in China by His Birds; His Being Taken for a Magician by the Country People, and Preſerved from Their Fury by a Chineſe Mandarin; His Going Aboard an India Ship Bound to Europe; His Safe Arrival in His Own Country, Where He Made His Diſcoveries to the King of Spain, Who Held Several Cabinet Councils to Deliberate on a Proper Uſe to Be Made of Theſe Diſcoveries; with a Deſcription of the Pike of Teneriff, as Travelled up by Some Engliſh Merchants, 1768. (Internet Archive)
- “Mad Maudlin, to Find out Tom of Bedlam,” in Songs Compleat, Pleasant and Divertive …, vol. 4, words by Thomas d’Urfey, 1719. (Internet Archive)
- “To the Man in the Moon,” in The Humouriſt: Being Eſſays upon Several Subjects …, by Thomas Gordon, 1720. (HathiTrust)
- The Man in the Moon; or, Travels into the Lunar Regions, by the Man of the People, by William Thomson, 1783.
- “The Man in the Moon” (nursery rhyme), Roud Folk Song Index no. 19744.
- Gammer Gurton’s Garland: or, The Nursery Parnassus; A Choice Collection of Pretty Songs and Verses, for the Amusement of All Little Good Children Who Can Neither Read nor Run, part 2, collected by Joseph Ritson, 1810. (Internet Archive)
- Mother Goose’s Melodies: The Only Pure Edition; Containing All That Have Ever Come to Light of Her Memorable Writings, Together with Those Which Have Been Discovered Among the Mss. of Herculaneum, Likewise Every One Recently Found in the Same Stone Box Which Hold the Golden Plates of the Book of Mormon; The Whole Compared, Revised, and Sanctioned, by One of the Annotators of the Goose Family …, 1833. (Internet Archive)
- The Nursery Rhymes of England, Collected Principally from Oral Tradition, collected by James Halliwell‐Phillipps, 1842. (Internet Archive)
- Mother Goose; or, National Nursery Rhymes and Nursery Songs, music by James William Elliott, 1872. (HathiTrust)
- A Nursery Rhyme Picture Book, ca. 1914. (Internet Archive)
- The Real Mother Goose, 1916. (Internet Archive)
- “The Man in the Moon” (folk song), Roud Folk Song Index no. 473.
- The Man in the Moon: A Poem, by an undergraduate of Worcester College, Oxford, 1839. (Internet Archive)
- An Introduction to Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, ch. 6, by James Halliwell‐Phillipps, 1841. (Internet Archive)
- “A Shrewd Old Fellow’s the Man in the Moon” (song), words by Charles Sloman, music by Edward J. Loder, 1848, reprinted in Historic Magazine; and Notes and Queries, vol. 26, no. 10, Oct. 1908. (HathiTrust)
- “The Man in the Moon” (folk song), Roud Folk Song Index no. 21397, collected by Alfred Williams. (Vaughan Williams Memorial Library)
- “The Man in the Moon,” [by Elizabeth Prentiss,] in The Man in the Moon and Other Tales, 1872. (Google Books)
- Reprinted as “The Lumber Room,” in Six Little Princesses and What They Turned into and Other Fairy Tales, . (Internet Archive)
- “The Giant Watabore: A Big Child’s Story,” by Mary Mapes Dodge, St. Nicholas, Dec. 1873. (Internet Archive)
- “The Man in the Moon,” in The Man in the Moon and Other People, by Rossiter W. Raymond, 1874. (HathiTrust)
- Five Mice in a Mouse‐Trap, by the Man in the Moon: Done in Vernacular, from the Lunacular, by Laura E. Richards, 1880. (Internet Archive)
- “The Man in the Moon,” by James Whitcomb Riley, The Indianapolis Journal, 12 May 1883. Reprinted in Nye and Riley’s Railway Guide, 1888. (Internet Archive)
- Published with additional stanzas in Rhymes of Childhood, 1890. (Internet Archive)
- “Dutch Lullaby” (poem), in A Little Book of Western Verse, by Eugene Field, 1889. (Internet Archive)
- Reprinted with revisions in Longman’s Magazine, vol. 17, no. 98, Dec. 1890. (Internet Archive)
- “Elfie’s Visit to Cloudland and the Moon,” fourth installment, St. Nicholas, vol. 18, no. 6, Apr. 1891. (Internet Archive)
- “My Sweetheart’s the Man in the Moon” (song), by James Thornton, 1892. (Smithsonian) (NYPL) (JHU)
- “The Man in the Moon,” in Mother Goose in Prose, by L. Frank Baum, 1897. (Internet Archive)
- “The Old Man in the Moon,” anonymous, and “Little Man in the Moon,” by Gussie Packard DuBois, in Cinderella and Other Stories with Numerous Illustrations, ca. 1900. (HathiTrust)
- “The Man in the Moon: How He Got There and His Future Destiny,” in The Man in the Moon or the Unexpected, by Bertram Dendron, 1901. (Internet Archive)
- The Surprising Adventures of the Man in the Moon, Showing How, in Company with Santa Claus, Robinson Crusoe, Cinderella and Her Prince, Jack the Giant Killer, Little Red Riding Hood, Old Mother Hubbard, Jack Sprat and His Wife, Tommy Tucker and Some Others, He Made a Remarkable Tour over Land and Sea and Through the Air, by Ray M. Steward (pseudonym of Edward Stratemeyer), 1903.
- “Tito’s Home‐made Picture‐Book,” by George Frederick Welsford, St. Nicholas, vol. 31, no. 7, May 1904. (Internet Archive)
- “The Weaving of the Magic Cloak,” ch. 1 of Queen Zixi of Ix; or, The Story of the Magic Cloak, by L. Frank Baum, St. Nicholas, vol. 32, no. 1, Nov. 1904. (Internet Archive)
- Reprinted in book form, 1905. (Internet Archive)
- “A Message to Mother Goose,” by Ellen Manly, St. Nicholas, vol. 32, no. 2, Dec. 1904. (Internet Archive)
- “Man in the Moon,” in Brand’s Popular Antiquities of Great Britain: Faiths and Folklore; a Dictionary of National Beliefs, Superstitions and Popular Customs, Past and Current, with Their Classical and Foreign Analogues, Described and Illustrated …, vol. 2, by W. Carew Hazlitt, 1905. (Internet Archive)
- “The Man in the Moon,” in Cassell’s Popular Science, vol. 1, ca. 1900–06. Uncredited article is apparently in the public domain. (Internet Archive)
- “Two men in a Balloon,/Went up to the Moon” (rhyme), in The Bull Moose Mother Goose, by Sallie Macrum Cubbage, 1912. (HathiTrust)
- “The Man in the Moon” (folk song), Roud Folk Song Index no. 19710, reprinted in “Beliefs and Customs,” footnote 17, by Paul G. Brewster, The Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore, vol. 1, 1952. (Internet Archive)
- The Marriage of Jack and Jill: A Mother Goose Entertainment in Two Scenes, by Lilian Clisby Bridgham, 1913. (Internet Archive)
- “Ivory Adventures: The Man in the Moon,” John Martin’s Book, reprinted in St. Nicholas, vol. 43, no. 5, Mar. 1916. (Internet Archive)
- Sandy, Skip and the Man in the Moon, by Inez Hogan, 1928. In the public domain from failure to renew copyright. (HathiTrust)
Of Iah, Thoth and Khonsu (Egyptian mythology)
- Egyptian Mythology, by Wilhelm Max Müller, part of The Mythology of All Races in Thirteen Volumes, vol. 12, 1918. (Internet Archive)
Of Chandra and Soma (Indian mythology)
- The Mythology of the Hindus, with Notices of Various Mountain and Island Tribes, Inhabiting the Two Peninsulas of India and the Neighbouring Islands; and an Appendix, Comprising the Minor Avatars, and the Mythological and Religious Terms, &c. &c. of the Hindus …, by Charles Coleman, 1832. (Internet Archive)
Of Máni (Norse mythology)
- Gylfaginning, in Prose Edda, compiled by Snorri Sturluson, ca. 1220.
- “Gylfi’s Mocking,” in The Prose or Younger Edda …, trans. George Webbe Dasent, 1842. (Internet Archive)
- “Of the Sun and Moon” and “Of the Wolves That Pursue the Sun and Moon,” trans. I. A. Blackwell, in Northern Antiquities; or, An Historical Account of the Manners, Customs, Religion and Laws, Maritime Expeditions and Discoveries, Language and Literature of the Ancient Scandinavians, (Danes, Swedes, Norwegians and Icelanders): With Incidental Notices Respecting Our Saxon Ancestors … Revised Throughout, and Considerably Enlarged; with a Translation of the Prose Edda from the Original Old Norse Text; and Notes Critical and Explanatory …, 1847. (Internet Archive)
- “The Creation—(Continued),” ch. 5 of The Younger Edda: Also Called Snorre’s Edda, or the Prose Edda; an English Version of the Foreword; the Fooling of Gylfe, the Afterword; Brage’s Talk, the Afterword to Brage’s Talk, and the Important Passages in the Poetical Diction (Skaldskaparmal), with an Introduction, Notes, Vocabulary, and Index, trans. Rasmus B. Anderson, 1879. (Internet Archive)
- “Here Begins the Beguiling of Gylfi,” in The Prose Edda, trans. Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur, 1916. (Internet Archive)
- Northern Mythology, Comprising the Principal Popular Traditions and Superstitions of Scandinavia, North Germany, and the Netherlands; Compiled from Original and Other Sources, vol. 1, sec. 1, by Benjamin Thorpe, 1851. (Internet Archive)
- Norse Mythology; or, The Religion of Our Forefathers, Containing All the Myths of the Eddas, Systematized and Interpreted; with an Introduction, Vocabulary and Index, by Rasmus B. Anderson, 1875. (Internet Archive)
- “Records of Mythology,” ch. 4 of Lincolnshire and the Danes, by Rev. G. S. Streatfeild, 1884. (Internet Archive)
- “The Beginning of All Things,” ch. 1 of Myths of Northern Lands: Narrated with Special Reference to Literature and Art, by H. A. Guerber, 1895. (Internet Archive)
- “The Beginning of Things,” in In the Days of Giants: A Book of Norse Tales, by Abbie Farwell Browne, 1902. (Internet Archive)
- Myths of the Norsemen, by H. A. Guerber, 1908. (Internet Archive)
- “Story of Creation,” ch. 1 of Teutonic Myth and Legend: An Introduction to the Eddas & Sagas, Beowulf, the Nibelungenlied, Etc., by Donald Alexander Mackenzie, . (Internet Archive)
- “The Creation,” in Norse Mythology: Literature Curriculum, Levels C–D [Grades Three and Four]; Teacher’s Guide, by the Oregon Elementary English Project, 1971. In the public domain from absence of copyright notice. (Internet Archive)
Of the Moon in Haida mythology
- The Hydah Mission, Queen Charlotte’s Islands: An Account of the Mission and People, with a Descriptive Letter …, by Rev. Charles Harrison (d. 1926), 1884. (Internet Archive)
Of Rona (Maori mythology)
- Narrative of a Voyage to New Zealand, Performed in the Years 1814 and 1815 …, by John Liddiard Nicholas, 1817. (Internet Archive)
- Excerpted back into English from a French translation in “Replies to Minor Queries,” trans. B. H. C., Notes and Queries: A Medium of Inter‐communication for Literary Men, Artists, Antiquaries, Genealogists, Etc., vol. 11 (first series), no. 295, 23 June 1855. (HathiTrust)
- “Rona,” ch. 2 of The Ancient History of the Maori, His Mythology and Traditions: Horo‐Uta or Taki‐Tumu Migration, vol. 2, by John White, 1887. (HathiTrust)
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