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I will teach you, Walter, why I carry thorns in the moon
June 26, 2008 5:46 AM   Subscribe

In an intriguing blog entry the mysterious jasminembla muses about the man in the moon, and his relationship with thorns, linking finally to a most remarkable collection of sourced and footnoted Victorian Moon Lore authored by a Rev. Timothy Harley, 1885. In the "Man in the Moon" section, we learn that, indeed, the man in the moon has been traditionally linked with thorns, variously being exiled to the moon for stealing a bundle of brambles, strewing brambles on the path to church to hinder the pious, or cutting wood on the Sabbath, among other infractions - and that this folktale has existed since at least 1157, when an English abbot asks, in Latin, "Do you not know what the people call the rustic in the moon who carries the thorns? Whence one vulgarly speaking says, "The Rustic in the moon / Whose burden weighs him down / This changeless truth reveals / He profits not who steals." Furthermore, no less a personage than Shakespeare has mentioned the thorny situation of the poor man in the moon... and most interesting, perhaps, the rather convincing theory that the bramble-burdened man in the moon may very well be an older "Jack" of Jack and Jill fame, who did not steal, but was stolen by the moon, along with his sister.

There's much, much more in the Moon Lore collection, including The Woman in the Moon, The Hare in the Moon, The Toad in the Moon, other moon myths, moon as deity, superstitions about the moon, and a serious examination of the question "is the moon inhabited?"
posted by taz (19 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
Seems appropriate
posted by Jofus at 6:02 AM on June 26, 2008


All that I have to say, is, to tell you that the
lanthorn is the moon; I, the man in the moon; this
thorn-bush, my thorn-bush; and this dog, my dog.

- A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act V, Scene 1
posted by grabbingsand at 6:11 AM on June 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Am I the only one who's never been able to see a man in the moon?
posted by DU at 6:21 AM on June 26, 2008


i have my own opinions, natch. great post taz!
posted by moonbird at 6:23 AM on June 26, 2008


never been able to see a man in the moon

It's a hoax.
posted by stbalbach at 6:31 AM on June 26, 2008


it is not a hoax. look, here's a clear photograph him.

thanks for this great post, taz! i love lore.
posted by jammy at 6:38 AM on June 26, 2008


Moon Analemma
posted by Leon at 6:53 AM on June 26, 2008


Moon Illusions.
posted by iamck at 7:23 AM on June 26, 2008


I'm with jammy - one of the quickest ways to my link-lovin' heart is with lore, and this is a sterling find, taz.

And DU: maybe? That makes me curious as to whether or not you see things in clouds...
posted by batmonkey at 7:26 AM on June 26, 2008


Oh, very interesting! I just looked up the guy who had the theory about Jack and Jill as related to the Man in the Moon, Sabine Baring-Gould (not the author of Moon Lore, but a source he quotes extensively), - and he's a totally fascinating character, with all sorts of interesting connections to popular culture of his time. He wrote "Onward Christian Soliders" and collected and researched folk music, wrote Curious Myths of the Middle Ages (online from wikisource), The Book of Were-Wolves, and a ton of other stuff.

He seems to be popular among "Sherlock Holmes" scholars and writers, his unusual early life being used by one (his own grandson) as backstory for the young Holmes, and appearing in modern Holmes fiction by Laurie R. King (very interesting notes from the author). One article says that many believe his relationship with his young wife gave Shaw the idea for "Pygmalion", and, that "throughout his life Baring-Gould had a reputation for eccentricity. It is well documented that while he was a school teacher at Hurstpierpoint in Sussex, he gave lessons with his pet bat perched on his shoulder."

Wikipedia, though, says that "Stories of his own eccentricity have been exaggerated. He did for a time, have a bat in his care while he was teaching at Hurstpierpoint. More usually it lived in an old sock in his room, where its life was ended when a housemaid stepped on it. It is also told how, at a children's party he asked a small girl, "And whose little girl are you?" whereon she burst into tears, and said: "I'm yours, Daddy." This story was verified by his daughter, Joan, who said that the little girl was her."

heh.
posted by taz at 7:36 AM on June 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


I knew his name was ringing a bell - "Curious Myths of the Middle Ages" rocks! I had no idea it was available online (though I wish they has included some of the illustrations).

Thanks again, taz
posted by jammy at 7:54 AM on June 26, 2008


umm... had included, that is
posted by jammy at 7:55 AM on June 26, 2008


All that I have to say, is, to tell you
that the lanthorn is the moon; I, the man in
the moon; this thorn-bush, my thorn-bush;
and this dog, my dog.
posted by Kinbote at 8:54 AM on June 26, 2008


More Moon stuph! Great! Thanks!
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 9:40 AM on June 26, 2008


It's funny... I only just now saw amym's great post - so this was a total coincidence, as weird as that is, especially with the whole "is the moon inhabited?" bit. I don't remember what I was searching for when I came across jasminembla's site, but I think I was in Google images, and was led there by the groovy Kincaid illustration.
posted by taz at 9:54 AM on June 26, 2008


Baring-Gould notes continental versions where the old man carries willows or faggots; a lanthorn is of course a lantern (the moon is a lantern) and the OED suggests 'lanthorn' is a folk etymology based on the circumstance that lanterns had windows of horn.

I am tempted to think the Man in the Moon is, at the far back end of all these traditions, our old, old pal the Wicker Man, whom Julius Caesar said the Druids burned in a cage at a full moon (according to one source I saw), and that his bundle is both cage and pyre.
posted by jamjam at 11:28 AM on June 26, 2008


I am tempted to think the Man in the Moon is, at the far back end of all these traditions, our old, old pal the Wicker Man...

Oh no! Not the bees!
posted by Kinbote at 11:53 AM on June 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


That Mega Wicker Man video is the best thing I've seen all week.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 4:20 PM on June 26, 2008


taz, fantastic, thank you.
posted by jokeefe at 5:22 PM on June 26, 2008


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