This episode was originally released on January 22, 2019.
Have you ever looked up at the night sky, seen the moon, and sworn you could make out a face?
Lots of people talk about the “man in the moon.” But in this favorite tale from the Circle Round archives, we’ll meet the woman behind that shimmering glow!
Our story is called “The Woman in the Moon.” It comes to us from the Alutiiq people of Alaska.
Voices in this episode include Frank Katasse, James Konicek, Erika Stone and Irene Bedard. Kids, you may know Irene as the voice of the title character in the Disney animated film, Pocahontas. She reprised the role in Ralph Breaks the Internet!
This story was adapted for Circle Round by Rebecca Sheir. Original music and sound design is by Eric Shimelonis. Our artist is Sabina Hahn.
ADULTS! PRINT THIS so everyone can color while listening. We’re also keeping an album so share your picture on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest, and tag it with #CircleRound. We'd love to see it! To access all the coloring pages for past episodes click HERE. Our resident artist is Sabina Hahn and you can learn more about her HERE.
Things To Think About After Listening
When’s the last time you partnered with someone?
Maybe you teamed up with a schoolmate to do an assignment, you drew a picture with a friend, or you set up a lemonade stand with a neighbor.
How did it feel to work together? What was it like? Pick a grown-up in your life, and tell them all about it. After that, have them describe a time they were part of a team.
Musical Spotlight: The Drum and the Rattle
The Alutiiq are a southern coastal Native people of Alaska. In the Alutiiq language, “drum” and “music” translate to the same word: cauyaq. It’s no wonder, since the penetrating beats of drums have long been used in Alutiiq rituals, ceremonies, feasts and sporting events. While the drums beat, dancers often perform with rattles (traditionally made from strung-together puffin beaks). Because of their rich history in Alutiiq culture, composer Eric Shimelonis chose the drum and rattle to underscore “The Woman in the Moon.”
NARRATOR: Long ago… on a lush, green island surrounded by clear, blue water… there lived a young woman. She and her family made their home in a small fishing village on the edge of the island.
Her best friend was her cousin, and the two of them were inseparable.
Every morning, they’d wander the forest... together... and gather roots and berries... together. Then they’d spend the afternoon weaving the roots into baskets and hats… together… and crushing the berries in to juice and jelly… that’s right… together.
But their favorite part of the day… wasn’t day at all. It was night. That’s when the two young women would scamper down to the beach, paddle their kayak around the bay, then come back to shore. They’d flip their kayak over on the gravelly sand, lean against it… and wait.
COUSIN: Ugh. He’ll be here soon, right? I feel like we’ve been waiting forever!
WOMAN: Yes, cousin; he’ll be here. Any minute now. Be patient!
NARRATOR: Now, as for who the women were waiting for… well... it wasn’t a man. It wasn’t a boy. Nor was it any of the bears, foxes, otters and seals who made their home on and around the island.
COUSIN / WOMAN: (gasp) The moon!
NARRATOR: And when the moon finally showed his face above the horizon…the woman and her cousin were entranced.
COUSIN: Wow! Look how bright he is tonight!
WOMAN: Isn’t he magnificent?
NARRATOR: Now, as we know, the moon doesn’t rise every night. And on those evenings where there was no moon… what we call a “new moon”... the woman’s cousin spent the whole night… sighing.
COUSIN: Oh, why does he have to stay away so long?
WOMAN: Come now, cousin. It’s only a few days!
COUSIN: I know. But it might as well be an eternity!
NARRATOR: The woman arched her eyebrows and cocked her head.
WOMAN: You know, cousin, if I didn’t know better, I’d say you’ve fallen in love with the moon!
NARRATOR: Her cousin giggled.
COUSIN: Gosh, you know what? I think I have fallen in love with the moon! He gives me butterflies! I mean, he’s so gorgeous!
WOMAN: True... but I’m more impressed by how hard he works! Muscling his way up from the horizon, then carrying all that light across the night sky! And look how he changes! Sometimes he’s a slender sliver, sometimes he’s a great round ball! What an amazing job!
NARRATOR: The cousin smiled.
COUSIN: I don’t know about that, but I tell you: if the moon came down to earth, I would marry him. In an instant!
WOMAN: Well, cousin, I hope I get to be the maid of honor!
NARRATOR: One night, the sky was particularly cloudy. The moon was just a crescent, and as soon as he peeked his face above the horizon, he disappeared behind a heavy wall of clouds.
COUSIN: Well, that’s not fair! We barely got to see him!
WOMAN: Patience, cousin! He’ll be out soon. Then you can tell him how much you love him.
COUSIN: Or you can tell him how much you want his job!
NARRATOR: The women were interrupted by the crunch of footsteps on the gravelly sand.
MOON: Um, excuse me!
NARRATOR: The women hopped up and spun around. Before them stood a tall man. He was dressed in white, and wearing a giant, glowing headpiece shaped like a crescent.
MOON: Sorry to interrupt, but I had to come down from the sky and say something.
NARRATOR: The women stared at the man with wide eyes.
Immediately, they knew he wasn’t a man at all.
He was the moon!
MOON: Listen. You’ve both been so dedicated through the years... so devoted... watching me climb high into the sky and work my way across… waiting for me to return after I‘ve been gone a few days... And that is why…
NARRATOR: He extended his glimmering arms.
MOON: ...that is why I have come to marry you.
NARRATOR: The woman was too shocked to speak. Her cousin squealed.
MOON: No need to say anything right now - at least, not until I explain. You see, my work is very hard, very dangerous. So... I can only take one of you with me. (beat) The one who is more patient.
NARRATOR: The woman knew that between her and her cousin, she was far more skilled at waiting for things. But she also knew that marrying the moon was her cousin’s dream come true!
WOMAN: With all due respect, Moon... my cousin and I do everything together. We always have.
COUSIN: She’s right! You must take us both!
NARRATOR: The moon furrowed his gleaming brow.
MOON: Alright, then. Here is what you must do. Close your eyes. And do not open them until I ask you to.
NARRATOR: So, the women closed their eyes. Suddenly, they felt their feet lift from the ground.
Before they knew it, the wind was whistling past their ears and they were soaring higher and higher into the sky, held tight by the rays of the moon.
After a while, the cousin was overcome by curiosity. What did it look like from way up here? Where were they going? And how long ‘til they got there? Surely the moon wouldn’t notice if she opened one eye just a teeny-tiny bit…
But as soon as she did…?
NARRATOR: ...she began to drop down, down, down, until she plopped down on the beach.
NARRATOR: Meanwhile, her more patient cousin continued flying through the sky, all night long. In the morning she found herself standing inside the house… of the moon.
What do you think will happen next? Will the woman achieve her dream of helping the moon carry light across the sky?
We’ll find out, after a quick break.
NARRATOR: Welcome back to Circle Round. I’m Rebecca Sheir. Today our story is called “The Woman in the Moon.”
When we left off, a patient woman from an island village had become the wife of the moon.
MOON: Welcome, my love, to your new home! I’m so happy you’re here, and I want you to enjoy yourself. So do whatever you want to do, go wherever you want to go. Just promise me one thing.
NARRATOR: The moon leaned in closely.
MOON: Promise me you will never enter the room at the end of the hall. That’s a very special room. It’s where I keep my headpieces: one for each phase of the moon. They are very big, and very heavy, and that door must always remain closed. Do you understand?
NARRATOR: The woman’s heart fell.
WOMAN: But I was hoping… that maybe I could help you! You know - with your work! Carrying light across the night sky!
NARRATOR: The moon smiled.
MOON: That’s very sweet of you, my love. But my work is too hard, too dangerous. No. You must stay home while I’m out doing my job. I’ll take care of the heavy lifting.
NARRATOR: Days passed… then weeks… then months.
And even though the woman had always been a patient person, with each new phase of the moon she found herself growing bored… and lonely. After all, she barely saw her husband! After working hard all night, the moon would come home, drop his headpiece off in the special room, then sleep all day.
The woman realized the only time they were both together — and both awake — was during the new moon, when her husband could take a few nights off. Then he was back to work again, starting as a tiny crescent, before growing — or “waxing” — into a full moon. After that, he’d start shrinking again — or “waning” — until it was time for another new moon.
After one of those new-moon breaks, it was time to head back to work. The moon got a slim crescent headpiece from the room at the end of the hall, kissed his wife on the cheek, then marched out the door.
The woman couldn’t sleep that night, so she took a walk. Venturing farther from her house than she ever had before, she came upon a trail… which led to another set of trails… which led to even more trails!
The woman picked one of the trails and began following it. Soon, she came to the end, and when she did…?
WOMAN: Oh my! Is that… a person?
NARRATOR: It certainly looked like a person… only that person was lying face down on the ground.
WOMAN: Um, hello down there! Hello? I can’t tell you how happy I am to see another person up here! I mean, how many conversations can I have with myself, right?
NARRATOR: But the person didn’t answer. So the woman tried another trail… and came to another person lying face down on the ground!
WOMAN: Hi! Hello? What, you’re not going to answer me, either?
NARRATOR: The same thing happened again and again: the woman would go down a trail, find a person lying face down, and get absolutely no response. Until…
WOMAN: Hello? Maybe you’ll talk to me???
STAR: I would talk to you, lady - but can’t you see I’m working?!?
NARRATOR: The woman gasped as the person turned his head. In the middle of his face he had one big eye. It sparkled so brightly the woman had to squint.
WOMAN: So sorry to bother you, but what do you mean, “working”? On what?
NARRATOR: The one-eyed person glanced around to make sure nobody was coming. Then he motioned for the woman to lean down.
STAR: Has your husband not told you? I’m a star! There’s a bunch of us up here. It’s our job to make the night sky, you know, (referencing the nursery rhyme) “twinkle, twinkle”!
WOMAN: Wow! So I guess now I don’t have to “wonder what you are”!
NARRATOR: The star smiled.
STAR: Never heard that one before. Seriously, though, I’m supposed to be “like a diamond in the sky,” right? So if you’ll excuse me, this “diamond’s” gotta get back to work.
NARRATOR: And with that, he lay back down on the ground, his sparkling eye shining down on the earth below.
By the time the woman trudged back to her house, it was nearly morning. She sighed and slumped down in the hallway.
WOMAN: What a bummer. Everyone has a job up here! Everyone but me, that is. I mean, I’ve tried to be patient...
NARRATOR: Her eyes moved to the door of her husband’s special room.
WOMAN: … but enough is enough.
NARRATOR: The woman strided over to the door and turned the handle. As she crept inside, she could hardly believe what she saw!
First off, the room was enormous: bigger than she’d ever imagined it to be. Second, it looked just like a miniature version of the earth! There were craggy mountains, deep valleys and green fields… plus flowing rivers, dazzling lakes, and oceans rippling with waves! As the woman wandered through this miniature world she even saw houses and huts, much like the one she used to live in on her island.
Hanging from heavy ropes above all the mountains and rivers, valleys and oceans... were her husband’s headpieces. The woman saw a gleaming half-moon, a glistening quarter-moon, a luminous full moon, and every other phase in between.
The only headpiece missing was the slimmest crescent, which her husband had worn when he left for work the night before.
The woman reached up toward a headpiece that was nearly full. She loosened it from its rope, and felt the weight of the headpiece in her hands. Then she took a deep breath… and heaved the headpiece... onto her head!
Once it was on, she approached one of the miniature oceans, and gazed down at her reflection in the clear water.
WOMAN: (seeing reflection) Wow…
NARRATOR: The woman looked luminous… and felt powerful. After all this time, she was finally getting a taste of doing the moon’s job, and carrying the light.
MOON: And just what do you think you’re doing?
NARRATOR: The moon entered the room and marched over to his wife. He stood behind her and was about to gingerly remove her headpiece when…
NARRATOR: The woman gestured down, toward the water in the miniature ocean.
WOMAN: My darling. Don’t you see?
NARRATOR: The moon looked down at the water. There, he saw a reflection of himself… wearing a glinting crescent headpiece that was barely full. And in front of his reflection, he saw the reflection of his wife... whose shimmering headpiece was almost full.
Together... one in front of the other… the two headpieces looked just like... a full moon. In the reflective surface of the water… the almost-full and barely-full headpieces… completed each other.
The moon reached out and embraced his wife. She embraced him back.
From then on, the moon and his wife worked together, and shared the duty of carrying light across the night sky.
Each cycle, he would carry the pieces of moon until it was full… then she would carry the pieces of moon until it was dark.
He waxed, she waned, and with each new moon, they rested.
So now… most nights... if you look up, you’ll see them.
Both of them.
The man… and the woman… in the moon.