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Prometheus, snatched fire from heaven for mortals; and his task was to cure Ra, the sun-god, of his trick of setting before the day's work was done. So Maui plaited thick ropes of cocoa-nut fiber, and, taking them to the opening through which Ra climbed up from the nether world, he laid a slip-noose for him, placing the other ropes at intervals along his path. Lying in wait as Ra neared, he pulled the first rope, but the noose only caught Ra's feet. Nor could Maui stop him until he reached the sixth rope, when he was caught around the neck and pulled so tightly by Maui that he had to come to terms, and agree to slacken his pace for the future. Maui, however, took the precaution to keep the ropes on him, and they may still be seen hanging from the sun at dawn and eve. In Tahitian myth, Maui is a priest, who, in building a house which must be finished by daylight, seizes the sun by its rays and binds it to a tree till the house is built. In North American myth, a boy snared the sun, and there was no light on the earth. So the beasts held council who should undertake the perilous task of cutting the cord, when the dormouse, then the biggest among them, volunteered. And it succeeded, but so scorched was it by the heat that it was shriveled to the smallest of creatures.
In Indian myth we read that the moon is the sun's sister, an aged, pale-faced woman. In Australian myth, the moon's motions are explained as due to the chase of a jealous husband, one of the bright stars, who found his wife in the act of eloping with the moon. Among the Bushmen, the moon has incurred the sun's anger, and is hacked smaller and smaller by him, till, begging for mercy, a respite is given. But as soon as he grows larger the sun hacks him again. In Slavonic myth the sun cleaves him through for loving the morning star. The Indians of the far west say that, when the moon is full, evil spirits begin nibbling at it, and eat a portion every night till it is all gone; then a great spirit makes a new moon, and, weary with his toil, falls asleep, when the bad spirits renew the attack. Another not uncommon group of myths is that which speaks of sun and moon as borne across the heavens on the backs of ancestors, as in the Greek myth Atlas supports the world.
But a still larger and more widespread body of myth has its source in the patches on the moon's face. In the Samoan Islands these are said to be a woman, a child, and a mallet. A woman was once hammering out paper cloth, and, seeing the moon rise, looking like a great bread-fruit, she asked it to come down and let her child eat a piece of it. But the moon was very angry at the idea of being eaten, and gobbled up woman, child, and mallet, and there they are to this day. The Selish Indians of Northwestern America say that the little wolf was in love with the toad, and pursued her one moonlight night, till, as a last chance, she made a desperate spring onto the face of the moon, and there she is still. In Greenland myth, the moon was in love with his sister, and stole in the dark to caress her. She, wishing to find out who her lover was, blackened her hands so that the marks might be left on him, which accounts for the spots. The Khasias of the Himalayas say that the moon falls in love every month with his mother-in-law, who, like a well-conducted matron, throws ashes in his face.
Comparing these with our familiar myths, we have our own Man in the Moon, who is said to be the culprit found by Moses gathering sticks on the Sabbath, al
though his place of banishment is a popular addition to the Scripture narrative. According to the German legend, he was a scoffer who committed the same heinous offense on a Sunday, and was given the alternative of being scorched in the sun or frozen in the moon. The Frisians say that he stole cabbages, the load of which he still bears on his back. In Icelandic myth the two children familiar to us as Jack and Jill were kidnaped by the moon, and there they stand to this day, with bucket on pole across their shoulders, falling away one after the other as the moon wanes, a phase described in the couplet :
Jack fell down and broke his crown,
Poetry has made the man in the moon its theme. Dante calls him Cain: Chaucer describes him
Bearing a bush of thorns on his back,
and Shakespeare refers to him in “ Midsummer Night's Dream" and the “ Tempest.
" Revenons à nos moutons, as the impatient client who had lost some sheep reminded his rambling advocate.
In the great body of nature-myth, the stars are prominent members. In their multitude; their sublime repose in upper calms above the turmoil of the elements; their varying brilliancy, “ one star differing from another star in glory”; their tremulous light; their scattered positions, which lend themselves to every vagary
of the constellation-maker; their slow procession, varied only by sweeping comet and meteor, or falling showers of shooting stars; they lead the imagination into gentler ways than do the vaster bodies of the most ancient heavens. Nor,-although we may compute their number, weigh their volume, in a few instances reckon their distance, and, capturing the light that has come beating through space for unnumbered years, make it reveal the secret of their structure,-is the imagination less moved by the clear heavens at night, or the feeling of awe and reverence blunted before that mighty sum of things for ever speaking.”
In bạrbaric myth the stars are spoken of as the children of the sun and the moon, but more often as men who have lived on the earth, translated without seeing death. The single stars are individual chiefs or heroes; the constellations are groups of men or animals. To the natives of Australia the brilliant Jupiter is a chief among the others, and the stars in Orion's belt and scabbard are young men dancing a corroboree, the Pleiades being girls playing to them. The Kasirs of Bengal say that the stars are the men who climbed to the top of a tree, and were left in the branches when the trunk was cut away.
To the Eskimos the stars in Orion are seal-hunters who have missed their way home; and in German folklore they are spoken of as the mowers, because, as Grimm says, “they stand in a row, like mowers in a meadow." In North American myth two of the bright stars are twins who have left a home where they were harshly treated, and leapt into the sky, whither their parents followed them, and ceaselessly chase them. In Greek myth the faintest star of the seven Pleiades is Merope, whose light was dimmed because she alone among her sisters married a mortal. In German starlore, the small star just above the middle one in the shaft of Charles's Wain, is a wagoner, who, having given our Saviour a lift, was offered the kingdom of heaven for his reward, but who said he would sooner be driving from east to west to all eternity, and whose desire was granted.
The Housatonic Indians say that the stars in Charles's Wain are men hunting a bear, and that the chase lasts from spring to autumn, when the bear is wounded, and its dripping blood turns the leaves of the trees red. With this may be cited the myth that the red clouds at morn and eve are the blood of the slain in battle. In the Northern Lights, the Greenlanders see the spirits of the departed dancing, the brighter the flash of the Aurora the greater the merriment; whilst the Dacotahs say of the meteors that they are spirits flying through the air.
Of the Milky Way,—so called because Hera, indignant at the bantling Herakles's being put to her breast, spilt her milk along the sky,—the Ottawas say that it was caused by a turtle swimming along the bottom of the sky, and stirring up the mud. According to the Patagonians, it is the track along which the departed tribesmen hunt ostriches; in African myth it is some woodashes long ago thrown up into the sky by a girl, that her people might be able to see their way home at night; in Eastern myth, it is chaff dropped by a thief in his hurried flight.
But the idea of a land beyond the sky—be it the happy hunting ground of the Indian, or the Paradise of Islam, or the New Jerusalem of the Apocalypse—would not fail to be imagined, and in both the Milky Way and the