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The moon invites the animals to help light up the night sky
One night, on a tall mountain, a river ran through a rocky forest. Everyone was asleep on the mountain except a bear, a mountain lion, a fox, an eagle, and a mountain goat. They were all sitting together, talking quietly by the river. Suddenly, the river slowed and was covered by what looked like a liquified moon. A tall figure appeared at the top of it. They were hooded, with a dark green cloak and silver cuffs and lining. You could not see their face.
“I am the Moon,” said the figure. “And I have come to ask you for help. I cannot light up the night sky by myself.” They gestured to the east. The Sun refuses to give me any of their light to help me. So, I have asked you to help me.”
The animals looked around at each other. They did not know what they would turn into, or where they would go. After a few minutes of arguing, the Moon interrupted them, hearing that they did not know where they would go or what they would turn into.
“You will become what I call stars—balls of light in the sky to light it up. Next to me and the Sun. And with all your friends.” The figure pointed to the sky.
The animals decided to help the Moon and become stars. They nodded to the Moon. There were many uncountable dots of bright light on the surface the Moon was standing on. The bear stepped forward first, putting a paw on one dot of light. He turned into glittering ashes which floated into the sky and formed a beautiful ball of light.
“The first star,” said the Moon quietly.
Then the eagle flew forward, landing on another dot. Then the fox and the goat came forward.
The whooshing noises of them turning into ashes woke all the other animals on the mountain. They all came to see what it was. The Moon explained it all to them. They all quickly rushed forward, stepping onto the dots of light and becoming stars. Some became constellations too. The Moon laughed and smiled to see all the help they were getting.
But once all the other animals had become stars and constellations, there was not a single dot left for the mountain lion once it was his turn.
But once all the other animals had become stars and constellations, there was not a single dot left for the mountain lion once it was his turn. He looked at the bright sky. The stars and constellations looked bright and powerful. He looked back at the river and stepped onto its surface. He jumped all around the river, looking for a dot. The Moon noticed after a few minutes the mountain lion jumping all around the river frantically.
“What’s wrong?” they asked.
The mountain lion sat down sadly and looked at them. “There are no more dots for me to become a star or a constellation. I cannot help light up the sky with my friends. All the other animals got them, but not me.”
“It’s no matter. I have something better.” They stepped away from where they had been standing to reveal a large puddle of green, blue, and purple behind them. The mountain lion looked back at them before stepping onto the dot.
He was whisked away into the sky with an explosion of color. As he looked around him, he saw he was leading a ribbon of blue and green and purple into the sky and past the bright stars and constellations. He had also become that ribbon. His tail and hind legs and everything behind his front legs were no more, only the ribbon. He ran through the night sky, looking to the mountain he had been on just seconds before, leading the northern lights behind him.
Summary & Analysis
“How the Northern Lights Were Made” is an origin story (or etiological tale) written by Roxy Pilcher, age eight. Etiological tales have been used for thousands of years to help cultures explain the wonders of the world. When humans are surrounded by the earth’s natural beauty, it is appealing to imagine how it all began.
Roxy Pilcher uses this story to help readers understand a possible explanation for the constellations in the sky, how they bring order and art to the night landscape. Pilcher also shares an explanation for the beauty of the Northern Lights. The piece is written in the third person omniscient perspective. In this perspective, the narrator has a knowledge of the characters’ actions and can explain them.
We see the Moon invite the forest animals to become stars in the sky because the sun refuses to share its light with them. A bear, fox, mountain goat, and eagle step onto the Moon’s glowing dots and turn into ashes that become stars in the sky. Awakened by the noise of the Moon’s work, more animals emerge from the forest and volunteer to become stars.
When it is the mountain lion’s turn, he finds there are no more glowing dots—he will not, he thinks, be able to join his friends in the night sky. But Moon has saved something special for the mountain lion: the mountain lion will become the Northern Lights, running ahead as the green lights trail after him like a ribbon across the sky.
How does the writer paint a picture with words?
Pilcher uses a lush, dark palette of color to introduce the moon and the setting of this story: “Suddenly, the river slowed and was covered by what looked like a liquified moon. A tall figure appeared at the top of it. They were hooded, with a dark green cloak and silver cuffs and lining. You could not see their face.” We see a mysterious night vision along with the animals. The moon is always beguiling in the night sky; it would be a dream to be able to talk to it! Pilcher paints a magical world where this is possible.
As with any good story, there is a conflict, a problem to be solved. Here, the Moon wants to solve the problem that he can’t convince Sun to share enough light to make stars. When the animals agree, each animal is transported into the sky. Pilcher uses sound and light to help readers envision the progress: “The whooshing noises of them turning into ashes woke all the other animals on the mountain. They all came to see what it was. The Moon explained it all to them. They all quickly rushed forward, stepping onto the dots of light and becoming stars.” Readers see the transformation in their minds—the bursting of each animal into the galaxy.
When it becomes the mountain lion’s turn to transport into the sky, he fears that there are not enough dots of light to permit him. The Moon has a different idea, however. At the conclusion, Pilcher uses vibrant colors to help readers feel the joy that the mountain lion experiences at being transformed into the Northern Lights: “He was whisked away into the sky with an explosion of color. As he looked around him, he saw he was leading a ribbon of blue and green and purple into the sky and past the bright stars and constellations. He had also become that ribbon. His tail and hind legs and everything behind his front legs were no more, only the ribbon. He ran through the night sky, looking to the mountain he had been on just seconds before, leading the northern lights behind him.” Readers are swept up into the sky. We, too, are surrounded by this burst of colors. We can run with the mountain lion’s Northern Lights and understand his special role in the universe.
- Can you think of another etiological tale (origin story) where a culture explained the formation of the sky, sea, land, or animals?
- Pilcher uses descriptive language and imagery throughout the story to bring the setting and characters to life. Identify some examples of descriptive language and imagery in the story. How do these descriptions enhance your understanding or enjoyment of the story?
- The mountain lion initially feels disappointed when there are no dots left for him to become a star or constellation. However, the Moon presents him with a different opportunity to create something unique—the Northern Lights.What does this teach us about embracing our uniqueness and finding alternative solutions? Can you think of a time when you faced a setback or disappointment but found a different path that turned out to be just as meaningful or even better? Share your experience and discuss how it relates to the mountain lion's journey in the story.