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A magician helps a poor peasant bring the moon to Earth

Once there was a poor peasant who lived on the outskirts of the village. Every day, from dawn to dusk, he labored in the fields—plowing, sowing, and reaping crops. His only payment was a cup of rice, which he took home for his dinner and ate in his common rice bowl.

Usually, after he ate, the peasant went straight to sleep so that he would be ready for the next long day of work. But one night, he decided to go outside for a few minutes to look at the stars.

As he sat on the steps, gazing up at the glimmering pinpricks of light, something caught his eye. He turned and beheld the quarter moon above him. The glowing half-circle seemed to call to his soul.

The peasant had only ever seen the moon on full-moon festivals, when it was at its roundest, and as he gazed open-mouthed at the shining shape, he thought, It is very like my rice bowl. In fact, so bowl-like was its shape that he decided it must be a bowl.

“And surely,” he said to himself, “such a shining bowl must be filled with the riches of the sky.”

Riches! In a bowl in the sky! “I must bring it down to Earth!” he exclaimed. “And then I shall never need to work in the fields again, for I will possess the silver of the heavens.”

So he reached up a hand to pull the bowl from the sky. But no matter how hard he pulled, all he grasped was empty air.

Well, he thought, undiscouraged, surely it will take magic to pull a bowl from the sky.

Then he remembered the magician who lived far away at the edge of the mountain.

“I’ll go find him,” the peasant declared. “He will know how one might pull a bowl from the sky.” So he left his house and walked across the plain towards the mountain.

The journey took him seven days and nights. He crossed fields and rivers, found his way through thick forests, and climbed steep hills. Sometimes the road he followed was wide, and sometimes it was nothing but a thin, trampled trail through the brush. Yet at last he stood at the door of the magician’s hut.

Strong from working in the fields, he pulled and pulled with all his might until at last he saw the bowl begin to move towards him.

He knocked on the door, and almost immediately it was opened by the magician. He was very tall and wore a cloak of stars, and though the peasant looked right at him, never afterward could he recall the magician’s face.

“Yes?” crackled the magician, his eyes sparkling with wisdom and seeming to see into the peasant’s soul.

“Seven nights ago, there was a bowl in the sky!” cried the peasant. “I am sure that it is filled with riches. How do I pull it to Earth?”

The magician was silent for a while. Then he reached into his pocket and pulled out three thick vines. “Braid these into a rope and create a lasso,” he advised. “Then use it to capture your moon bowl.”

The peasant stared at the vines wonderingly and thought, Each vine is only a foot long. How can they possibly reach into the sky and pull down the bowl? But he did not question the magician.

He walked a short distance away and sat down under a gnarled tree, through whose branches the full moon shone. He began to braid . . . and braid . . . and braid. It did not take him a few minutes as he had expected. Instead, he braided for a hundred days and a hundred nights while the moon bowl came and went, came and went. Yet his braiding never seemed to reach an end.

Until one night, finally—it did.

Then the peasant noticed that spread all around him was a long rope, ready to capture the bowl. He knotted it into a lasso and went out under the sky, the cool night air swirling around him. And there was the bowl, sinking slowly towards the distant hills in the west. The peasant gazed at it and smiled, thinking about all the riches it must hold, and with that he threw his lasso . . . and missed.

Six times he threw the lasso, and six times it thudded to the earth—empty. But each time, it was a little farther away. And then he pictured his home and how it would look filled with the silver of the sky, and he threw the lasso once more.

He looked up to see it sailing through the air, higher and higher until he couldn’t see its end, so far stretched the rope. Suddenly he felt it grip something, and it tugged so strongly it almost yanked him off his feet. But he braced himself and pulled as hard as he could. Strong from working in the fields, he pulled and pulled with all his might until at last he saw the bowl begin to move towards him.

Closer and closer it came until finally it lay before him—his bowl, much larger than it had looked in the sky. Eagerly he ran forward to look inside.

Evening
Evening

But to his dismay, the bowl was gone! There was only a large round rock—and not even a bit of it was glowing.

The peasant was shocked. “I saw my bowl; it was caught in the lasso!” he exclaimed. “Where did it go?”

He heard a rustle behind him and turned to see the magician approaching, his eyes the same color as the purple twilight sky above. “Where has it gone?” the peasant asked, crestfallen.

“The moon bowl does not belong on Earth,” murmured the magician. “If it comes here, the bowl’s light vanishes, and it turns dark. Its true place is in the heavens.”

The peasant looked up at the darkened sky. It looked empty without the brilliant bowl lighting it up. “But what about the riches?” he asked. “I was so sure they were there!”

“They belong in the sky as well, for only there are they real,” the magician explained. “But fortunately, you do not need them.”

“Why not?”

“Because you are rich already. In your hard work, in your determination, in your acceptance. And in your closeness to the Earth, to nature, and to the moon and stars in the dark night sky.” The magician looked at him. “In such ways are we all rich from birth.”

The peasant looked back. And suddenly he understood.

It was the bowl itself that made him rich. At night, it shone with the silver of the heavens. It would always be there, while money would not.

He slipped the lasso off the dark rock and knelt beside it, placing his hands beneath its smooth, round surface. It was as light as his precious common rice bowl, and he had no trouble lifting it off the ground.

Then he pushed it lightly upwards, and it rose off his hands and floated away. He and the magician watched it as it flew higher and higher—glowing brighter and brighter as it went. Then at last it stopped, hanging in the western sky, shining as though all the stars were filling it with light.

The peasant gazed up at it peacefully. He knew now where the true riches lay. Gold and silver were only echoes of the real thing.

And that meant that he, the peasant, was richer than he had ever believed.

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