The Toad and the Hare
How to see the toad in the moon
Click here for picture
The Kimbundu tribe of Angola tell the following story:
Once upon a time, there was a king of the whole world, who had only one son. When
the time came for his son to marry, the son declared that he would only marry
the daughter of the king of the moon.
No one knew the path to the moon except for the
frog, who offered to travel to the moon with a letter.
The frog knew that the Moon king's daughters descended to earth every day, to
gather water from a clear spring on a wooded hill.
The next day, when the daughters of the moon king went to gather
water, the frog hid in one of their buckets, and was carried up to the moon. The
frog delivered his message and returned carrying a letter from the moon king,
agreeing to the marriage, a large dowry of gold coins, and the title of "Mainu,
Ambassador to the court of the Moon King".
When the frog returned he feasted on pork* and chicken. Secretly though,
no one really trusted the frog, but two days later, the Moon Princess descended
on a thread woven by the spider who lives in the moon
. (The crater
streaks of impact debris around it, making it look rather like a spider hanging
on a thread).
The Machiguenga of Peru have a legend that the Moon once descended to earth
and aquired a taste for corpses (The moon is often associated with death and
resurrection). Moon (who they consider to be masculine, and the father of the sun)
Set up a fish trap across a river, to catch the corpses floating downstream.
( The Machiguenga dispose of their dead by casting them into rivers ). A toad sat
by the trap and kept watch, croaking: "Tantanaroki-iroki, Tantanaroki-iroki"
Which means literally "The toad Tantanaroki and it's eye "
These are two of many legends in
which the moon is associated with a frog or toad. There are several reasons for this:
Toads are amphibious, spend the first part of their lives underwater and shed
their skins, all of which are symbolic of resurrection. The main reason, however
becomes clear if you look at the full moon.
The body of the toad is formed from the
Oceanus Procellarum, the Mare humorum
and the Mare Nubium, with the
Mare Imbrium marking its head
(Click here to see the toad in the moon)
There is even a floating corpse washed up on a fish trap nearby. This is the
man in the moon .
Some people see a frog formed from
Mare Serenitatis, Mare Tranquilitatis,
Mare Nectaris and Mare foecunditatis.
It is not clear from many legends, which toad is being referred to.
I am sure that the Machiguenga legend refers to the toad formed from the
Oceanus Procellarum and Mare Nubium.
For more on images seen in the craters of the moon, see the sections on
The Man in the Moon, The Utchat
and The Crab and the Bookworm,
or click here for pictures)
In China it is said that the toad was once a woman who had given away the dew of
immortality (see the link below for more on Chinese moon legends). It is also said
that the toad has three legs. Some "experts" say that this is symbolic of the three
phases of the moon. Ignore them. The toad has three legs. That's all there is to it!
According to the Sunday Times of September 13th 1998, there is a rock shaped
like a toad near to the village of Alcala de la Selva in Eastern Spain.
According to legend, anyone touching the toad during full moon becomes a vigorous
lover. The previous Sunday, 1000 people had turned up for the ceremony.
Benito Ros, the major of Alcala, said he touched the stone, but not to enhance
his performance in bed. " I have four children," he said "I don't need any more fertility".
I think that this would be a good time to mention
"Still life with woodpecker" by Tom Robbins
, because it is a rather eccentric
novel, which seems relevant to this section of the website. The story concerns
(among other things) the moon, the story of the frog prince, Camels
(cigarettes not dromedaries), love, the difference between outlaws and criminals
(the main character has a number of similarities to the unabomber) and having
red hair .
"Frogs: Art, Legend and History" by
Patrizia Ribuoli and Marina Robbiani
(Bullfinch Press, 1990) has loads of pictures of
frogs in art, jewelery and sculpture from all over the world
and all ages of history, as well as fairy tales and legends.
How to see the hare in the moon
George Ewart Evans and David Thomson  comment that "....the moon and the hare occur together in myth and folklore - in India, China, Africa, Mexico, North America and Europe; and the immediate question we have to answer is: why is it the hare rather than any other creature that is so identified?" They devote a whole chapter to this question, but fail to find the correct answer.
There is an old African legend, found in many different versions in different
parts of Africa, which goes something like this:
Shortly after the creation of the world, the moon goddess decided to make mankind
immortal, and so she sent a wise but slow toad
down to earth, with the following message:
"People will not die for ever, but come back to life like the moon"
The toad wandered off and 14 days later reached earth. However, in the mean time,
the moon goddess grew impatient, and began to wonder if the toad had got lost
along the way, and so she sent the fast but foolish hare after him with the
same message. The hare rushed off before he had memorised it properly, overtook
the toad and delivered the message:
"The moon says that you will all die forever"
The toad arrived later, but the damage was already done, and from that day
forth, we have all been mortal. The Moon Goddess hit the hare with a stick,
splitting his lip. The hare ran off and is still running to this day**. .
In many African legends, the hare plays a "trickster" role. Slaves may have
carried these stories across the Atlantic, giving rise to Brer Rabbit.
This story also seems to have inspired "Masquerade"
by Kit Williams, in which the
sends her two messengers, the hare and the toad, to the sun,
with a jewel, which will be his if he can find the answer to a riddle:
"Fifty is my first,
Nothing is my second,
Five just makes my third,
My fourth a vowel is reckoned"
"Now to find my name,
Fit my parts together,
I die if I get cold,
But never fear cold weather."
But when the hare reaches the sun, at the end of the book, he says:
"Great lord Sun, I bring you a precious gift from a noble and gracious lady, and it would be yours if it were not the answer to this riddle:
"Fifty is my first,
Nothing is my second,
A snake will make my third,
Then three parts a cross is reckoned.
Now to find my name, fit my parts together,
I am all your past, and you fear me in cold weather?"
Once again, the hare has messed up and garbled the message!
The hare is much easier to see than the toad. Its head and ears are
formed from the
Mare Tranquilitatis, the Mare Foecunditatis and the Mare Nectaris. The tail
(or bun***) is the
mare Nubium. The hare appears to be holding an
egg (the Mare
Imbrium). Some people imagine this group of craters to look like a
(click here to see the hare)
The Sanscrit word for the moon is "Cacin"
, which means "That marked with the hare". Baring-Gould
misinterpreted the Indian legends of the hare in the moon, believing the hare to
be the same as the man in the moon's dog .
There are also legends of a hare or rabbit in the moon from China.
is said to have seen the hare when he visited the moon.
In Japan, the hare is called Tsukoyomi ( Moon-counter or Moon-bow ), and is
said to have killed Ukemochi the rice goddess .
(perhaps this represents
the harvesting of rice with a sickle****). Tsukoyomi is
often portrayed pounding rice in a pestle and mortar. The characters for "moon"
and "pounding rice" are similar in Japanese.
This may be a pun, or the
connection between the moon, the hare and rice may have influenced the development
of the written language*****.
In many legends from around the world, crop plants are believed to have originated in
the moon. The Machiguenga imagine,
manioc, potatos and maize to be
the daughters of the moon 
In Shanghai, on the 15th day of the 1st Lunar month,
is the Yuanxiao lantern festival, in which lanterns, mostly in the shape of rabbits
are carried through the streets.
The Mayans often pictured the moon goddess accompanied by a hare. For more on
this subject, click here
In Europe hares are surrounded by a lot of strange folklore. At harvest time,
cutting of the last sheaf of corn was called cutting the hare.
In some places the reapers would all stand around and throw their sickles
at the "hare".
In the light of this, the Irish story of The Liar is quite interesting
The (strangely androgenous) Saxon goddess
of spring and the moon, Oestre, was portrayed with the head of a hare,
or with a hood representing the ears of a hare
(click here for a picture).
The words "Easter" and
"oestrus" are related to "Oestre". The hare was also said to lay an egg at Easter.
This legend probably originates from the similarity between the lapwings nest
(little more than a hollow in the grass) and a Hares form (resting place).
( Robert Graves had a lot to say about the
Lapwing, but I'll leave it to him to say it). This is probably also the origin
of the Easter bunny, although folklorists have been unable to find references to
Bunny any earlier than "Scribners Illustrated Magazine for boys and girls" in
Some experts say that the hare
was sacred to the ancient Britons
(Julius Caesar said as much in Gallic wars V 12), while others say
that it was introduced by the
Romans (As Charles Fort wrote: "For every expert, there is an equal and opposite
expert"). Generally, these legends are taken to refer to the Brown Hare,
and this is the variety which may have been introduced, but there is also
a type of hare native to Ireland, and the Mountain Hare of Northern England
and Scotland which changes from white to blue/grey with the seasons.
Perhaps it was the mountain
hare which was sacred
Osiris was sometimes called
Wepuat or Un-nefer, and
portrayed with the head of a hare (click here.
for a picture )
See also The Stairway to heaven
The Tinner's guild of Devon and Cornwall carved their badge of three
rabbits or hares (click here for picture) in a
number of West Country churches. I suspect that this is mainly because
miners and rabbits both dig tunnels, but the Tinners are linked to
the Birmingham Lunar Society, through
Rudolph Erich Raspe
According to the Encyclopaedia Britanica, the connection between the moon and the hare,
originated in Ancient Egypt and resulted from the chance similarity between the
words for "hare" and "period". I must disagree: The Egyptian word "un" did mean "hare"
and "period", but I don't believe that this is coincidence*****. Rabbits and hares are
also obviously excellent fertility symbols
(frogs and toads are also highly fertile, as anyone who has collected
frogspawn will know).[top]
* Pigs also feature in moon legends a lot. Herodotus wrote that "...the Selene
[of Egypt] sacrifice swine at full moon and eat their flesh. It is not
fitting that I should say why". I vaguely remember similar traditions
on Pacific islands[back]
**In all honesty, I ought to point out here, that while I agree with Kit
williams, that this is primarily a lunar myth, and that this version is
probably nearest to the original meaning of the story; in other versions,
the messengers are a chamaeleon and a lizard or a serpent, and sometimes they are
sent by God rather than by the moon goddess. Many of these other versions may
have been influenced by Christianity, for example, in one the serpent's message is :
"thou shalt not surely die" [back]
***Brewers dictionary of phrase and fable says that the provincial word "bun",
refers to a tail, especially that of a hare. If you think that this is a cue for a link to the
Playboy page, forget it. This is (mostly) a family site.[back]
****I think there may be a connection here with the Egyptian legend of, long-eared Set, who dismembered the
corn god Osiris.
(click here for more about
jack-rabbits and Jack-asses).
Perhaps Wepuat, the hare-headed Osiris was a sort of
combining the attributes of Osiris and Set, hero and rival, waxing and waning year,
harvest and reaper, in one. [back]
*****In a similar way, the Egyptian moon god, Thoth, was portrayed with the
head of an ibis. This is said to be due to the similarity between the words for "ibis"
and "moon" ("tekh" and "tehu"). For more on this subject, see Bayley,
"The lost language of symbolism"[back]
******In the same way, it has been speculated that Santa Claus is based on the
Lapp Shamen who wore red and white (the colours of the fly agaric mushroom);
entered the traditional domed huts of the region through a hole in the roof,
which doubled as chimney and doorway (thus symbolically descending the
axis mundi )
and had frequent hallucinations of flying on reindeer, owing to said fungi
(my source here is New Scientist, 1st March 1997, p 93, which cites
poisons and panaceas"
by Dennis R. Benjamin).
On the other hand, Santa Claus was frequently portrayed in green or blue,
in the years following the rediscovery of Christmas (which had been banned
in England by the puritans) by Charles Dickins; and the Coca Cola corporation like
to take the credit for the red and white outfit. (between 1931 and 1966, they
commisioned the artist
Haddon H. Sundblom to produce a series of posters featuring Santa Claus,
wearing the coca-cola colours). I find the idea
was invented by Coca Cola, too horrible to contemplate. Spaced out Shamens are
much more in the spirit of things. Perhaps Coca Cola based their
cans and bottles of sickly Cocaine and Caffeine "tonic" on the fly agaric
(O.K. so I don't have any evidence for my theory, but then neither does anyone
else. Isn't folklore wonderful?)For more on Santa Claus and Christmas, click
Ronald Hutton notes that the portrayal of Father Christmas in red became traditional
soon after 1863, which undermines Coca-Cola's claims. He is also sceptical of
the "shamanic theory", which he attributes to Rogan Taylor ("Who is Santa Claus?"
Sunday Times Magazine, 21st December 1980)<
Links to other sites on the Web
Solution to Masquerade
folktales about slimy suitors
'Tis the season to be giving
Another theory about Santa Clause
Brewers dictionary of phrase and fable
The Rabbit in the moon
An incredibly interesting site about Mayan civilisation
Rabbit and the moon man
This is a legend from the M'iqmaq people of New Brunswick.
I'm not sure if it belongs here, or whether it
should go on a page devoted to legends about the moon having his/her face
marked, which are widespread in north and south america.
What I'm trying to say is that although this is a story about a rabbit and
the moon, it would seem that the M'iqmaq see a face in the full moon,
rather than a rabbit.
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