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Why the Moon Waxes and Wanes

A Nigerian Folktale

Adapted from the children’s international cookbook, The Cultured Chef by Nicholas Beatty. Read by Pamela Atherton

There was once an old woman who was very poor. She lived in a mud hut with a dirt floor and a roof thatched with leaves from the bush. Hunger rumbled in her belly almost every day, but she had no one to provide for her. She relied on the generosity of strangers, and what little food she could find on her own.

In these days, the moon visited the earth each day. Spending most of her resting lazily in the sky, the moon became very fat. She had much meat on her bones and skin on her hide. One day when visiting the earth, the moon felt very sorry for the hungry old woman. “I have enough meat on my body to share,” she offered the woman. What a wonderful arrangement! The hungry old woman reached up to the moon and carved off a slice for her meal.

Each day, the moon visited the woman and took her share of food. But each day, the moon grew thinner and thinner until the people of the village became worried. The moon no longer provided enough light to see at night. So the next night, when the moon came down to earth, the villagers made lots of noise and scared the woman away before she could collect the moon’s meat. They scared the moon so much so, she stopped coming to earth any longer. However, to this day, the moon still waxes and wanes. Perhaps the little old woman found another way to help herself to the moon’s abundant meat.