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The Crab Tried To Eat The Moon






Category: IN THE PACIFIC

Source: Myths & Legends Of Our New Possessions & Protectorate

Among the fantastic stories told of snakes, water-buffalo, birds,
and sharks are several that have obvious meaning. The crab figures in
certain of these tales as the cause of the tides. He was an enormous
creature and lived in a great hole in the bottom of a distant sea,
whence he crawled twice a day, the water pouring into the hollow then,
and leaving low water on the coast. When he settled back again the
water was forced out and the tide was high. The relation of tides to
the moon may have introduced this creature in another aspect as the
moon's enemy and cause of her eclipse, for it is related that one
evening a Filipino princess walking on a beach saw with astonishment
an island that had never been visible on the sea before. Her emotion
was that of alarm when she saw the island approach the shore, and
she hid in the shrubbery to watch. Presently she could make out,
despite the failing light, that it was no island, but a crab larger
than a hundred buffalo. Its goggling eyes were dreadful to see, its
mouth was opening fiercely, its claws working as if eager to clutch
its prey. The moon arose at the full, making a track of light across
the heaving waters, and the crab, facing east, prepared to spring and
drag it to its den beneath the ocean. Half a mile away the people
of the princess were holding a feast with songs and dances. Would
they hear a signal? She placed her conch-shell horn at her lips and
blew with all her strength. The monster still gnashed and grasped
in expectancy at the sea's edge, and a breeze brought through the
wood a faint sound of drums. Her people had not heard. Again she
blew. This time the woods were still. Her people were listening. A
third blast followed, and in a few minutes the warriors swarmed upon
the beach with knives, swords, and lances. While the princess was
explaining to them the moon's peril the crab made a leap into the air
and darkened its face, causing an eclipse, but failing to get a hold
it dropped back to the beach again, where the people fell upon it,
the princess leading the attack with the war-call of her tribe. As
the crab turned to see what had befallen, the princess slashed off
his great left claw. With the other it crushed a soldier, but again
her cresse fell and the right claw fell likewise. Then a hundred men
rushed upon the creature, prodding their spears into joints of his
legs and the dividing line between his back plate and belly. Others
fell under his great bulk or were gnashed by his iron teeth, but in
the end his shell was broken and the moon was safe. And often when
the gentle pirate of the Sulus scoured the sea he uttered a prayer
before an image of the princess for a bright night and an easy victim,
for had it not been for her the crab would have swallowed the moon,
and the sea would have been as dark as some kinds of a conscience.





Next: The Conversion Of Amambar

Previous: Bankiva The Philippine Pied Piper



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