The Crab Tried To Eat The Moon





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.





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