Listen to this ancient Japanese tale about the rabbit in the moon in this episode produced especially for younger audiences.
Narrator: It’s Story Time at the Met, a special podcast series for kids and their families. This podcast tells a story called “How the Rabbit Got to the Moon.”
Have you ever seen the rabbit in the moon? You’ve probably seen the man in the moon. But in Japan, children see a rabbit with long ears. Each autumn the Japanese people celebrate a moon-viewing festival. Families gather to look at the moon. When children ask how the rabbit got to the moon, their parents tell this ancient tale.
Once upon a time, a monkey, a fox, and a rabbit became the best of friends. The spirit of loving kindness filled them and they decided to live in peace with each other. Every evening these three friends met to share their dinner and talk about their day.
The monkey told of swinging through the treetops, looking for fruit.
The fox talked about stealing food from farms at the edge of the forest.
The rabbit spoke very little. All the food he ever found was a few blades of grass. But the three shared whatever they had.
One evening, a god looked down from the heavens and saw them sharing a meal.
“I can’t believe this!” said the god. “Everywhere, people fight and quarrel. Can three animals be so wise? I will test their kindness. Let’s see if they share their food with a stranger.”
Next evening the god came down to earth disguised as a poor man. The three friends found him in the clearing where they had dinner.
“Help me,” moaned the god in disguise. “I am so hungry that I cannot walk another step.”
“We will feed you, poor man!” said the monkey, the fox, and the rabbit. They dashed away in search of food.
Suddenly the rabbit stopped and said, “Oh, dear! Human beings don’t eat grass. What can I bring the man to eat?” He searched and searched, but found nothing. So he hopped forlornly back to the clearing.
He found the others waiting around a fire. The monkey had an armload of peaches and the fox held a jug of milk in his jaws. “Sir,” said the rabbit to the poor man. “I couldn’t find any food that you would want. But don’t worry. I will jump into the fire and soon you can eat roast rabbit.” With that, the rabbit leaped into the flames.
But then, before the fire singed a hair of the bunny’s coat, the god threw off his disguise! The fire disappeared, leaving the rabbit unharmed. The three friends crouched, shaking in fear.
“Fox,” said the god, “don’t be afraid. You showed kindness to a poor beggar, and I bless you, even though you stole the milk. Monkey, you gave me the sweetest fruit you could find, and I bless your kindness, too. But you, rabbit, I bless most of all. These two gave what they could spare. You would have given your life. Humans will remember your kindness as long as they have eyes to see.”
Then the god lifted up the rabbit and placed him on the moon. And there he lives today, making mochi, or rice cakes, a much nicer meal than grass!
The self-sacrifice the rabbit showed in this story is also a quality that a samurai, or Japanese warrior, was supposed to have. The next time you come to the Metropolitan Museum, you can see a Japanese helmet in the shape of a rabbit in the arms and armor collection. Then learn more about samurai warriors and helmets in a special exhibition called "Art of the Samurai." This exhibition brings together the finest Japanese armor, swords, and archery equipment from the age of the samurai. “Art of the Samurai” opens October 21 and continues through January 10, 2010.
Thanks again for listening. Join us again for Story Time at the Met.
The exhibition is made possible by The Yomiuri Shimbun.
Additional support is provided by The Jessica E. Smith and Kevin R. Brine Charitable Trust, the J.C.C. Fund of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of New York, Inc., the Oceanic Heritage Foundation, and the Japan Foundation.
Transportation assistance was provided by Japan Airlines.
The exhibition was organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Agency for Cultural Affairs of the Government of Japan, and the Tokyo National Museum.
It is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.
The catalogue is made possible by the Samuel I. Newhouse Foundation, Inc.
Additional support is provided by Arthur Ochs Sulzberger and Allison S. Cowles, the Grancsay Fund, and the Doris Duke Fund for Publications.
This has been an Antenna Audio production.