The Beetle on the Moon
Updated: Feb 3, 2022
“…but the moon was shining and to conceal her deed, she took a pail of pitch and began to tar the moon black.”
– Emilie Demant Hatt
The sun hung low against the horizon, as we hoped she always would, and against the other sky the moon began to rise. He was slimmer tonight. A crescent smile of darkness cutting across his white and silver face. The beetle barely visible at all.
They say that she was human, once, the beetle on the moon. Atsisjaedne. With cruel words and hard hands and bitter heart. The son-stealer, the reindeer-beater, always jealous, always wanting even now, stuck upon the moon.
And once her stolen son had left and her crimes grew greater still, even the reindeer left her. Grateful for the crash that tangled their reins and freed them from her tugging and her sharp commands. Wildness caught their hearts and their eyes as they ran from her, returning to the woods that only their grandfather’s grandmother would know. No more to be milked, no more to pull the sleigh, no more to give their fur to keep another warm. Free to leave behind a bitter woman, cursing them and already planning wicked things.
Alone, abandoned, unlucky Atsisjaedne grew more unlucky still. Her human skin grew hard and cracked and shiny as an eye, though dark and black instead of white. Limbs grew, where limbs had never been, and from her mouth glistening mandibles clacked like teeth together.
The sun has fully faded now, the last amber glow dimming into the darkness of true night. The moon still shines, but not as brightly, with a slither of him missing. How bright he must have been on that night, so long ago. The night when Atsisjaedne, bitter jealousy in hand, went skuttling on new legs to the pens, where kidness had kept her neighbour’s reindeer loyal. Did they shiver to see her, lowing with alarm at her grotesque and swollen form standing dark as a river against the silver-stained ground? Did she curse as she reached for them, each one jerking backwards, too quick for her touch? Is that where she got the idea? From the pitch black of her new exoskeleton, standing shadow-bright beneath the moon?
And does it matter? Whatever may have put the idea into her head, it did not change what happened next. She took her bucket of pitch in one spindly leg and climbed into the heavens. They could not see her, she reasoned, if the moon was dark – as dark as her. Laughing to herself, in the intelligence of her plan, she took her brush and began to pain the tar across the moon. Sticky, black and bubbling it stained his face with darkness. Perhaps, it would have worked. Perhaps she would have left the night sky lit only by the stars and warm fires that we huddle by in colder nights. But it did not. She forgot herself. Forgot her new size, and beetle shape. Her hand brushed against the blackness she had carried with her, and the more she struggled, the more it pulled her in. And then she was gone. A beetle. Insignificant, and trapped within the pitch she tried to use to drown the moon.
The slither of darkness on the moon is growing deeper. Will grow deeper until the very face of him is gone. But once that is over, he will return. Growing fuller every day as the pitch that tried to eat him wears away. And his bright face will shine down upon the grassy dells, and the wild reindeer grazing on the plain.
Insp. Atsisjaedne Tars the Moon