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Image of the moon and the Earth in the corner.

If Only These Literary Moons Came out at Night

When we were little, the night sky could leave us breathless. The stars poked a million pinholes, but the Moon stole the show. 48 years ago, Neil Armstrong took his “one small step,” but the Moon’s been capturing storytellers’ imaginations for as long as humans have been telling stories. Here are a few takes on the Moon we pine for the most.


1. “Luna: New Moon” by Ian McDonald


Cover of Luna: New Moon, which shows a colonized Moon overlooking the Earth.

via Amazon


In McDonald’s 2015 sci-fi novel, the Moon is home to five feuding families, à la “Game of Thrones.” The tension is notched up as the five families, called the Five Dragons, engage in some serious corporate espionage. Resources are so limited on McDonald’s Moon that those living there are constantly alerted how much air they have left. Although this society seems rather frightening, it would be nice to look up from the Earth and know there are people up there too. Who knows, this might happen sooner than we realize.


2. “The Distance of the Moon” by Italo Calvino


Cover of Cosmicomics, showing a crescent Moon with a face being tugged down by a rope.

via Amazon


Inspiring Pixar’s short film “La Luna,” Italo Calvino’s “The Distance of the Moon” (from the beautiful collection “Cosmicomics”) imagines a time when the Moon swooped very close to the Earth’s surface; so close that people could climb to the surface and harvest “lunar milk” with a big spoon. The story itself follows a love triangle between three of these Moon-climbers. The ending is equal parts vicious and gorgeous. Here’s actor Liev Schreiber reading the story on Radiolab.


3. “The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter”


Image of Princess Kaguya looking at the Moon from a balcony.

via Yohey Horishita – Tumblr


One of Japan’s most enduring folk tales, “The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter” (aka “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya”) is about a baby girl just a couple inches tall who’s found by a bamboo cutter. Coinciding with her arrival, the bamboo cutter begins finding gold stuffed in bamboo stalks. The new family becomes very rich, and, when she grows up, the girl attracts a number of wealthy suitors. Uninterested, she sends them on impossible quests, and does succeed in avoiding marriage. Eventually, though, she must return to her true home: the Capital of the Moon.


This timeless folk tale received an Oscar-nominated film adaptation from Studio Ghibli in 2013. Theirs is a take on the moon unlike any other. The scene of the princess returning home will take you back to those breathless moonlit nights from childhood.


A long, empty canal with a great big moon in the background.

via YouTube


Featured image courtesy of History.com