Run, rabbit run. Dig that hole, catch the He3. When at last the work is done, wheels go round, it's time to dig another one -- Jade Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon
The long busy day was over, and the rabbit laid down to sleep through the long winter's night. But something was wrong, and Yu Tu didn't know what. Neither did MÃ©ilÃn, back on the other world. And the goddess had neglected to bring her elixir of immortality. The poor little rabbit might never wake up again!
I like the rover's name; the same as my favorite Irish band, U-2. Curious, I looked up the moon rabbit and was incredibly surprised. Sixty two years of life reading thousands of books and I had never heard of the rabbit on the moon, and it's a world wide phenomena. The next full moon I'll have to look for it on the moon. Today I looked for it on the internet.
In Chinese folklore, it is often portrayed as a companion of the Moon goddess Chang'e, constantly pounding the elixir of life for her. In Japanese and Korean versions, it is pounding the ingredients for rice cake.
Apparently someone at NASA had heard of it, because just before the first moon landing there was this conversation between Buzz Aldrin and mission control.
Houston: Among the large headlines concerning Apollo this morning, there's one asking that you watch for a lovely girl with a big rabbit. An ancient legend says a beautiful Chinese girl called Chang-o has been living there for 4000 years. It seems she was banished to the Moon because she stole the pill of immortality from her husband. You might also look for her companion, a large Chinese rabbit, who is easy to spot since he is always standing on his hind feet in the shade of a cinnamon tree. The name of the rabbit is not reported.
Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin: Okay. We'll keep a close eye out for the bunny girl.
Ancient storytellers were every bit as imaginative as today's. I suspect that the moon rabbit stories are actually more than fifty thousand years old, because the moon rabbit shows up in Eastern culture, and in ancient Aztec culture and the stories are very similar, as if morphing with repeated retelling. But they don't show up in Europe, Africa, or Australia (if I'm wrong, let me know. I've seen no mention in my admittedly limited searches).
The Chinese poet, Li Bai, in his poem named "The Old Dust" during the Chang dynasty (Chang... wasn't he a Klingon? Wait, no, that's TANG dynasty. Tang? Hmm...) wrote "The rabbit in the Moon pounds the medicine in vain," which is NOT a good omen. Methinks the Chinese would have been better off calling Yutu something else.
The "Jade Rabbit" originated the Han dynasty. Note: not the Han Solo dynasty. During that time it was also called the "Gold Rabbit".
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, the Cree (American native) legend tells a different variation, about a young rabbit who wished to ride the Moon. Only the crane was willing to take him. The trip stretched Crane's legs as the heavy rabbit held them tightly, leaving them elongated as cranes' legs are now. When they reached the Moon Rabbit touched Crane's head with a bleeding paw, leaving the red mark cranes wear to this day. According to the legend, on clear nights, Rabbit can still be seen riding the Moon.
The Aztecs, about as far from China as you can get without leaving the planet, had a slightly different version. The god Quetzalcoatl, then living on Earth as a man, started on a journey and, after walking for a long time, became hungry and tired. With no food or water around, he thought he would die. Then a rabbit grazing nearby offered herself as food to save his life. Quetzalcoatl, moved by the rabbit's noble offering, elevated her to the Moon, then lowered her back to Earth and told her, "You may be just a rabbit, but everyone will remember you; there is your image in light, for all people and for all times."
Another Mesoamerican legend tells of the brave and noble sacrifice of Nanahuatzin during the creation of the fifth sun. Humble Nanahuatzin sacrificed himself in fire to become the new sun, but the wealthy god Tecciztecatl hesitated four times before he finally set himself alight to become the Moon. Due to Tecciztecatl's cowardice, the gods felt that the Moon should not be as bright as the sun, so one of the gods threw a rabbit at his face to diminish his light. It is also said that Tecciztecatl was in the form of a rabbit when he sacrificed himself to become the Moon, casting his shadow there.
In the Buddhist Jataka Tale 316, a monkey, an otter, a jackal, and a rabbit resolved to practice charity on the day of the full Moon (Uposatha), believing a demonstration of great virtue would earn a great reward.
When an old man begged for food, the monkey gathered fruits from the trees and the otter collected fish, while the jackal wrongfully pilfered a lizard and a pot of milk-curd. The rabbit, who knew only how to gather grass, instead offered its own body, throwing itself into a fire the man had built. The rabbit, however, was not burnt. The old man revealed himself to be Sakra and, touched by the rabbit's virtue, drew the likeness of the rabbit on the Moon for all to see. It is said the lunar image is still draped in the smoke that rose when the rabbit cast itself into the fire.
A version of this story can be found in the Japanese anthology Konjaku Monogatarishu, where the rabbit's companions are a fox and a monkey.
When the sun again shines on Yutu, I'll have to look for her.
Meanwhile, as Yutu slept, perhaps never again waking up, so did Pete Seeger, who will certainly never again wake up. He died last night at the age of 94. None of the news outlets mentioned cause of death. All of the news outlets mentioned his liberalism and its causing him to be jailed and blacklisted (and the Snowden revelations surprised you?). They all mentioned songs he wrote, including this one:
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
Note that Seeger changed the words a little from the first draft, which comes from the book of Ecclesiastes. None of the news outlets mention this, oddly.
May the singer rest in peace, and may the roving rabbit rise and shine with the sun on the moon.