"The Buried Moon"

a Lincolnshire-Cars tale retold by Cathy Mosley

Before our great-great-great grandmothers were born the Moon looked down upon the marshes and bogs. She had heard that during her rest, what Humans called "the dark of the moon," boggles and imps crawled from the bogs to drag at reckless travelers. Were such tales true? She thought on it so much that at long last her curiosity got the best of her, and during the dark of the moon she wrapped herself in the velvety black of a cloak and stepped to the murky paths.

The night was deep, with only the glint of stars showing in the sludgy black of the waters; waters that gurgled and were stirred by something in their depths.

Cautiously, fearfully, the Moon stepped along. Warily putting one foot in front of another.

But for all of her caution her dainty foot slipped and with a tiny cry the Moon tried to right herself by clutching at a withered tree.

No sooner did her fingers touch the wood then the branches and twigs began to twist tight around her wrists, and no manacles could have held her more solidly.

"Gurgle," went the water, and was the only sound.

The Moon twisted and turned but her tugging came to nothing.

And all around her she could hear the faint sounds of wet feet slapping upon the paths, and evil laughter.

Then all sounds stopped - for coming along the path was a Man, who was cursing the darkness, and praying for safety.

Oh how the Moon struggled then! She knew that the Man would be doomed to quicksand or bog if he had no light. The Horrors of the night would drag him down! She gave up on trying to get free, but wiggled until her velvety black hood fell back revealing the glow of her white hair and face.

Whimpering and mewing at the light the boggles, the imps, and the nameless things scurried back into the depths with sluggish "plops."

And somewhere out on the path the Man breathed out a prayer of thanksgiving and hurried towards home. Never wondering where the light had come from.

At first the Moon was filled with relief that the Man had reached safety, but soon she was sobbing with the knowledge she was still trapped. The brightness of her light kept her safe, but as the hours went on she sank to her knees, and leaned helplessly against the tree.

Around her blew a fitful breeze, and about her the dead branches creaked and snagged at her. 

Till, at last, the Horrors' had their wish, and the Moon's hood was pushed back over to hide her radiance.

The water gurgled. The water bubbled.

And from its ebony depths crawled the boggles and the imps and the nameless things; all around the Moon they gibbered and crawled and plotted. Some wanted to poison her.  Some wanted to eat her.

Finally one suggested they drown her, and with their combined strength they pushed the Moon beneath the brackish waters and covered her with a great stone.  Over the stone they commanded the will-o-wisps to keep guard.

So there lay the poor Moon, dead and buried.

One day followed another and the Marsh folk put pennies in their caps in order to welcome the Moon; for she was their protector - lighting their way home. But each night they had to stumble fearfully to their houses, and they were terrified by the Moon's absence.

"What has happened?" they whispered.

"Where has she gone?"

"What does it mean?"

Such were the questions asked as they watched their livestock, ate their dinners, and drank their ale.

More days passed and the more their tongues wagged, particularly at the local inn, where the old men sat by the hearth and shared a bit of tobacco. On one night a traveler shared the fire with them, and he listened to their worries, which began him pondering....

......Remembering back to a night a month passed when he had struggled along a black marsh path.........

"I think I know where the Moon is!!" he declared, and hastened to tell his tale.

The Marsh folk bade him come with them to the local Wise Woman, who was a goodwife neither young nor old, but sharp in the ways of the spirits and the marshes. She listened to the traveler's story, and brought out her mirror and her Book. Finally she sat back and said, "Go before night gathers.....Put a stone in your mouth, and carry a hazel twig. And remember to not say a word before your safe home!"

She pointed a finger at each and continued on, "Then you can walk bravely into the marsh. Go till you find a coffin, a candle, and a cross, and not far away shall you find the Moon!"

The next night the men gathered, placed stones within their mouths, and held tight to their hazel twigs; then they followed the traveler along the path he had used.

Around them the water gurgled, and the water bubbled. And sharp twigs tried to snag at them.

But the men walked on, looking this way and that.

Until the traveler stopped suddenly and pointed towards where corpse lights glittered like candles on a half submerged stone, which looked for the world like a sunken coffin. And above the stone and will-o-wisps stood the ancient tree, with its arms twisted into a shadowy cross.

To this ghastly place the Marsh folk hastened, and with silent strength they heaved the great stone away.

And from the depths of the black water glowed the beautiful face of the Moon; she opened her eyes and her expression turned to joy.

Her rescuers stumbled back as she sped past them so that her radiant light could bath the bog in her glow; driving the boggles, the imps, and the nameless things scurrying back to their waters.  

Jacobs, Joseph. _More English Fairy Tales_. New York: Amereon House. 1990.