Andersen Fairy Tales, Andersen-Hans Christian

What the Moon Saw-Ninth Evening

Moon by Ashe ArterberryWhat the Moon Saw-Ninth Evening

The moon’s back from behind the clouds.

On the ninth night the moon says he has been to Greenland, where flowers are blooming and people are celebrating. The natives are out dancing in polar bear outfits. The people are performing something of a skit. One person complains about another, while another has to defend the complaint. It seems to be all in good fun.

Inside of one of the skin houses a man waits to die. His wife is already sewing him into his burial shroud. She asks him whether he wants to be buried on the land among the rocks or in the sea. He tells her the sea. Everyone makes way for the man to reach the sea, his final resting place.

That was the ninth evening.


Hans seems awfully obsessed with various burial rituals.

In this story when the moon speaks of Greenland he speaks of this place that has all these flowers, which part of Greenland does and only for a short period of time, but it’s not so green as Iceland. Iceland is actually the greener island. Greenland is more icy. It will have some flowers, but only in areas where the ice actually melts in the summer. There are actually quite a lot of flowers and plants in Greenland. Maybe not the plants that Hans mentions specifically.

For example, Hans mentions willows. There may very well be willows in Greenland, but they don’t seem the type of plant adapted to such cold conditions. There are blueberry plants that grow in Greenland, but Hans uses the name Barberry, which isn’t the same thing. A barberry bush is a flowering bush. Hans also mentions Lychnis, which is a flower native to Europe and surrounding continents. Greenland is sort of attached to North America, in a cartographic type of way, but most of the flora comes from Europe. It would be correct that there would be plants there that Hans might have been familiar with. Do I think Hans ever actually went to Greenland? No.

Hans speaks of this Native ritual in this story. It sounds very call and response, the skit part of it anyway. Most people probably would not have had clothes made of polar bear skin, most likely it would have been caribou leather or seal leather, maybe lined with the fur of some smaller mammals.

There are traditions in some Native tribes that people just know when they’re going to die. They make themselves ready. They sit in whatever spot they desire and wait for death to come and claim them. This sounds like what the man in this story is doing. Is he actually going to die? Well, yes, if someone throws him in the ocean. Is he actually near death? Is he really sick? Is he actually so old that it’s just time to die? Maybe, but maybe not. He may have just decided that it was time for him to die. Human will can go a long way, but this guy wasn’t necessarily about to die.

Would he have been buried under a mound of stones? It’s a good possibility. In areas where the ground freezes hard in the winter, it’s difficult to dig a grave and there very well might be a skeleton under a large mound of stones you might come across.

One more thing, an angekokk, as mentioned in the original text by the wife, is an Inuit shaman. The wife said the angekokk would dance over the husband’s grave.


Part of what I’m taking away from this story is that life goes on. This guy is going to die, but his tribe members continue their usual routines. They are not necessarily sad that his death is near. It’s a way of life to them. It’s probably more of a time to celebrate the life that the man had lived rather than be all sad about him not being around anymore.

You do kind of have to admire these people for being so matter of fact about death. Old man whoever is about to die. Instead of being all weepy, they continue their usual escapades. They help him with his journey to the next life. Native Americans, in all their various tribes, generally believe in some life after death. They generally believe that their spirits will live on long after their bodies are decomposed. To these people it wasn’t a matter of Old Man is going to die and we’re never going to see him again, it was a matter of Old Man’s body is going to die, but his spirit will still be with us to help us and guide us.

I admire that way of thinking. It’s a way to keep a loved one close and hold onto the idea that there is something eternal about each of us. What makes you who you are will never be duplicated, unless you’re cloned, but even then, your clone will not have your same personality and memories. Old Man will die, but he will not be forgotten by his tribe.


The moon is quite multicultural in the things he observes.

Weigh In

Should death ceremonies be a celebration of life a person lived or a mourning of the loss of life?

Where do you think Hans obtained his knowledge about the other people’s of the world?


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