Andersen Fairy Tales, Andersen-Hans Christian

What the Moon Saw-Nineteenth Evening

Moon by Ashe ArterberryWhat the Moon Saw-Nineteenth Evening

On the nineteenth evening the moon spoke of Rome, which had been made on seven hills. On one of the seven hills there had been an imperial palace, but now it was in ruins. The only people who lived there were a grandmother and her granddaughter. The door to the place was made with an old bit of rabbit’s foot. The granddaughter often sat in the high tower and looked out.

The place served as their dwelling now, but it was only cobbled together from pieces of the old palace. Uneven stones made the steps. The girl brought water up in an antique jug. She hesitated just a moment and dropped the jug. It dropped on the uneven steps and shattered. The jug was now worthless. The girl cried over the jug. She didn’t dare pull the rabbit’s foot string to get inside of the old imperial palace.

That was the nineteenth evening.


Rome is home to many old buildings which are no longer in use. Their ruins are under the streets and under other buildings. Some of the greatest buildings in the world are buried below street level. The idea that this girl might have been living in part of the old imperial palace is totally plausible. The Colosseum was used for many other purposes over the years. Pieces of it were taken away to build homes. A bunch of cats lived there.

Once great buildings are abandoned for whatever reason people begin to scavenge those buildings. In a more modern-day example, the Mormons built a temple in Nauvoo, Illinois in the 1800s. They were forced out of Nauvoo. As soon as they were gone, the building was scavenged. Pieces of it were taken to build other buildings. The people of the area basically considered that the Mormons were failed and that the building was up for grabs, much like any of the ancient Roman buildings that have been scavenged.


This girl and her grandmother lived something of a strange life. They lived among history, but they lived in their modern-day. They walked the same ground that Roman soldiers and maybe even emperors walked, but they lived modestly. Spilling the water pitcher was very unfortunate for this girl, unfortunate for everyone actually. Those pitchers are pieces of history. As they are destroyed, we lose that piece of history. The girl and her grandmother had made their dwelling place among history and with pieces of history. They used historical artifacts as every-day household items.

It’s a strange contrast to be so poor, but using something worth so much. If the two had any inkling of how valuable those items were they wouldn’t have to be so poor. They could sell those items.

Having a piece of history makes us feel a little more regal than we would have felt. See this chair, some historical figure sat there. This is a button from the battle of Cowpens. This is a brick from the biggest whore house in Arizona. That last one is a family story. These things make us feel connected to the past, but we also kind of distance ourselves from the history surrounding these items. If we did not how could we ever collect something like a knife that had scalped someone, or a bullet that had killed someone.

We have history all around us at times and we learn to ignore it, until something threatens that history then we realize how special it was.


Somebody get this girl a regular water pitcher.

Weigh In

If you found a historical artifact would you keep it or sell it?

Do you or your family use an item that would be in a museum otherwise for everyday use?


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