Andersen Fairy Tales, Andersen-Hans Christian

What the Moon Saw-Thirty-First Evening

Moon by Ashe ArterberryWhat the Moon Saw-Thirty-First Evening

The wind blew stormy and cold, the clouds flew hurriedly past; only for a moment now and then did the Moon become visible. He said, “I looked down from the silent sky upon the driving clouds, and saw the great shadows chasing each other across the earth. I looked upon a prison. A closed carriage stood before it; a prisoner was to be carried away. My rays pierced through the grated window towards the wall: the prisoner was scratching a few lines upon it, as a parting token; but he did not write words, but a melody, the outpouring of his heart. The door was opened, and he was led forth, and fixed his eyes upon my round disc. Clouds passed between us, as if he were not to see my face, nor I his. He stepped into the carriage, the door was closed, the whip cracked, and the horses galloped off into the thick forest, whither my rays were not able to follow him; but as I glanced through the grated window, my rays glided over the notes, his last farewell engraved on the prison wall—where words fail, sounds can often speak. My rays could only light up isolated notes, so the greater part of what was written there will ever remain dark to me. Was it the death-hymn he wrote there? Were these the glad notes of joy? Did he drive away to meet death, or hasten to the embraces of his beloved? The rays of the Moon do not read all that is written by mortals.”

That was the thirty-first evening.


This story reminds me of The Count of Monte Cristo. Edmund was also taken away in a wagon and he did not know where. Perhaps the prisoner in this story knew where he was going. The moon did not know and the moon did not follow. One thing we can observe about this prisoner is that he is a little more high-class than most prisoners. He did not write a note in letters; he wrote a note in music. The moon did not see the entire note, so we’ll never know how it ends.

Reading music wasn’t exactly a skill poor people had. If this man had been an average Joe, he probably wouldn’t have known how to read music. It wasn’t impossible; it just wasn’t likely. Music was a past time of all classes, but the upper classes were the more educated as far as music matters went. The people of poorer classes most likely learned how to play music by ear and by copycatting, which, honestly, takes some talent, perhaps more talent than an upper class person learning to play an instrument by reading music.

Guessing that this man was a little nobler in birth, it makes the reader wonder what he had done to end up in prison. White collar crime? Murder? A political prisoner? A scapegoat much like Edmund Dantes? Maybe he’s an intellectual prisoner? Maybe he had an idea people didn’t like, so he was thrown into prison. Who knows?



The moon does not read all that mortals write. That’s our point here. We can look at the Moon as a deity in these stories. The moon travels all over, looking down upon the people of Earth. The moon doesn’t really interfere, he just observes the way people run their lives. He could see so much more if he chose to, but he does not.

The idea in this story is really more of a religious view. Does God watch everything we do? Is he interested in every single aspect of our lives? On the inverse of that, does God kind of watch what we’re doing, but let us make our own choices? The answers to these questions depend on what your religious beliefs are. Maybe you do believe that God plays a part in every single little thing in your life, or maybe you believe he keeps you away from the cliff, but otherwise lets you go through life of your own accord.



It would have been neat to know more about the prisoner.

Weigh In

Are you watched every second?

If you were a prisoner and you were leaving your cell, what message would you carve into the wall?


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