• Leslie Hudson

For the love of the moon & magical cloaks

There are dreams that follow you into the waking world, and promises you make there can follow you, too. This is a folktale that begins with a dream, and a promise to the moon.

Magical cloaks. 7/30

In honour of the full moon tonight I've chosen a folktale I adore.

I've read two versions of this story. The first version is the one I reference here, which I bought as a children's book when I was teaching kindergarten (Montessori) because I fell in love with it. Beautiful illustrations that lift up a wonderful story about a tailor who falls in love with the moon and wants to do something nice for her.

The only other version I've come across is in The Turnip Princess and Other Newly Discovered Fairy Tales, an English translation of a German collection by Franz Xaver Von Schönwerth, which portrays an impatient and insulting version of the tailor who is constantly enraged that the moon keeps changing shape.

But Kimmel's retelling of the original by Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav (see below) has none of this antagonism.

A tailor spends his nights looking adoringly up at the moon. One night he dreams that she is cold and promises to make her a cloak to wear in the night sky. But no one he consults is particularly helpful, and at first he's laughed at, or thought to be crazy. Plus there's the added difficulty of the moon's changing shape. One cloak would never do! It's impossible!

Until one day the tailor hears of a silken garment in a land far away that has been woven from beams of light and has the quality of changing shape to fit the wearer. So off he goes to discover the land where the garment is kept, travelling near and far, asking traders, tailors, and travellers about it, looking for clues as to its whereabouts.

Finally he is directed to a city in the mountains called The Roof of the World. When the tailor arrives he notices everyone is sad and dejected and he is told their princess has no wedding dress. There is a tradition that the queen gives a dress woven of light to her daughter when she is to be married, but the dress has come unraveled and no one can mend it.

The tailor arrives at the palace and offers to try to mend the dress, but nothing works, none of his skills with the tools he knows are helpful and he only manages to unravel more of the dress, losing precious light he cannot find a way to replace.

That night the moon rises full and glorious and shines through the window and through a magnifying glass in his toolkit. As the beam of light touches the end of the thread it starts to spin, and the spun thread weaves itself into cloth. The tailor has discovered the secret! He finishes the dress, clips the end of the thread and puts it in his pocket.

The next day he gives the dress to the queen and asks to keep the thread he clipped. She agrees and thanks him. Heading home, every night the moon shines the tailor stops to magnify her beams onto the end of his tiny thread, and slowly the thread weaves itself into cloth. By the time he reaches his city he has enough of it to make a cloak for the moon.

When it is finished, the tailor climbs a ladder made of moonbeams into the night sky. There he delivers the cloak of light that fits the moon perfectly as she waxes and wanes. To this day he is up there still, sitting next to his love in her cloak of moonlight.

Lesson learned: don't let anyone tell you your dreams are impossible, for there are many ways to manifest them, many skills you have yet to learn, and many roads you've yet to travel.

A Cloak for the Moon retold by Eric A. Kimmel, illustrated by Katya Krenina (NY: Holiday House, 2001).

Kimmel's notes say: This story is based on one of the tales of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav (1772-1811). Rabbi Nachman was a gifted writer as well as a great spiritual leader. The mystical stories that he wrote for his followers are among the finest works of Jewish literature.

February's full moon (2020)

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