Khasi: What caused the Shadows on the Moon

This story is part of the Khasi Folktales unit. Story source: Folk-Tales of the Khasis by Mrs. K. U. Rafy (1920).

What caused the Shadows on the Moon

In the early ages there lived a family of deities, consisting of a mother and four children — three daughters and one son. They lived very happily for many long years, the children showing great respect to their mother and to one another. Their names were Ka Um (Water), Ka Ding (Fire), and Ka Sngi (the Sun), and the boy was called U Bnai (the Moon). They were all very noble and beautiful to look upon, as became their high destiny, but it was universally agreed that Ka Sngi and U Bnai, the two youngest, possessed greater beauty and loveliness than the two elder sisters. In those days the moon was equal to the sun in brightness and splendour.

When U Bnai grew up he began to show somewhat wayward tendencies; he came and went at his own will, without consulting his mother or his sisters, and consorted with companions far beneath him in rank. Sometimes he would absent himself from home for many days, and none of his family knew whither he wandered. His mother often remonstrated with him, as is right for every mother to do, and she and his sisters endeavoured to guide him into more decorous habits, but he was wilful and self-indulgent, thinking that he had a right to more liberty than his women-folk allowed him. By degrees he abandoned himself to a life of pleasure and wild pursuits, paying no heed to the advice and warnings of his elders.

Once he followed some of his low associates into the nether regions and spent a long time in that land of goblins and vice. After a while his thoughts came back to his family and his erstwhile radiant home, and a longing to see them came over him, so he quitted the nether regions, and left his evil companions, and returned to his home and his kindred.

He had gazed so long on the hideous faces of the inhabitants of the dark world,that he was dazzled by the beauty of his sister Ka Sngi, who came to meet him with smiles and joy for his return. He had also lost the right perception of duty and honour, and, instead of greeting her as his sister, he went to his mother and with unbrotherly wantonness demanded the hand of Ka Sngi in marriage, saying that he had travelled throughout many worlds and had seen the sons of all nations, but there was no suitor to be found in the whole universe whose beauty could match that of Ka Sngi, except himself. Consequently he said that it behoved his mother to give countenance to his suit and to arrange the marriage.

This caused the mother much grief, and she dismissed her son from her presence in dishonour. Ka Sngi, when she heard of his design, was enraged because of his unchaste proposal, and in anger she went forth to seek her brother. When she found him, she forgot her usual dignity and decorum, and, lifting a handful of hot ashes, she threw it into U Bnai’s face. The ashes scorched his flesh so deeply that the marks have remained on his face to this day. Ever since then, the light of the moon has been pale, marred by dark shadows, and that is the reason he does not show his face in the day-time.

(600 words)

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