The Buried Moon

I recently became the patron of an amazing bard I met on Instagram, Dawn Nelson a.k.a. DD storyteller, whose main gig is – in her own words – «connecting people with nature, history and the landscape that surrounds them, through storytelling». She’s amazing. The website is here, though she mostly communicates through her Patreon. She […]

I recently became the patron of an amazing bard I met on Instagram, Dawn Nelson a.k.a. DD storyteller, whose main gig is – in her own words – «connecting people with nature, history and the landscape that surrounds them, through storytelling». She’s amazing. The website is here, though she mostly communicates through her Patreon. She does incredible work, reading her has made me very happy, and you should definitely check her out. If you have a coin to spare, I encourage you to toss it that way.

One of the many things she does is picking a theme each month and sending what she calls ‘illuminated tales’, and playlists, and focus materials. This month’s theme was ‘Lights Above the Marshes’ and among other tales, it featured one of my favorite stories, a rather weird and unique fairy-tale called The Buried Moon.

YOU KNOW HOW
TO GET INTO THIS BOOK.

⁠Knock at the Knocker on the Door,
⁠Pull the Bell at the side,
Then, if you are very quiet, you will hear
a teeny tiny voice say through the grating
“Take down the Key.” This you will find at the
back: you cannot mistake it, for it has J.J.
in the wards. Put the Key in the Keyhole, which
it fits exactly, unlock the door, and

WALK IN.

It’s a story that first appeared in 1894 in More English Fairy Tales by Joseph Jacobs (the above quote is the one opening the book) and it tells the story of a wandering moon who falls into a pool in a bog and is then trapped underground by some swamp evil things. It’s one of the many legends coming from the Fens, a region in Eastern England, naturally marshy, with highly peculiar lore. I came across this particular legend, along with a bunch of others, while doing some research for a fantasy mystery thing I was writing, and I briefly mentioned it a while ago while looking at a beautiful Moon marionette.

One of John Batten’s illustrations to More English Fairy-Tales.

Although published by Jacobs, the story was collected by Marie Clothilde Balfour, a folklorist and author whose biography you can find here.

The Northumberland edition of the County Folklore Series, which comprised “the painstaking collection made…by Mrs M C Balfour” was published in 1904. Alongside this, she also pursued her interest in folk stories and gathered a number of tales from Northumberland which were included or referred to by Joseph Jacobs in his More English Fairytales.

Her work has been controversial for a long time since some of the folk tales she collected have highly peculiar characteristics and do not seem to be found elsewhere. You can read something about it here.

The Legends are full of features which indicate that they are from the oral tradition, namely performative strategies, simple sentences, narrative phrases, repetition, poetic devices, onomatopoeic words.

As far as I can understand, it is nowadays believed that the particular features of these tales are to be connected with the particular characteristics of the wetland region itself and lots of the tales revolve around marshes, bogs, and the moor. If you’re enchanted by atmospheres such as the ones you can find in Burnett’s Secret Garden, one of my favorite books like ever, this is the stuff for you.

There’s a lot of collections of folklore particularly revolving around the Ferns: I suggest you check out this reading list.

The Buried Moon is particularly popular amongst illustrators, especially independent ones: it features a wandering moon, who gets tied at the bottom of a swamp pool by a snag, a dead twine. What’s there not to like?

The story was originally illustrated by John D. Batten, an English painter who also worked on illustrations for an English collection of tales from the Arabian Nights. For The Buried Moon he does just one illustration and chooses one of the pivotal moments when the dark hood falls back from the trapped Moon’s hair and light shines through the marsh.

 

The most famous illustration, however, is probably the beautiful one produced by Edmund Dulac for his Edmund Dulac’s Fairy Book (1916), one of his last works. It included tales from different Countries and he chooses to illustrate the same moment.

In her frantic struggles, the hood of her cloak fell back from her dazzling golden hair, and immediately the whole place was flooded with light.

The same book has also decorated frontispieces for any tale, and here’s the one for The Buried Moon.

 

As far as I could dig up, the tale was later included in many collections. Particularly, I stumbled upon a 1909 publication called Tales of Wonder Every Child Should Know, compiled by Kate Douglas Wiggin and Nora Archibald Smith.


However, as I was saying, the theme is so fascinating lots of illustrators have worked on it, particularly in the latest years. I did a bit of research and here are my favorite ones. If any of these works strike your imagination or give you a bit of light, like the Moon when her hood falls back in the tale, take your time and spare a dime for some of these incredible artists.

Works are in chronological order, divided by decade.


The 1960s

1969: Susan Jeffers

Susan Jeffers was a writer and illustrator who sadly passed away last year, and if you don’t know her I suggest you read this blog piece. She did an overall of 47 books for children, some of them widely recognized as masterpieces, and received Caldecott Honors in 1974. In 1969 she published this edition of The Buried Moon, with the original text and rich illustrations in her particular, highly refined style.

 

The book hasn’t been republished, but you can still find some vintage editions.


The 1970s

1977: Molly Bang

American author and illustrator Molly Bang has been working on fairy-stories and folklore for a great part of her lengthy and successful career since The Goblins Giggle And Other Stories in 1973. Her retelling of The Buried Moon appears in a 1977 collection of stories. You can read the author herself talking about it here.


The 1990s

1990: Jamichael Henterly

In 1990, the American writer Sarah Margaret “Peggy” Hodges retold The Buried Moon for children in a self-standing book published by Little Brown and Company and was aided in the effort by the pencils and colors of Jamichael Henterly. There’s a couple of pictures at this address.

1991: Amanda Walsh

Told and illustrated by Amanda Walsh, this retelling of The Buried Moon is not particularly popular, which is a shame, and you don’t find much on-line. The pictures I could put my hands on are from this Etsy account, selling a used copy of the book. It looks awesome, though the author has moved to other stuff, since then (you can see a list of her works here).


The 2000s

2008: Arthy Balachandran

I put the 2008 date, but I have no idea when Arthy Balachandran did this illustration: it’s the date on her website (the specific work is here). Her DeviantArt profile unfortunately doesn’t seem to be much more updated. I think this work is awesome and I would be really sad to know she dropped illustrating after her thesis.


The 2010s

2011: Theresa Murphy

I found out Theresa’s work by googling, I won’t lie. You can see it here. If you browse through her gallery, she also did some Alice in Wonderland stuff which I think is really nice. Trees and gnarly creatures seem to be one of her best suits.

2012: Alida Massari (or not)

Narrated by Miles Kelly, this edition of The Buried Moon was described here as illustrated by Alida Massari and featured cover art by Amerigo Pinelli. On the illustrator’s website, you can see more works, including a 2020 Little Mermaid and an even more recent Snow Queen.
As I was saying, I found out about this book here, in a blog post talking about two of the same series. However, there’s no trace of this book on the mentioned illustrator’s website, nor it features any of its illustrations, so that got me wondering. You can find it on sale (e-book here). The book that gets flicked through in this video appears to be the same one, as it has the same cover. Illustrators are never credited, like anywhere, which is a quite disgraceful practice, so eventually, I had to buy the digital copy to make a sense of it.
Alongside Amerigo Pinelli and Alida Massari, who get grouped under the label of the agency Advocate Art, another agency gets acknowledged, The Bright Agency, and specifically Marcin Piwowarski, Tom Sperling, and Marsela Hajdinjak.

Inside cover of the book

The book contains four stories:

  • “The Council with the Munchkins”, adapted from Baum’s The Wizard of Oz;
  • “Do You believe in Fairies”, adapted from Barrie’s Peter Pan;
  • “Shipwreck on Lilliput”, adapted from Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (and by the life of me I’ll never understand why that’s considered a book for children);
  • “The Buried Moon”, which brought us here.

It appears illustrations were picked from different artists’ portfolios, based on availability, so we are unable to say who did what. The Buried Moon has three main artworks: the cover page, a double spreader (below), and one full-page artwork of children reaching for the moon (here).

The main artwork

The particular narration of The Buried Moon is extracted from Tales of Wonder Every Child should Know, by Kate Douglas Wiggin and Nora Archibald Smith. The book was published in 1909, so you’ll find it in earlier sections.

2012: Becca H. Klein

Becca was a student when she set up her website, and it doesn’t seem she has updated that in a while. On her DeviantArt profile, you can find this wandering and cloaked moon from the legend. There’s something about her androgynous look that I just really like a lot.

2012: Nicole Caterson

This independent edition is fully illustrated by an author I could not find elsewhere. Any help is appreciated. The style is peculiarly resembling artwork made by a child, which is not something I generally appreciate, but some of the plates are evocative.

2013: Mark Voortallen

Mark Voortallen runs a very goth blog about art and music, but this Buried Moon illustration was found on his DeviantArt profile. Compared to other artists, his not indulging in the anthropomorphic shape of the moon and gives us a round-faced one, entangled in the roots of the swamp tree. If you like his moon, you might want to check out also this Lunar Fruits.

2015: Giada Rose

I found this illustration in an Italian retelling of the tale, on this page, and I thought it was rather nice. There’s no trace of it on the website of the artist, but there’s an amazing collection of other incredible works you should really peruse. Her shop is here and my favorite artworks at the moment are the Lady Winter and the Afternoon’s Accomplishments. She has a very particular style.

2019: Lorena Carrington

Lorena Carrington is an Australian photographic artist and book illustrator and works with mixed media. I’m usually not fond of these kinds of works, but her pictures are just amazing.
Her Twitter profile is here, her Instagram profile is here and her website is here.

In 2019, she illustrated The Buried Moon by the equally Australian storyteller Kate Forsyth, which features a collection of “tales of bright young women”. See here.

All of the seven tales in this collection have one thing in common. They are stories of young women who face darkness and danger, but who prevail against the odds because of the brightness of their spirit and the strength of their resolve.
The Moon is saved from the bog by the courage of those who love her bright light.

Another beautiful illustration by Carrington.

You can see some more of her artworks here.


The 2020s

2020: S.K. Baker

This artist goes mostly by Little Goth Thing and on her blog’s homepage, she has some incredible illustrations for a book I was unfortunately unable to find on her Etsy store (although I would buy it in a heartbeat).

2021: Jennifer Gibney

Should you like this work, you’re in luck because the original is for sale here. Jennifer Gibney runs Hares Corner Studio, a delightful Etsy shop of original watercolors and every single one of his works is incredible.

Jim Benhof

Another artist I found by chance (his Artstation profile is here), this US illustrator did a wonderful take on The Buried Moon and I’d like to share that with you last because it’s probably my favorite. ’cause no one ever said the Moon was white.

 

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