The Hare (Lepre, in Italian) and the Moon (Luna) are two iconic elements that are peculiar of the astonishing place we are, even before we acquired it, and that we instantly loved.
The Hare, because there are several families of this species that play quietly under the olive trees during summer.
The Moon, because the first time we came here at night, it was full and sheding its light right where the vineyard was then planted.
Then, one day in a library we discovered the legend of the Moon Rabbit and everything became crystal clear: these two elements, synonyms of generosity, prosperity, and fertility, were what we were looking for to give our project a true character.
The Moon has always inspired poems and legends with its romantic glow. Of these legends in particular for its ancient and poignant beauty that has as its protagonist our other characterizing element, for us a hare, in the story a Rabbit.
The daughter of Eastern culture, the legend of the “Rabbit on the Moon” is little known in the West. The protagonist is a bunny who for his generosity was rewarded by the goddess of the Moon, Chang’e with an exceedingly memorable gift: his silhouette was in fact imprinted as a coat of arms, an indelible mark placed on the surface of our satellite.
A magical design that some would have noticed already in ancient times, and which is also mentioned in Mayan and Aztec mythology, where these animals were fertility keepers and passionate “drinkers”.
The legend also explains the pareidolia of the satellite craters, the subconscious illusion that tends to lead back to known shapes, objects or profiles (natural or artificial) of random shape. Interpretations that lead to seeing the bunny on the lunar surface facing both right and left.
THE LEGEND OF THE MOON RABBIT
It is said that, during a full moon night, an elderly and tired traveler arrived in an enchanted forest inhabited by a monkey, an otter, a jackal and a rabbit. The traveler, destroyed by his innumerable labors, asked for a hand of comfort to the animals that onlooked him.
“I’ve traveled a lot and I’m tired, could you give me something to eat?” he asked the little animals. The monkey wasting no time; he made himself fast and like lightning, he quickly threw himself in to hunt fruit among the tall trees of the enchanted woods. The otter, skilled in fishing, dived into the river that thinned out next door and soon returned with a lame haul of big, juicy fish.
The jackal instead resorted to all his cunning. He sneaked into a house inhabited by human beings and there, without delay, stole food. Well, finally, everyone had brought something to the old gentleman.
All but one: the bunny.
He then, mortified in the depths of his heart, began to run through the woods. But the more he sought, the more he found before his path. Of the humble grass was all he knew and could grasp. It was then a great sadness.
His paws were the only empty ones before the tremulous eyes of the old gentleman. He was a small and simple being, who possessed no particular talent. What he possessed was nothing but himself. So, the little rabbit looked at his animal friends and, after thinking for a moment, asked them to help him collect sprigs and dried leaves. Finally he lit a fire and looked at the vivid flame whose reflection plunged burning into his innocent eyes.
He said then: I have not been able to bring you anything else and therefore I will offer you myself.
And without any qualms he threw himself into that burning fire, offering his own flesh as a meal for the elderly gentleman. The flames were high and full, yet they did not seem to scourge even a soul of that fluffy fur. In front of that scene the traveler rose struck in the depths of his soul. Suddenly his face, contrite in a grimace of astonishment, changed; so too his worn robes. In its place appeared a divine and sublime creature: the deity Chang’e, the goddess of the moon, who had actually arrived on earth in disguise, to investigate the customs of man and to find out which of the beings was the kindest.
Chang’e, intimately enraptured by the virtue imprinted in those playful, vivid little eyes and the extreme generosity embedded in the pure soul of the little creature, decided then to honor that sacred gesture and wanted the image of that humble little animal, who had not feared for a moment in offering himself, it was forever imprinted on the shiny mantle of the pale moon, so that everyone could eternally admire the miraculous example.
According to other versions, the goddess caught the fluffy body of the fluffy rabbit and led it with her to the moon, imprinting on that moment the heroic image.
Other variants tell that the deity Chang’e would later teach the bunny to produce an elixir, a filter of immortality. The bunny has since up there in the sky immense from where he scrutinizes the work of men, working with his inseparable pestle the recipe of immortality for his beautiful goddess.
The nuances of this Indian legend of Buddhist origins are meandering in details and even changing versions, but the heart of his ancient and deep morality is always the same:
a warning to man and a nod to the value of sacrifice, humility and charity, as the founding pillars of a good that, when done, is always valuable, always important. Sacrifice as a container for the most rare and honorable virtues that reside not only in strength or dexterity, but in every selfless and pure heart.
APOLLO 11 AND THE MOON RABBIT
It is also curious how this legend has been mentioned in the dialogue that took place just before the historic landing of Apollo 11.
In a conversation between the Houston Command and the crew, it was in fact playfully referred by the astronauts (Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin), who on one of the headlines of that day, asked the satellite’s prowess, to pay attention to the beautiful girl who for 4000 years inhabited the moon with her bunny; in reference to the goddess Chang’e, confined to the moon for stealing her husband the pill of immortality, always accompanied by her faithful rabbit.
One of them then responded by saying, “Okay, we’ll keep a close eye for the bunny girl.” a phrase that has since been anchored in the memory of the historic day.
THE MOON RABBIT, MANGA AND VIDEOGAMES
This legend has also set forth the spread of the figure of the rabbit in the Japanese collective imagination: manga and anime have reproduced countless versions, declining some aspects in the most famous:
– “Dragon Ball” in the clash between Goku and Monster Rabbit, the enemy with the likeness of a rabbit that he must send back to the moon)
– “The Knights of the Zodiac” during the run along the 12 houses of the Gold Saints is briefly narrated the fairy tale of the lunar rabbit
– The renowned saga Pretty Guardian: Sailor Moon, about the moon’s reign, stars the mythical Tsukino Usagi, a name similar to tsuki no usagi, or “Moon Rabbit”
– Dark Cloud and Dark Chronicle video games: All rabbits in both games come from the Moon and one of the Dark Cloud levels is set on it.
Singer-songwriter Angelo Branduardi dedicated one of his songs to the legend: La Lepre sulla Luna