Rabbit in the Moon

This little story enchanted me when I lived in Japan for a time some years ago. I was fascinated by all the fabric I saw featuring a rabbit and the moon, so I asked about it and was duly told the story. Of course! I had always been able to see the rabbit in the moon, since I was a child, so the story made sense to me. It reminds me of another story about a hen and a pig who decide to make breakfast for the farmer. The hen offered eggs of course, but the pig wasn’t so happy to provide the bacon!

Being a Buddhist story it would have originated in India. There is also a similar Mexican story. 



Monkey – carries all sorts of symbolism in different cultures, from mischievous “free-riding tricksters” and brigands to quick-witted and intelligent. It is easy for humans to project our caricatures onto monkeys and apes as we are so closely related to them (Anthony Stevens: Ariadne’s Clue)

Rabbit – See my annotations in Three Hares Looking for a Home around October 2011 for more on rabbits and foxes.

Fox – Wiley and cunning, he is a predator. Anthony Stevens says that “living underground in an earth makes him a psychopomp, a familiar of the earth mother and of the dead. The fox is also anthropomorphised by Beatrix Potter in “Jemima Puddleduck”.

Friends – people who share their lives peaceably together, and overlook their differences for the sake of their similarities.

Mountain in the day – consciousness, out in the open

Forest at night – to sleep where unconsciousness reigns

Lord of Heaven – the final authority, reference to Sakra

Old wanderer – a wise, gentle and experienced old man, a keen observer

Nuts – Nature’s abundance

Fish – the fox had to labour to set the trap, but still, it was the fish that was food, not the fox.

Eat me! – was it cowardice in the face of not being able to provide for his guest? Or the supreme sacrifice?

Moon – majestic in the sky, a fitting place for the rabbit to be honoured, remembered and seen by all.

Reflection Questions

These questions are for your own personal reflections on the story. Perhaps not all of them are relevant to you, so answer only the ones which call to you. And if you find a question confronting or disturbing, do seek out a wise and trusted friend or therapist to talk it over with.

I would encourage you as you reflect on these questions to have your favourite creativity materials or a visual journal nearby. Be open to any images that may come to you and concretize your reflections in some sort of art-making.

  • How easy or difficult is it to get along with people who are diametrically different to you?
  • How open are you to diversity?
  • When you give someone a gift, how do you give? Is it from Nature’s or your abundance (the nuts)? Is it at someone else’s expense (the fish)? Or is it from your true heart?
  • Competition brings out the worst and the best in us, our true colours in fact. How true is this about you?