Podcaster: Avivah Yamani

Title: Astro Folklore – The Battle of the Sun and the Moon

Organization: Planetary Science Institute; langitselatan

Link :

Description:  This is a folklore from Mentawai at the western coast of Sumatra in Indonesia, about people’s interpretation of the sun and the moon as well as why they have hotter days.

Bio: Avivah Yamani is a an astronomy communicator from Indonesia.

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Welcome to the 365 Days of Astronomy. I’m Avivah, your host today. I’m going to tell a story about  the battle of The Sun and The Moon.  This story is part of Stars of Asia project in 2009 during International Year of Astronomy and compile by Irma Hariawang from langitselatan

This story originated from Mentawai, a chain of about seventy islands and islets, at the western coast of Sumatra in Indonesia. The indigenous people in the islands are known as the Mentawai people. Nowadays, the Mentawai Islands have become a noted destination for surfing. But during this time of pandemic you can’t visit the islands for touristic purpose 

But a long long time ago, Mentawai people had their own interpretations about the Sun and the Moon.  So, here’s the story:

Once upon a time on a small island in the western coast of sumatera. The people in this island live with the Sun and the Moon, which is also a human being or a living creature.

Well, the legend said, the Sun and the Moon are both women and they have many children. The children of the Moon are the stars while the Sun has many little suns as her children. Therefore during the day the earth is much hotter than the day we experience nowadays. It is so hot that people are forced to stay at home and they have to do their work outside during the night. Even animals have to stay in the cage during the day. 

The Moon feels sorry for the people on the island and decides to help by going against the Sun. So to conquer the Sun, the Moon makes a plan which is actually a trick. First, the Moon hides her children, which are the stars and after that The Moon ate the young coconut skin and made her lips turn pink.  

After eating and having the pink lips, The Moon went to the Sun and said: Hey Sun, look at my lips. It’s red and glowing, don’t you think my lips look nice? You know, I ate my children to have these lip colors. And you know what?! It’s so delicious. 

Hmmmm said the Sun. She starts thinking maybe the Moon is right. I couldn’t see any of her children. Maybe she indeed ate the stars. 

And then.. the Sun says: Ok… I will eat all my children! Without much thinking the Sun swallowed all of her children. 

And then….when the night comes…. the Moon takes out all of her children from their hideout and the stars shine again. 

The sun was very surprised and angry because she had been deceived by the Moon. This leads the Sun to fight with the Moon. It’s like being at war as the Sun took out the knife and hit the Moon with all the pieces scattered everywhere.

The Moon also took its knife and slash the Sun. But the Moon is small compared to the Sun. Instead of cutting the Sun into pieces, the Moon can only cut a small part of her opponent. These small pieces become the sunlights that can be seen every morning or at sunset.  

When the people heard about the fight they hoped that after the battle, the Earth will become warmer and chill so people can work outside during the day. But it seems, the Moon needs help as the day is still hot even though all the little suns are gone. The people then decide to help the Moon and continue with the battle. They made a lot of poisoned arrows and shot the Sun until it decided to retreat. 

When the battle ends, the world becomes warmer and colder and people in the island can work outside during the day. 

This has also become the reason why Mentawai people do not worship the Sun but the sky (Kina Manua). They worship the sky so they can have good weather and a successful life. 

The idea to shoot the sun with an arrow can also be found in the story of breaking the sun from Papua, Indonesia, and the idea of killing other suns is also similar to the story of Hou Yi shooting the suns from China.

This can be seen that in ancient times, people’s interpretation of hotter days is because there are many suns in the sky or because the sun is too big so it should retreat farther or even to break the sun into pieces. 

Thank you for listening

End of podcast:

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