Pohnpei Legend
"Woman on a Moon" 
Retold by
Pisander Micah Peter of Pingelap, Pohnpei
beach scene with palms

Once upon a time there was an old lady who lived with her two daughters on a section of an atoll island, away from the main village of the Pingelap Island of Pohnpei. One custom of that island was so unique. It was that the Islanders built two big separate houses called "Kedera", one for the men and one for the women.

During those days long ago, it was not permitted for males to associates in any female activities . They believed that nature always brought bad luck to males who had associated with female activities. Therefore, the Kedera of  females was erected on the northern part of the island, and the males' Kedera was located at the southern part of the island .

It's been told that the females' Kedera was used to house those types of females who were having their period, as well as those mothers having their labor; whereas males held their occasions like preparing to go out fishing, meetings, and other rituals in the males' Kedera. To be qualified to be in the Kedera of females, you had to be of a certain age, and males also had to be of a certain age to be in the males' Kedera.

One day, the oldest daughter informed her mother that she was having her period. It has been told that to enter the Kedera those females having their period had to bring their own "Thor"  skirts, and their age must be 16 years or older.  "Thors" are made out of the skin of hibiscus and the process is very lengthy and complex. Because of this process, those who are having their period must have at least two thors to qualify them to enter the Kedera of females. In the Kedera of females you will always find a house mother there to assist the women, especially if this is their first time.

Waiting for the return of the oldest daughter, the youngest daughter squeezed close to her mother and whispered to her, "Mother, I am having my period."

"What?" asked the mother. The mother was so upset to hear this because the daughter was under age to enter the Kedera of females. It was customarily believed on the island that once a young woman had encountered her period, it meant she had lost her virginity. This gave the mother the idea that her youngest daughter had been disgraced.   As a result, the daughter was scolded and beaten.

Afterward, the daughter felt so empty and upset because she knew she had never been with any males like her mother claimed, but by nature she had happened to have her period.  The sadness that overshadowed her made the daughter decide to leave her mother for awhile, and she took a long walk on the beach. While she was walking all alone by herself, her mind and her desires were all confused and wandering.
All of a sudden the daughter stopped because she was so tired and thirsty. In front of her were a bunch of  coconut trees standing in their own graceful way.  Finally, one of the coconut trees responded to her,  "My darling, you look tired."

As the daughter looked up to the coconut tree,  a string of tears ran down her cheeks.  The coconut tree spoke to her again, "Shhhhhhhh... You're safe with me, you will be all right, stop those tears, stop them." The daughter's heart lightened and she stopped crying.

After a while, the coconut tree asked the daughter, "What brings you  this far?

The daughter responded, "My mother scolded me because she thought that I had disgraced her and had not followed her counsel.  But I did not disobey her. After that long beating,  I decided to leave my mother for awhile.

palm tree stretching tall to meet the moon
While the coconut tree and the daughter were exchanging ideas, the sun was already setting and it was about to be dark.   The coconut tree said, " Tonight the moon will be very bright in her color and will be very close to our planet.   Never before has this happened.  While you are deciding about going far away from your mother,  you can climb to the top of my trunk and hold tight as I
stretch to reach the moon tonight.  That way you  can visit the moon."

"That's a good idea, said the daughter.

While they were having this conversation, the moon was coming up so brightly in her yellow color and so close to the planet earth.

Then the coconut tree asked, "Shall we get ready?"

The daughter said, "Yes, let's move", and she climbed to the top of the coconut tree to get ready.
Meanwhile, the mother had realized that her daughter was not around, and she started looking for her. As she looked out, the mother saw the coconut tree was  stretched in her length, and her daughter was on top of it.  From the far distance,  the mother started running and crying, and calling after her daughter. As she reached the base of the coconut tree,  she fell down and fainted.

full moon showing woman frying donuts As the coconut tree stretched high and the moon came close to the planet, the daughter hopped from the tree to the moon and walked away. While walking all alone on the face of the moon, she came across an old lady. Her hair was so busy and thick and covered her face down to her knees. Because of this, the old lady could not see her surroundings.  She had to sit close to her frying pot, where she was frying donuts.  She could not see, so she  counted each donut as it came out of the pot, "Dadarpehdah,  Irephpehda, Redepehdah,  Darmweiah."


But the fourth donut that the old lady had fried was taken by the daughter.   The old lady recounted again and still one was missing.  After she fried the fifth donut, the daughter tried to take it again.  But, she moved her hands too late and the old lady grabbed her hands and asked in a surprisingly soft voice, "Who are you and what are you doing here?" The old lady thought that only she and her sons lived on the moon.

The daughter replied, "My name is Limoon.  After a long beating from my mother, I decided to walk away.  But, I met a coconut tree on my way and shared my sadness with him.  He helped bring me this far".  Limoon asked the old lady, "Why don't you cut your hair?"

The old lady replied, "How can I cut it?"

Limoon said, "Let me cut it for you, so you can see your way around." She grabbed a sea shell and started cutting the old lady's hair.  While Limoon was cutting, all different types of animals started flying and crawling away from her hair.  This is where they had built their nests.  After her hair was cut, the old lady was so happy that she could see all around her. Because of this, the old lady told Limoon, "Today, you will become my daughter.  I have 12 sons and now you are my one daughter."

The old lady's sons were out fishing. While the old lady and Limoon were having this conversation, her sons arrived with lots of fish. They were surprised to see a visitor with their mother.  The mother explained what had happened and how Limoon had helped her by cutting her hair so that she could see.  And the mother decided that the oldest son would marry Limoon.  And they settled for good and were very happy at last.

Today, when you look up at the moon you can see the old lady frying her donuts.

Soy pot rohrohla!
This story will be extended out and far away.  There is no end to this story.  It will be shared and spread around.

Pohnpeian Glossary
Dadarpehdah:  one
Irephpehda:  two
Redepehdah:  three
Darmweiah:  four

Many cultures have legends about the moon.  Click here to go to a book review of the Hawaiian legend, Woman in the Moon.

About the author and web page creator: Pisander Micah Peter is from Pingelap, Pohnpei.  This project is for ED 640:  Language and Literacy Development. I thank Dr. Dalton for teaching me how to create a web page. This story was passed down to me by one of my aunties when I was young.  Every night she told us stories and I liked this story.  I selected this story in memory of my great auntie, Epelina Micah of Pingelap, Pohnpei.

posted 12/1/99

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