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In days gone by there was a land where the nights were always dark and the sky spread over it like a black cloth, for there the moon never rose, and no stars shone in the deep darkness of sky. Four young fellows once went out of this country on a travelling expedition, and arrived in another kingdom, where, in the evening when the sun had disappeared behind the mountains, a shining globe was placed on an oak-tree, which shed a soft light far and wide. By means of this, everything could be seen very well, even though it was a far softer light than the sun’s. The travellers stopped and asked a countryman who was driving past with his cart, what kind of a light that was. "That is the moon," answered he; "our mayor bought it for three heavy coins, and fastened it to the oak-tree. He has to pour oil into it daily, and has to keep it clean, so that it will always burn clearly. He receives a heavy coin a week from us for doing it."

When the countryman had driven away, one of them said, "We could make some use of this lamp, we have an oak-tree at home, which is just as big as this, and we could hang it on that. What a pleasure it would be not to have to feel about at night in the darkness!"

"I'll tell you what we'll do," said the second; "we will fetch a cart and horses and carry away the moon. The people here can buy themselves another moon."

"I'm a good climber," said the third, "I will bring it down."

The fourth got a cart and horses, and the third climbed the tree, bored a hole in the moon, passed a rope through it, and let it down. When the shining ball lay in the cart, they covered it over with a cloth, so that no one might observe the theft. They brought it safely into their own country, and placed it on a high oak. Old and young rejoiced, when the new lamp let its light shine over the whole land, and bed-rooms and sitting-rooms were filled with it as it shone through the windows. The dwarfs came forth from their caves in the rocks, and the tiny elves in their little red coats danced in rings on the meadows.

The four friends took care that the moon was provided with oil, cleaned the wick, and received a heavy coin, every week from their fellow countrymen, but in time they became old, and when one of them grew ill, and saw that he was about to die, he appointed that one quarter of the moon, should, as his property, be laid in the grave with him. When he died, the mayor climbed up the tree, and cut off a quarter with the hedge-shears, and this was placed in his coffin. The light of the moon decreased, but not so much that you’d notice the difference. When the second man died, the second quarter of the moon was buried with him, and the light diminished noticeably. It grew weaker still after the death of the third, who likewise took his part of it away with him; and when the fourth was borne to his grave, the old state of darkness recommenced, and whenever the people went out at night without their lanterns, they knocked their heads together.

When, however, the pieces of the moon had united themselves together again in the world below, where darkness had always prevailed, the dead became restless and awoke from their sleep. They were astonished when they were able to see again; the moonlight was quite sufficient for them, for their eyes had become so weak that they could not have been able to stand the brilliant light of the sun. The dead people rose up and were merry, and fell into their former ways of living. Some of them went to the theatre and to dance, others hastened to the public-houses, where they asked for wine, got drunk, brawled, quarrelled, and at last took up cudgels, and hit each other with them. The noise became greater and greater, and at last reached all the way up to heaven.

Saint Peter, who guards the gate of heaven, thought the lower world had broken out in revolt and gathered together the heavenly troops,.........

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