18 Prologue A Tale That Begins onthe Mn
Cosmic Myths
How did ancient Japanese people know that the Moon was a celestial body like Earth?
The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter is an ancient Japanese fairy tale known to almost
everyone in Japan. The Tale of Genji, written approximately 1,000 years ago, mentioned
that the first fairy tale ever told was about an old bamboo cutter. However, it is rather sur-
prising that the ancient Japanese believed that there was a city on the Moon where people
For a long time, mankind believed that the universe was a small amount of space that
wrapped around the world in which they lived. Maps from ancient times showed celestial
bodies such as the Sun, Moon, and stars as tiny entities affixed to the surface of a shell
that surrounded Earth. But in a universe like that, Kaguya-himes story doesn’t make sense.
The people who created her story had a different view of the universe, in which the Moon
was another world where people lived. Let’s look at some other views of the universe from
ancient times.
Ancient India’s View of
In ancient India, people believed in a turtle
that rode on top of an enormous coiled
snake and that elephants stood on the
turtles back to support a hemispherical
Earth. The Sun was thought to appear and
disappear as it revolved around the highest
mountain, which stood at the center of the
world. (This is Mt. Sumeru, which likely rep-
resented the Himalayas.) The Moon, which
was the lamp belonging to the night watch-
man on this mountain, was thought to wax
and wane depending on the direction the
watchman was facing.
Ancient Egypt’s View of
the Universe
In ancient Egypt, people believed that
Nut, goddess of the sky, was supported
by Shu, god of the air. Nut was said to be
a symbol of the Nile River, and daytime
and nighttime occurred when the Sun god
Ra went back and forth across the river by
boat every day. The Moon and stars were
though to be suspended from Nut’s body.
Ancient India’s view of the universe
Ancient Egypt’s view of the universe

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