As with the sun, there were many Dreamtime legends explaining how the moon came to be and why it changes its shape. The following is from the Northern Territory.
Japara lived in the Dreamtime. An excellent hunter, he helped keep the people of his group well fed. He had a wife and a small son whom he loved dearly.
One day while Japara was on the plains hunting, another man came to visit his wife. Parukapoli, this other man, was a lazy soul who could not be troubled with hunting, preferring instead to tell stories. So cleverly was he telling stories this day that Japara's wife forgot everything else as she listened and laughed.
She even forgot, for a moment, to watch her baby boy.
The beloved son of the hunter crawled to a nearby stream and toppled over the bank. Japara's wife saw the splash. Running to the water, she pulled the boy out.
But--it was too late. The child had drowned.
For many hours, the grieving mother sat by the stream, waiting for Japara to come home. She held her son's little dead body in her arms and quietly sobbed.
When at last Japara returned home and heard the story, he was, at first, sad. Then he became enraged, blaming his wife for what had happened. He was still carrying his hunting weapons and in the first blaze of anger, killed her.
A fierce fight then began with Parukapoli. They fought for a long time, each causing serious injury to the other and in the end, Parukapoli fell dead.
Japara was left in great pain with not only his many wounds but also the great sadness for the death of his son. The rest of the group, although they could see he was badly injured and greatly distressed, gathered round and shouted, "You should not have killed your wife. She really loved your little boy. She did not mean to let such a terrible thing happen."
Slowly, through his distress, Japara began to listen to what they were saying...
and to realize that it was true. He was sorry for what he had done and hurried as well as he could with his wounds to where he had left his dead wife and their little boy.
But--their bodies had disappeared, although no one had touched them.
Japara immediately knew that kind spirits had taken them to finish living out their lives in some other place. Calling to these spirits, he asked forgiveness for being so angry and cruel. He let them know how much he had loved his wife and how he wanted nothing more than to be again with her and their little boy again.
The spirits heard Japara's pleas and knew that he was telling the truth.
"Your little boy and wife are safe with us here in the sky world," they assured him. "We have decided that you may leave the earth world and come here too. But as punishment for your terrible deeds, you must search this wide, lonely sky until you find them. It will not be easy."
It is said by the people who tell this story that the moon is a reflection of Japara's camp fire and that the sometimes visible lines are a reminder of his scars. The moon changes because Japara is forever changing camp as he moves across the dark world of the sky. There are some who believe that he has now found his wife and son and that together, they explore the mysterious sky world together while others believe that Japara is still searching desperately for his loved ones.
The next time you are out at night, have a long look at the moon and see what you think.