In "Sun, Moon, Dust" by Ursula Vernon, there are three warriors who have lived for many years inside a sword. When the sword is passed down to a young boy as an inheritance, the warriors are surprised to discover that he does not even have the spark of a desire for power and conquest. Dust is very upset, Sun is content to wait in the sword until the next to bear it with intent for war comes along, while Moon rediscovers agriculture, choosing to remain outside of the sword to farm the land together with Allpa.

Sun removed Moon's gem from the sword when he decided to tarry outside of it. Is Moon's decision permanent? Will Moon age while he's outside of the sword? Will he die, eventually? (Is there enough information in this story to tell?)

I wonder about this, because if Moon gives up his (health and) longevity in order to spend time with Allpa, his story becomes that much more touching.

  • 2
    I've asked and answered my own question. I'm not sure, however, that my answer is the (only) correct one. I welcome both new answers as well as critiques of my own.
    – Shokhet
    May 4 '17 at 22:38
  • I think you're missing the point of the story here. Mortality or immortality has absolutely nothing to do with Moon's decision to leave the sword. It has to do with giving up a way of life.
    – user111
    May 4 '17 at 23:50
  • @Hamlet Maybe. But if he can return to the sword after Allpa dies, he can continue warring afterward...he's only permanently giving up his way of life if this is an irreversible decision.
    – Shokhet
    May 4 '17 at 23:51

I think Moon will age, outside of the sword. I'm not certain if he will be able to return to the sword eventually; I've found contradictory evidence in the story. I welcome any and all constructive criticism of my analysis.

Moon will age

  • My strongest support for this theory: the trio of warriors refuse all offers of food while the sword is their home. They don't need and/or can't use mortal forms of sustenance -- the sword sustains them. After Moon leaves the sword and his gem is removed, he finally accepts Allpa's offer:

    "Can I offer you a meal before you go?" asked Allpa. Here they were, three visitors and they had been here for more than a day and he hadn’t even fed them. In his head, a legion of aunts and maternal relatives shouted at him for his utter failure of hospitality.

    "Battle is our bread and meat," said Dust.

    "Oh…" said Allpa faintly. "I… um… have stew?"

    Sun was definitely smiling behind her veil. "It is a kind offer," she said. "But we do not eat."


    “First, though…” said Allpa shyly. “Can I make you something to eat?”

    Moon smiled. “Yes,” he said. “I think I’d like that.”

  • Moon seems to deliberate about this decision somewhat. If he will not age, he loses nothing by spending his time doing something outside of the sword instead of whiling away the time in the sword with Dust. (While it's possible to interpret Moon's thinking periods as slowly remembered nostalgic reveries about his time farming the land before the sword, I think that the first passage I'm about to quote shows that he was mulling over a problem, and not experiencing nostalgia.)

    Moon was gazing over the stream again. Occasionally he would move a few feet downstream, studying the water like a man with a problem.


    “I will go into the blade,” she said. “You won’t, though, will you?”

    Moon stood, unmoving, for a long time. Then he shook his head and Allpa felt his heart leap for no particular reason.

Returning to the sword

Moon will be able to return to the sword

  • Sun removes Moon's gem, and Moon pockets it. There is not much reason to hold on to the gem if he won't be able to use it. (I don't either think he keeps it in order to pawn it later. I assume there is no market for gems in the impoverished agricultural society that Allpa calls home.) This is not a particularly strong support, though.

    She stripped off her glove and slid her nails under the blue stone on the hilt. It popped out with surprising ease, as if it had barely been held in at all.

    Sun tossed the stone to Moon, who caught it and tucked it away.

Moon will not be able to return to the sword

  • Sun tells Moon that she will hold a grudge against him because he has doomed her to an "eternity" with Dust with no one else to talk to1. (However, this might refer only to Allpa's lifetime, after which Moon will rejoin the other two warriors.)

    “I won’t forgive you for this,” she said to Moon, conversationally. “Eternity with Dust was tiresome enough when there was someone else to talk to. But I do understand.”

1 I'm not sure exactly how these three spend their time in the blade. This passage implies that they are awake (at least for part of the time), and converse with one another. However, in an earlier part of the story, Moon says that "We will sleep in the blade until another champion comes," implying that they do (or can) spend their sword time without being awake. Perhaps this can be the basis of another question.


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