At some point in your childhood, you may have heard someone say something along the lines of, “the moon is made of green cheese.” It is a statement that has been popular for a long time, even though there is no evidence that scientists at any point in history actually believed that. In fact, it’s a claim so silly, even a Flat-Earther would have to admit the concept makes no sense. So just where does this idea come from? Why do people think the moon is made of cheese?
Why Do People Think the Moon Is Made of Cheese?
The idea that the moon is made of cheese has actually been around for a long time, but like most myths, it is hard to pinpoint an exact source. Across various cultures, there seems to be a family of stories that describe a simpleton who mistakes the reflection of the moon for a round cheese wheel. One of the most famous of such stories comes from a medieval Slavic pagan tale about a hungry wolf and a sly fox.
In the story, the wolf chases the fox in hopes of scoring an easy dinner. When they reach a nearby pond, the fox is able to convince the wolf that the moon’s reflection in the water is a block of cheese. The fox tells the wolf that he will have to drink all the water in the pond to get the cheese. The wolf slurps down the water, but bursts from drinking to much, allowing the fox to escape with an easy victory.
This tale in particular has been retold and re-imagined in many different countries, becoming popular for its brains over brawn moral.
The Moon Is Made of Greene Cheese
While stories like the one of the wolf and fox have been around for centuries, one of the earliest and best-known written appearances of the “moon is made of cheese” statement comes from 1546, and a book of proverbs by English writer John Heywood.
Heywood is known for putting in writing some very famous sayings that we still use today, like “the more, the merrier,” “a penny for your thoughts,” and “Rome was not built in a day.” Included among these proverbs is the line, “the moon is made of greene cheese.” This was meant to be a humorous addition to the proverbs, and wasn’t anything that was actually believed. It’s also important to note that in this context, “greene” refers to the cheese’s age and not color.
As with many of Heywood’s proverbs, “the moon is made of greene cheese” would become popular, and eventually make its way into common use.
The Moon Is Made of Cheese in Popular Culture
Today, moon cheese jokes have become a common trope in many children’s books, TV shows, and movies. DuckTales, Tom and Jerry, and Wallace and Gromit are just a few examples of programs that have episodes that mention the myth. And it is not just kids who get in on the fun either.
On April Fool’s Day in 2002, NASA released fake images from the Hubble telescope that “proved” the moon was made of green cheese. And in an early version of Google Moon, before high-resolution images of the surface became available, the closest zoom levels depicted a Swiss cheese pattern.
Clearly, the cheese on the moon won’t be expiring any time soon.
Want to learn about another wacky moon story? Have you heard about the time when the US wanted to nuke the moon?
Mark Heald is an Associate Product Manager and Sporcle Admin. He enjoys spending time with his family, traveling, and bemoaning the fact the Sonics left Seattle.