古时候，有个地方夜晚总是漆黑一片，天空就像笼罩着一块黑布。 因为在这里，月亮从来没有升起过，星星也不闪烁。 其实在上帝创造世界时，晚上还是很明亮的。 有一次，有四个年轻人离开了这片国土，来到了另一个国度。 在那儿，当傍晚太阳消失在山后时，树梢上总会挂着一个光球，洒下一片柔和的光华，它虽然不如太阳那样光彩明亮，但一切还是清晰可见。 那些旅客停下来问一个赶车经过的村夫那是什么光。 "这是月亮，"他回答说，"我们市长花了三块钱卖下它，并把它拴在橡树梢头。他每天都得去上油，保持它的清洁，使它能保持明亮。这样他就每周从我们身上收取一块钱。"村夫推着车走了。 他们当中的一个人说："我们也可以用这盏灯，我们家乡也有棵和这一样大的橡树，我们可以把他挂在上面。夜晚不用在黑暗中摸索将有多痛快呀！"第二个说："我来告诉你该怎么办。我们去弄架马车来，把月亮运走。这里的人会再买一个的。"第三个人说："我很会爬树，我来取下它。"第四个买了辆马车。 第三个人爬上树，在月亮上钻了个洞，穿上一根绳子，然后把月亮放了下来。 这个闪闪发光的圆球于是被放在了马车上，他们用一块布盖在上面，以免别人发现是他们偷的。 他们顺利地把月亮运到了自己的国家，把它挂在了一棵高高的橡树上。 这盏新灯立刻光芒四射，照耀着整个大地，所有的房间都充满了光亮，老老少少都喜笑颜开。 矮子走出了石洞，小孩们也穿着小红褂在草地上围着圈子跳起舞来。
那四个人负责给月亮添油、净身，并每周收取一块钱。 但他们慢慢地老了，其中的一个生了病，眼看着不久于人世了，他要求把四分之一的月亮作为他的财产，埋进他的坟墓里。 等他死后，市长爬上了大树，用篱笆剪子剪下了四分之一的灯，放进了他的棺材。 月亮的光芒减弱了，但仍然发光。 第二个人死时，又有四分之一陪了葬，月光又减弱了。 第三个人死后，他也带走了他那一份，月亮更暗了。 当第四个走进坟墓时，原来的黑暗又回来了。 但是月亮的各部分，在阴间又重新拼合在一起，使得那些黑暗中的死人不得安宁，一个个又醒来了。 他们又能睁眼看世界了，觉得非常惊异。 淡淡的月光对他们已是绰绰有余，因为他们的眼睛已变得那样衰弱，经不起太阳的强光。 他们兴奋地爬起来，又开始了从前的生活方式：一些人去看戏跳舞，一些人去客栈要酒喝，醉了就争吵，最后拳脚相加。 吵闹声越来越大，最后传到了天堂。
守卫天堂大门的圣彼得以为下界在造反，就招集了天兵天将，叫他们去击败恶魔，如果他们来侵犯天庭的话。 但是没有恶魔来，于是他便骑上马穿过天门，下到凡间。 在凡间，他叫死者安静下来，让他们重新回到坟墓，从他们手中拿走了月亮，把它挂在了天上。
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 star shone in the obscurity. At the creation of the world, the light at night had been sufficient. Three 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 very well be seen and distinguished, even though it was not so brilliant as the sun. 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 thalers, and fastened it to the oak-tree. He has to pour oil into it daily, and to keep it clean, so that it may always burn clearly. He receives a thaler 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 may buy themselves another." - "I'm a good climber," said the third, "I will bring it down." The fourth brought 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, that no one might observe the theft. They conveyed 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. 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 took care that the moon was provided with oil, cleaned the wick, and received their weekly thaler, but they became old men, 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 still not visibly. When the second died, the second quarter was buried with him, and the light diminished. 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, it came to pass that 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 borne the brilliance of the sun. They rose up and were merry, and fell into their former ways of living. Some of them went to the play and to dance, others hastened to the public-houses, where they asked for wine, got drunk, brawled, quarreled, and at last took up cudgels, and belabored each other. The noise became greater and greater, and at last reached even 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, which are to drive back the Evil One when he and his associates storm the abode of the blessed. As these, however, did not come, he got on his horse and rode through the gate of heaven, down into the world below. There he reduced the dead to subjection, bade them lie down in their graves again, took the moon away with him, and hung it up in heaven.