Follow the Red Moon

In the 1800s, slaves were not allowed to read or write. It was illegal to teach a slave to do so. So secret messages in the form of songs or coded quilts were a way of communicating to the slaves about how to escape to freedom. This quickly became known as the Underground Railroad.

I love the creativity and secrecy here. Since my fantasy novel takes place in the future, when Humans are slaves to the humanoids called Tavdorians, I’ve done a lot of research on slave history to gather ideas for my own story. In my novel, slaves aren’t allowed to read, either. It’s illegal, mainly because if slaves could read and pass letters around, how much easier would it be for them to cause an uprising? Therefore, any “alien” (aka non-Tavdorian) found reading or writing was immediately sent to prison for breaking the law.

When I created my own version of the Underground Railroad in the third book,  the burning question in my mind was, how will the word spread? How will runaways know when and where to meet if they can’t read messages or secret letters passed around? And if word spreads only from word of mouth, how much would get lost in translation?

That’s when I discovered that slaves songs in the 1800’s were used as riddles, maps to guide the slaves to freedom. Needless to say, this concept sparked all sorts of ideas for my story. I knew the place where the runaway slaves were supposed to meet outside the city. I knew the landmarks that would lead them there. I just had to create a song to help guide them.

For fun, here’s what I came up with.  I put the meaning in parentheses to clarify.

When the sun sets thrice 

Will you risk the price? 

Follow the Red Moon to the Dreamer 

(Sun sets thrice- third day of the work-week, in the evening. There are two moons on Tavdora. When the Red Moon is full, follow it. The Dream Keeper is a woman who is a sign of hope to all slaves. Her nickname, “Dreamer”, is code for freedom.)

 

River shores will guide you 

Salt water will hide you 

Follow the Red Moon to the Dreamer

(Follow the Talarate River through the city until they reach the sea, then follow the ocean shore where the waves will hide their footprints.)

 

Don’t fear the caves dark 

Black boats will be parked 

Follow the Red Moon to the Dreamer

(The sea shore will lead them to the caves, where the guides will meet the slaves and take them the rest of the way to freedom.)

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