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On the Moon, things are contrary to the natural order on the Earth. When the Man in the Moon wants to build up his fire, he feeds it with ice; when he wants to cool down, he puts on his overcoat.
The Man in the Moon has grown lonely in his isolated life; looking down upon the Earth, he longs to visit the planet and its inhabitants. One day an alderman comes sailing by; the man is "being translated (instead of being transported, owing to a misprint in the law)" — and as he passes by, the Man in the Moon has a chance to speak to him. The alderman advises a visit to the city of Norwich, famous for its porridge (and then he is gone).
Acting on this advice, the Man in the Moon slides down a moonbeam to the Earth. He goes too fast and loses his grip on the beam, and falls into a river; its cool water nearly scalds him. The Man (now out of the Moon, rather than in) makes his way to Norwich; he tries the cold porridge, but it blisters his mouth. He runs down the street in pain, and is apprehended by a policeman.
The local magistrate questions the Man, and from his answers thinks he is mad. But an astronomer determines that the Man in the Moon has indeed left his home. By this time, the Man has had enough of life on Earth; to return him to the Moon, Norwich supplies a balloon to carry him there.
"The Man in the Moon" is one of the dozen selections in Mother Goose in Prose that has a Maxfield Parrish illustration.
The Man's fantastic balloon journey prefigures other balloon trips in Baum's works — most famously, that of the Wizard in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, but also that of the Wogglebug in The Woggle-Bug Book.