woodman, axe, gold
Story, Tale, Legend, Folktale, Myth,
Fable, Learning, Teaching
He dived into the river and brought up a golden axe.
"Is this yours?" he asked.
The woodman and his axe
(Mercury and the
Woodman, by Isaiah Thomas, 1767,
Image from A Little Pretty Pocket-book)
woodman was once working on the bank of a deep river. Suddenly
his axe slipped from his hand and dropped into the water.
"Oh! I have lost my axe," he cried. "What shall I do? The water
is very deep and I am afraid to dive into it. What shall I do?
Who can help me?"
Mercury heard the poor man's cries and appeared before him.
"What is the matter, poor woodman?" he asked. "What has happened
that you are so sad and unhappy?"
Mercury listened to the man's story and then said, "Perhaps I
can help you." He dived into the river and brought up a golden
axe. "Is this yours?" he asked. "No, that is not mine," was the
answer. Mercury dived a second time and this time brought up a
silver axe. "Is this yours?" he asked. Again the answer was:
"No." So Mercury dived a third time and this time brought up the
very axe that the woodman had lost. "That is my axe," cried the
man. "Yes, that is my own good axe. Now I can work again."
Mercury was so pleased with the fellow's honesty that he at once
made him a present of the other two axes and disappeared before
the fellow could even say: "Thank you."
The woodman went home very pleased with his good luck. He told
his friends all about it and one of them decided to try his
luck. So he went to the same place, dropped his axe into the
river, and cried out: "Oh! I have lost my axe. What shall I do?
Who can help me?"
Mercury appeared as before, and when he learnt that the man had
lost his axe, he dived into the river. Again he brought up a
golden axe. "Is this yours?'' he asked.
"Yes, it is," said the second woodman. "You are not telling me
the truth," said Mercury. "You shall neither have this axe nor
the one that you so foolishly dropped into the water."
by Hendrick Goltzius, 1611)
*Mercury: In Roman Mythology, a god
that served as messenger to the other gods and was himself the
god of commerce, travel, and thievery. Counterpart of Greek
1. What happened to the woodman¡¯s axe?
2. What did Mercury get in the second
3. What present did Mercury make to the
4. What would you do in the woodman's
5. Did the woodman's friend get any
ESL, English, Story,
Tale, Legend, Folktale, Myth, Fable, Learning, Teaching