Today I experienced an episode of one of Aesop’s famed fables, entitled “The Woodsman and the Three Axes”. The story goes like this….
There was once a poor, but honest Woodsman who lived with his family in a forest. He worked hard, cutting down trees so he could sell the firewood. This is how he supported his family. All day long you could hear the sound of his faithful ax ringing through the woods.
One day he was cutting down trees near the edge of a deep pool of water in the forest. With strong, steady strokes he chopped away until it grew quite late in the day. The Woodsman was tired, for he had been working since early morning, and his strokes were not as strong and steady as they had been. He raised his tired arms high for a final blow and his ax slipped, flew out of his hands and landed with a â€˜plonkâ€™ into the pool, sinking to the bottom.
The Woodsman cried out, â€œNo! All is lost!â€ As he stood, wringing his hands, pulling his hair and weeping, the god Mercury suddenly appeared.
â€œWhat is wrong Woodsman?â€ asked the god.
The Woodsman wept, â€œMy ax fell into the water! It is too deep and I cannot get it back! My ax is all I have to make a living with, and I donâ€™t have enough money to buy a new one. My family will starve.â€
Hearing this Mercury dove with a splash down to the bottom of the pool. When he surfaced he held in his hand an ax that glinted in the setting sun, for this ax was made of pure gold! Mercury held up the golden ax and asked, â€œIs this your ax, Woodsman?â€
The Woodmanâ€™s mouth fell open and his eyes grew large with desire as he looked at the golden ax, but he shook his head. â€œNo. That is not my ax.â€
Mercury dove again with a splash down to the bottom of the pool. This time when he surfaced he held in his hand an ax that sparkled like the silvery drops of water falling from it, for it was made of pure silver!
â€œIs this your ax, Woodsman?â€ asked Mercury.
The honest Woodsman gazed with amazement at the beautiful silver ax, but again shook his head and said, â€œNo. That is not my ax. My ax is just an ordinary old ax with a plain wooden handle.â€
Mercury dove down for the third time with a splash, and when he surfaced he held in his hand the Woodmanâ€™s battered old ax.
â€œIs this your ax, Woodsman?â€ he asked.
The Woodsman was so glad his ax had been found! He cried out, â€œThatâ€™s my ax!â€ He eagerly took the ax and thanked the kind god again and again.
Mercury looked at the Woodman and smiled. â€œI admire your honesty, Woodsman. And it shall be rewarded. You may keep all three axes, the gold and the silver as well as your own.â€ And then Mercury disappeared as suddenly as he had come.
The Woodsman gathered the three axes in his arms and hurried home where he was met by his wife. She was so happy when she saw the gold and silver axes, she cried out, â€œHusband! Weâ€™ll never be hungry again!â€
The very next day she took the silver ax and went to the village to buy food for her family. Soon the story of their good fortune was known to everyone in the village.
Other wives came to that good woman and asked, â€œYour husband was given a silver ax?â€
The honest Woodmanâ€™s wife nodded happily. â€œOh, yes! And a golden ax as well!â€
â€œA gold one as well. Well, well, well,â€ said the other wives with greed and jealously in their voices. â€œIsnâ€™t that nice!â€ The greedy wives went home to their husbands and shook their fists as they yelled, â€œWe want silver! We want gold! Go into the woods and lose your axes and call upon the god Mercury for help. We want to be rich!â€
The men from the village hurried into the woods and hid their axes in the bushes, pretending they had lost them. Then they began weeping and wailing, â€œOh, Mercury! Help us! We have lost our axes.Help us!â€
Suddenly Mercury appeared, holding a silver ax. He asked the men, â€œIs this your ax?â€
One of the men eagerly nodded his head, â€œYes, yes! Thatâ€™s my ax!â€ Another said, â€œWhy, that looks just like the ax I lost!â€ A third man, greedier than the rest said, â€œActually, my ax was made of gold.â€
Mercury did not give any of the men the silver or the golden ax. Instead he gave them each a hardy whack over the head and sent them home. And when those men returned to the woods the next day to look for their own axes…they were nowhere to be found!
The story is an adapted one, not the original which is more of a change of characters than the story, except towards the end bit… A hardy whack on their heads? The author should be whacked for distorting it this way!
Anyway, today I went to do my weekly grocery shopping in Sainsburys. Amongst the things I bought include a Can Opener. See, when everything was done I set off home, cooked and had dinner, before realising I don’t have the Can Opener with me. And it was expensive too. I felt like major monkey balls then! In anger I strode back to Sainsburys to the same counter I used, and immediately saw my Can Opener on the opposite desk. He then asked me if the bag of items beside it was mine too. In my head, I was really tempted to say yes, as he didn’t even bother to ask for my receipt. In fact, in that 20 seconds I probably thought so hard it could have easily been an hour!
The bag contained a loaf of bread, assorted snacks and some more stuff hidden underneath. I spent 23 pounds and I felt that I deserved more than I bought. Was it a blessing? Was it meant for me? I had bought a few items before that I couldn’t use, so is this God’s way of telling me “Here, these are your replenishments”? Who’s to say the real owner will come back to collect them, thinking s/he could have left them somewhere else? Those and much more went through my brain (which, incidently, could be used more for studying for my upcoming exams =.=) while in reality I pretended to check my receipt. The counter guy just waited patiently. He wouldn’t say anything even, I suspect, had I told him that it was mine.
Funny. Funny how I know myself well enough. Funny how I usually whack freebies as though I knew I had it coming all along. Funny, how I told him that it didn’t belong to me.
I left Sainsburys feeling ackward. Neither happy nor sad. Neither nice nor satisfied. Should I be happy? True, maybe the counter guy would see my honesty, and rejoice in thinking that there is hope for young foreign people like us to be good citizens. Is God is watching? Does this earn myself a pathway to Heaven? Obviously not, but it would be nice wouldn’t it… In fact, maybe no one cares. I guess it is most important that I CARE! Individuals, we are, community, we be. In the end, I sauntered home and played a few tunes on the guitar.
Okay, fine, maybe I wasn’t presented a Silver Can Opener, or a Gold Can Opener, or maybe I wasn’t even offered a huge Goody Bag from Sainsburys for my hard-fought honesty! Still, I guess I was presented with self-honour. That would be my prize, I guess. I shall take it home and stick it onto my heart like a banner =) And here ends my adaptation of Aesop’s Fables. ( Still doesn’t help with my turbulent week though 🙁 )
ps- Maybe I should rewrite an adaptation of all of Aesop’s Fables and call it, the Tock Cock’s Crap! I’ve even bought the domain already –> http:www.tockcrap.com <--