I discovered the following artwork and fable on my Internet travels.
A woodcutter had been hard at work all day, cutting down trees to sell for firewood. It was nearing sunset, but he wanted to cut down one last tree before going home for the night. Coming across a sturdy elm that grew beside a deep pool, he set to work. But he was so tired that, after a few strokes, his ax slipped out of his hands and fell with a splash into the deep black water.
“How could I be so careless!” the woodcutter cried. “I’ll never see my ax again!” And he stood by the water in despair.
Now, a mermaid happened to be nearby, and heard the woodcutter’s lamentations. Quick as thought, the creature appeared before him and asked him what was wrong.
“I’ve lost my only ax in the water,” the woodcutter groaned. “I can’t afford to buy another, and now my children will go hungry. What can I do?”
“Wait here,” the mermaid replied, and she dived to the bottom of the pool. When she came back to the surface, she held in her hand an ax made of pure gold.
“Is this the ax you lost?” the mermaid asked the woodcutter.
“No, that one isn’t mine,” the honest man answered.
The mermaid dived again to the bottom of the pool and came up with a shining silver ax. “Then this one must be your,” she said.
“No, that one’s not mine, either,” sighed the woodcutter. “Mine was just a plain iron ax with a wooden handle.”
For the third time the mermaid dived to the bottom of the pool, and this time she came up with an old, worn iron ax.
“That’s the one!” cried the woodcutter joyfully. “How can I ever thank you?”
“My friend,” said the mermaid, “your honesty deserves a reward. Take all three axes home with you, and your children will never go hungry again.”
When the delighted woodcutter reached home, he told his family what had happened.
Now, the woodcutter had a brother who, when he heard the story, said to himself, “Why should my foolish brother have better luck than me? Tomorrow I’ll try the same trick, and I’ll come home wealthy too!”
The next day the woodcutter’s brother went to the same pool and promptly threw his ax into the water. Immediately he began weeping and wailing, calling on the mermaid to help him. The mermaid appeared and, diving to the bottom of the pool, brought up a golden ax. “Is this the one you lost?” she asked.
“That’s the one!” the woodcutter’s brother cried.
But the mermaid let the golden ax fall back beneath the water.
“For your dishonesty,” she said, “you’ll have no ax at all. “And then she vanished, leaving the woodcutter’s brother poorer than ever.
Today marks the end of the Mondays for Mermaids series. Thanks for following!