Aesop's Fables, translated by Laura Gibbs (2002)
474. THE MAN, HERMES AND THE AXES
Perry 173 (Chambry
A man was chopping wood by a certain river when he dropped his axe and
it was carried away by the current. The man then sat down on the riverbank
and began to weep. The god Hermes finally took pity on the man and appeared
before him. When Hermes learned the reason for his sorrow, he brought
up a golden axe and asked whether that was the man's axe. The man said
that it was not his. A second time, Hermes brought up a silver axe, and
again asked the man if this was the axe he had lost but the man said that
it was not. The third time Hermes brought up the axe that the man had
lost and when the man recognized his axe, Hermes rewarded the man's honesty
by giving all of the axes to him as a gift. The man took the axes and
went to tell his friends what had happened. One of the men was jealous
and wanted to do the same thing, so he took his axe and went to the river.
He began chopping some wood and then intentionally let his axe fall into
the whirling waters. As he was weeping, Hermes appeared and asked him
what had happened, and the man said that he had lost his axe. When Hermes
brought up the golden axe and asked the man if that was the axe he had
lost, the greedy man got excited and said that it was the one. Not only
did the man fail to receive any gifts from the god, he didn't even retrieve
his own axe.
The fable shows that the gods are sympathetic to honest people and
hostile to people who are liars.
Aesop's Fables. A new translation by Laura
Oxford University Press (World's Classics): Oxford, 2002.
cover, with new ISBN, published in 2008; contents of book unchanged.