Perry's Index to the Aesopica
Fables exist in many versions; here is one version in English:
THE MAN, HERMES AND THE AXES
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.
Perry 173: Caxton 6.13 [English]
Perry 173: Gibbs (Oxford) 474 [English]
Perry 173: L'Estrange 128 [English]
Perry 173: Townsend 249 [English]
Perry 173: Steinhowel 6.13 [Latin,
Perry 173: Chambry 253 [Greek]
You can find a compilation of Perry's index to the Aesopica in the gigantic appendix to his
edition of Babrius and Phaedrus for the Loeb Classical Library
(Harvard University Press: Cambridge, 1965). This book is an absolute must for anyone interested
in the Aesopic fable tradition. Invaluable.