Aesop (Winter): Page 14

These stories are part of the Aesop (Winter) unit. Story source: The Aesop for Children, with illustrations by Milo Winter (1919).



Mercury and the Woodman



A poor Woodman was cutting down a tree near the edge of a deep pool in the forest. It was late in the day and the Woodman was tired. He had been working since sunrise, and his strokes were not so sure as they had been early that morning. Thus it happened that the axe slipped and flew out of his hands into the pool.

The Woodman was in despair. The axe was all he possessed with which to make a living, and he had not money enough to buy a new one. As he stood wringing his hands and weeping, the god Mercury suddenly appeared and asked what the trouble was. The Woodman told what had happened, and straightway the kind Mercury dived into the pool. When he came up again he held a wonderful golden axe.

"Is this your axe?" Mercury asked the Woodman.

"No," answered the honest Woodman, "that is not my axe."

Mercury laid the golden axe on the bank and sprang back into the pool. This time he brought up an axe of silver, but the Woodman declared again that his axe was just an ordinary one with a wooden handle.

Mercury dived down for the third time, and when he came up again he had the very axe that had been lost.

The poor Woodman was very glad that his axe had been found and could not thank the kind god enough. Mercury was greatly pleased with the Woodman's honesty.

"I admire your honesty," he said, "and as a reward you may have all three axes, the gold and the silver as well as your own."

The happy Woodman returned to his home with his treasures, and soon the story of his good fortune was known to everybody in the village.

Now there were several Woodmen in the village who believed that they could easily win the same good fortune. They hurried out into the woods, one here, one there, and hiding their axes in the bushes, pretended they had lost them. Then they wept and wailed and called on Mercury to help them.

And indeed, Mercury did appear, first to this one, then to that. To each one he showed an axe of gold, and each one eagerly claimed it to be the one he had lost. But Mercury did not give them the golden axe. Oh no! Instead he gave them each a hard whack over the head with it and sent them home. And when they returned next day to look for their own axes, they were nowhere to be found.

Honesty is the best policy.


The Frog and the Mouse

A young Mouse in search of adventure was running along the bank of a pond where lived a Frog. When the Frog saw the Mouse, he swam to the bank and croaked: "Won't you pay me a visit? I can promise you a good time if you do."

The Mouse did not need much coaxing, for he was very anxious to see the world and everything in it. But though he could swim a little, he did not dare risk going into the pond without some help.

The Frog had a plan. He tied the Mouse's leg to his own with a tough reed. Then into the pond he jumped, dragging his foolish companion with him.

The Mouse soon had enough of it and wanted to return to shore; but the treacherous Frog had other plans. He pulled the Mouse down under the water and drowned him. But before he could untie the reed that bound him to the dead Mouse, a Hawk came sailing over the pond. Seeing the body of the Mouse floating on the water, the Hawk swooped down, seized the Mouse and carried it off, with the Frog dangling from its leg. Thus at one swoop he had caught both meat and fish for his dinner.

Those who seek to harm others often come to harm themselves through their own deceit.





The Fox and the Crab

A Crab one day grew disgusted with the sands in which he lived. He decided to take a stroll to the meadow not far inland. There he would find better fare than briny water and sand mites. So off he crawled to the meadow. But there a hungry Fox spied him, and in a twinkling, ate him up, both shell and claw.

Be content with your lot.



(700 words)









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