In a small village, near a forest lived a woodcutter who was very poor but hard-working and honest. He went every morning to cut wood in the nearby forest and sold it in the market to feed his family. He and his family were making great efforts to earn their living and were happy with their simple life. One day as he was chopping a tree near a river, his axe slipped out of his hands and fell with a splash into the water.
The water in the river was deep and he could not swim to search for the axe. The woodcutter was completely depressed because he had only one axe to work with. He was worried that without an axe he would not be able to cut wood and sell and earn money to feed his family. He felt himself weak and sat down on the bank, weeping. Suddenly, a beautiful Fairy emerged from the water. The woodcutter who was already overwhelmed by sadness, was surprised by the appearance and could not talk.
“What happened? Why are you weeping?” asked the Fairy, “Can i help you?” The woodcutter told the Fairy about losing his old axe which was his only working tool to earn money to feed his family. The Fairy pondered a while and asked the woodcutter to have faith in her to find the axe. The Fairy vanished into the river and after some moments reappeared with a golden axe. “Here is your axe !”she said. But the woodcutter replied, “This is not mine. My axe was not so new and bright as this one.” His face was still full of sorrow.
“Is this not yours?” asked again the Fairy, “ No,” replied the woodcutter in tears. Once again, the Fairy dived into the water and after some time returned with a silver axe. But once again, the woodcutter said that it was not his. He still looked worried for not finding back his axe. The Fairy vanished once again in the water and came back carrying an old iron axe. The woodcutter’s face lit up. “That’s mine. Yes, that’s mine!” he said, reaching out for it.
The Fairy then showed him again the golden and silver axes and asked him to check well all the three axes to identify the correct one. The woodcutter confirmed with joy that the iron axe was his and thanked the Fairy for her kindness and help. The Fairy was very happy with the poor woodcutter’s honesty. “Take these too!” she said, holding out the golden and silver axes, “You deserve them as a reward!”
The woodcutter was full of emotions and could not believe it to be true. He thanked the Fairy and returned home happily to share the story of his wonderful luck with his family. He soon became prosperous. Among his neighbours, one was very jealous of the woodcutter’s good fortune. Though he was not poor yet he decided to act as the woodcutter and get the golden axe too. He went to the river in the forest with an old iron axe.
Reaching the river bank, he looked around him carefully to ensure that there was nobody around. He dropped his old axe deliberately into the water and after a few minutes started crying loudly. When the Fairy appeared out of the water, he told her about his only axe which slipped into the river while cutting wood. The Fairy went down the water and came with a golden axe.
The Fairy asked him if the axe was his; the greedy fellow jumped up saying, “That’s mine!” “Are you sure that it is yours ?” insisted the Fairy. “Yes, that’s mine,” said the greedy man. The Fairy became very angry with him for his jealousy, dishonesty and greed, and vanished taking the golden axe. Incidentally, some woodcutters were around the place and witnessed the dishonest act of the false woodcutter. He felt ashamed of facing his neighbours.