by Jessica Amanda Salmonson
Disliking fables which have gotten the wrong endings attached, I have decided to tell
you this old one in a way it has not before been told, although I warrant it is more correct.
A woodcutter was chopping down a tree but was only half finished when his axe broke, its iron
head flying through the air and into the middle of a river. The woodsman, discouraged, sat
down and wept. A water nymph saw and pitied him. She wanted to assist him in some manner, but
had learned over the centuries to mistrust the sincerity of mortals. So she came up from beneath
the water with an axe-blade made of gold and said, "Good woodsman, is this yours?"
"It is not," he said, and continued to weep.
She went below the water again and came up with an axe-blade made of platinum. "Is this one yours?"
"No, it is not the one."
Finally she brought him the iron axe and he said, "That's it!" The water-nymph was so glad to find an honest
man, and so pleased to see his heightened spirits, she rewarded him then and there with the axe-blades of gold
and platinum, making him a wealthy man. Another woodsman heard the tale and came to the same spot and threw his
axe into the river. The water-nymph raised her wet locks and beautiful face from the water and said, "Is this
your axe?" The woodsman, seeing the blade was made of gold, replied, "It is mine indeed!"
"Then have it," she said, and cut him through the skull. "It is
justice, for your own axe just now killed my daughter."
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Jessica Amanda Salmonson
is a writer of breathtaking power and imaginative scope, and an editor of
wide-ranging taste. She lives in Bremerton, Washington, where she tends her
garden and presides over the amazing online antiquarian bookstore,