Subskill: Reading Comprehension
Grade Level: Middle Elementary
The Woodman and his Ax
One day a poor woodman lost his ax. He hunted all day, but he could not find it. He was very sad, for how could he make a living for his family without an ax? Besides, he had no money with which to buy a new one. As night came on, he sank down by the roadside and buried his face in his hands.Suddenly, the woodman heard a noise in the bushes and raised his head. A stranger was standing by him. “What is the matter?” asked the stranger. The woodman told him of his trouble.
“I am sorry your ax is lost,” said the stranger. “Would you know it if you were to see it? I found an ax in the road. It may be yours. Is this it?” he asked, holding out a gold ax.
“No,” answered the woodman, “that is not my ax. All the money I ever earned would not buy such an ax as that.”
“I found another,” said the man. “This must be the one,” and he held out a silver ax.
“No, that is not mine,” replied the woodman. “I am too poor a man to own such an ax as that.”
“Well, here is another ax that I found. Is this yours?” The stranger held out an old ax of steel.
“That is mine, oh, that is mine!” cried the woodman, springing up joyously and taking his ax from the stranger. “Now we shall not starve. Thank you, kind sir. Where did you find it?”
The stranger said, “All three of the axes are yours. I am glad to make you a present of the gold ax and the silver ax. Let me have your hand. I am happy to meet an honest man.”
The woodman’s neighbors heard of his good fortune. One of them lost his ax. He appeared to feel very sad over his loss. He sat down by the roadside and bowed his head, looking out of the corners of his eyes for the stranger.
At last he saw the stranger coming around a bend in the road. The sun shown upon a gold ax which he carried in his hand. He stopped in front of the woodman. “Why do you grieve, my friend?” he asked.
“I have lost my ax with which I earned my living,” the woodman replied.
“Cheer up,” said the stranger. “I have an ax here. Is it yours?”
“That is the very one,” said the woodman. “Thank you, stranger,” and he reached out his hand to take the gold ax.
But the stranger drew back and put the ax behind him. “It is not your ax. It is my own, and you wish to claim it. You are both dishonest and untruthful,” and he turned away.
Here are some questions to ask at the end of the story:
What is the theme or moral of the story?
Why was the woodsman sad and sitting on the roadside?
Compare and contrast the first woodman to the second woodsman.
What would you have done if you were offered an ax of gold?