I like telling this story. The images are great, and the moral is simple: don't be greedy, and don't lie. Aesop was one good storyteller.
A woodsman was cutting a tree on the bank of a river, when his axe glanced off the trunk, flew out of his hands and fell into the water.
"Oh what shall I do? That axe is how I earn my living. Without it I will starve!"
As he stood by the water's edge trying to see his axe in the murky water, a woods fairy appeared and asked him the reason for his distress.
"Oh, is that all? I can get your axe for you."
The fairy dove into the river and instead of the woodsman's old work axe, brought up a golden axe.
"Is this the one you lost?"
The woodsman shook his head. "No, it is not. I wish that it was. Mine was not so fine as that one. But mine was a good, sturdy axe, well-suited to my work."
The fairy dove a second time,and came up with a silver axe.
"Is this your lost axe?" the fairy asked.
"No, that is not mine either," said the woodsman.
Once more the fairy dove into the river, and this time brought up the missing axe.
'Thank you!" said the woodsman. "Now I can return to work. You have been very kind to me."
"You are an honest man," said the fairy. "You shall be rewarded for your good heart. You may keep all three axes." The fairy dove back into the water before the astonished man had time to say a word.
Later that day the woodsman told his story to some friends. Now one of these men was jealous and greedy; he thought he might get a couple of gold and silver axes for himself.
So he went to cut a tree at the edge of the river, and of course he managed to drop his axe into the water. The fairy appeared as before, and, on learning that his axe was lost, he dived and brought up a golden axe.
Without waiting for the fairy to ask him if it was his or not, the man cried, "That's my axe! Give it to me!" He reached out to take the shining tool.
"This is not your axe and you know it," said the fairy. "You are a dishonest, greedy man. You will get no axe at all from me."
The fairy dove back into the river, leaving the man standing on the bank.
For his dishonesty, this fellow now had no axe at all.
(adapted from Aesop's Fables by Susanna Holstein 10.2007)