cries up

The Golden Axe

"The Golden Axe" is a fairy tale told in Rabelais's novels, Gargantua and Pantagruel. It is not certain whether Rabelais invented the story or a retelling of an older version.


Once, a woodsman lost his axe. Night and day he cried up to Heaven: "Zeus, my Axe!" The god became incensed. "Here I am trying to rule Heaven and Earth and this woodsman is constantly bothering me about his axe! Hermes, find and take him back his axe - but first show him a golden axe. If he greedily chooses that one instead, chop off his head!" Hermes dutifully obeyed. The honest woodsman refused the golden tool and chose his real axe. Hermes did not want to carry the heavy golden one back up to Olympus, so as a reward, Hermes gave the woodsman the golden axe as well.

The happy woodsman told his fellow villagers of how he had lost his axe and how the gods had restored it and a golden axe to him. Soon, every able-bodied man in the village had bought an axe and lost it in the woods. They began lifting up loud cries up to the heavens. But the woodsman had not mentioned his honesty, or perhaps he was disregarded, and soon the other villagers began making a different choice.

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