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'The Treasured Axe' | Circle Round 9523:44
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(Sabina Hahn for WBUR)
(Sabina Hahn for WBUR)

What does it mean to be “honest”?

Being “honest” means being truthful in what you do and say - even if it isn’t easy!

In this story, we’ll find out why telling the truth can be even more precious than bronze, silver, and gold!

Our story is called “The Treasured Axe.” Versions of this tale come from all over the world, from Greece, Latvia and Russia, to Nigeria, Indonesia and Japan, to China, Thailand and Tibet.

Voices in this episode include Adam Mastroianni, Gamalia Pharms, Igor Shimelonis, Delores King Williams, and Adrian Martinez. Kids, you can see Adrian in Lady and the Tramp on Disney+. You grown-ups can check him out on Stumptown on ABC, and you can keep an eye out for his feature-film directorial debut, iGilbert.


Coloring Page

(Sabina Hahn for WBUR)
(Sabina Hahn for WBUR)

ADULTS! PRINT THIS so everyone can color while listening. We’re also keeping an album so share your picture on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and tag it with #CircleRound. We'd love to see it! To access all the coloring pages for past episodes click HERE. Our resident artist is Sabina Hahn and you can learn more about her HERE.


Things To Think About After Listening

What’s something you own that you treasure? It could be a favorite toy or blanket or book - anything you truly hold dear.

Once you’ve figured out what your treasured object is, find some paper and draw a picture of you with that object. Be sure to capture exactly how your treasure makes you feel. Something tells me you’re going to draw yourself wearing a very big smile!


Musical Spotlight: Cello

(Courtesy of Ica Images)
(Courtesy of Ica Images)

The cello is the second-largest, second-lowest string instrument in the modern symphony orchestra; the double bass, which Eric Shimelonis used in “Stella and the Dragon” and “Nilsa and the Troll,”, wins the prize for largest and lowest! Like its relatives — the violin, viola and double bass — you can play the cello’s strings with a bow, or pluck them with your fingers. The cello has been delighting audiences for centuries with its warm, rich tones - which some people compare to the human voice! Special thanks to guest musician Mairi Dorman-Phaneuf for playing the cello in this week’s episode!


Script:

NARRATOR: There once was a poor woodchopper. The woodchopper lived with his dear old mother and his precocious little son, and made just enough money cutting and selling firewood to keep a roof over their heads and food in their bellies.

Each morning... so early that the stars still twinkled in the brightening sky... the hardworking woodchopper rolled out of his rickety bed and picked up his trusty iron axe. He’d inherited the well-worn hatchet with the smooth wooden handle from his father, and had been using the tool for so long, it felt like an old friend.

WOODCHOPPER: (yawns, stretches) Alright, pal. Time for another morning of chopping firewood in the forest! If we work quickly enough, we can make it to the marketplace just as it opens, and sell our wood right up front so everyone will see us when they walk through the door!

NARRATOR: One day, after the woodchopper woke up, got dressed, and left his cottage to go to work, he came across a giant oak tree that had fallen alongside a swift, deep river.

WOODCHOPPER: Wow! Would you look at this tree! The trunk’s so thick, it’ll make enough firewood for an entire village…! (beat) Well, pal, better get chopping...

NARRATOR: The woodchopper sweated and strained, heaved and ho’d as he swung his trusty axe against the fallen oak. But, try as he might, the iron blade hardly made a dent!

WOODCHOPPER: (with exertion, as he chops) Man! This trunk is tough!

NARRATOR: Well, just as the woodchopper uttered those words, do you know what happened? He swung his axe one last time…

WOODCHOPPER: (ad-lib effortful chopping sound)

NARRATOR: ...and it got stuck!

WOODCHOPPER: Oh no!

NARRATOR: Gripping the smooth wooden handle and gritting his teeth, the woodchopper yanked...

WOODCHOPPER: (effortful as he pulls) Come on, pal!

NARRATOR: ...and tugged...

WOODCHOPPER: (effortful as he pulls) Let’s get you out of there!

NARRATOR: Tugged…

WOODCHOPPER: (effortful as he pulls) Easy does it!

NARRATOR: ...and yanked…

WOODCHOPPER: (effortful as he pulls) Almost...!

NARRATOR: ...until…

WOODCHOPPER: (ad-lib effortful pulling sound)

NARRATOR: ...at last…

WOODCHOPPER: (ad-lib response to axe suddenly loosening)

NARRATOR: ...the axe loosened from the wood... went flying through the air… and landed in the swift, deep river with a splash!

[SOT: splash]

WOODCHOPPER: Oh no! My axe! (beat) If I don’t have my axe, I can’t chop firewood! And if I can’t chop firewood, I can’t sell firewood! And if I can’t sell firewood, I can’t put food on the table! And if I can’t put food on the table, my mother and son will starve!

NARRATOR: The woodchopper slumped down on the ground, his head in his hands.

WOODCHOPPER: Oh dear. That water looks cold, and deep, and my trusty axe must have sunk far to the bottom by now. (beat) It’s way too dangerous to jump in and try to rescue it… Uch! What am I going to do?

NARRATOR: No sooner had the woodchopper asked that question than the water of the river began to bubble and churn. Suddenly, a cloud of mist rose from the surface, and the woodchopper heard a mysterious voice.

RIVER GODDESS: (kind, wise, ethereal) Good woodchopper, what troubles you?

NARRATOR: The woodchopper squinted into the mist. Eventually, he made out the figure of a woman. A tall, willowy woman with long, iridescent hair and a flowing robe that sparkled with every color of the rainbow. It was the goddess of the river… the magical being who watched over the water and protected all its creatures.

RIVER GODDESS: Good woodchopper. I’ve been listening to you cut wood since early this morning, when the stars were still twinkling in the sky. Why have you stopped your hard work?

NARRATOR: The surprised woodchopper blushed. He’d never met a real goddess before!

WOODCHOPPER: (surprised, humble, nervous, innocent, sincere) Well, I was swinging away at this fallen tree here, thinking of all the firewood I could sell, when my trusty old axe got stuck! Right there in the trunk! I tried yanking it free when all of a sudden it came loose and went plunging into the river! (beat, sincere) Now I fear I’ll never see my treasured axe again. And my family will go hungry. And --

NARRATOR: The woodchopper watched as the goddess of the river dove deep down into the water. When she re-emerged, she reached out a long, graceful arm. In her delicate hand… she held an axe.

RIVER GODDESS: (testing him) Is this your treasured axe?

NARRATOR: Now, you remember what the woodchopper’s axe looked like, right? It was made of battered and worn iron, with a smooth wooden handle.

Well, the axe the River Goddess was holding out… was made of bronze! The copper-colored metal glinted in the early morning sun and cast a warm glow across the woodchopper’s face.

WOODCHOPPER: Oh, River Goddess! This bronze axe is definitely a treasure!

With this bronze axe, I could provide for my family for a very long time! (beat, giving in to his conscience) But the truth is, my axe is simple and plain — it’s just an old iron blade with a smooth wooden handle, and nothing more. Much as I’d like to claim this bronze axe as my own, it must belong to someone else.

NARRATOR: A smile spread across the River Goddess’s shimmering face. Then, she dove back into the water.

When she returned to the surface, she held out another axe.

RIVER GODDESS: (testing him) Is this your treasured axe?

NARRATOR: The woodchopper gazed at the axe. While the last axe was made of bronze, this one was made of solid silver! As the axe caught the sun’s rays, it glimmered and glistened so brightly, the woodchopper had to shield his eyes!

WOODCHOPPER: Oh, River Goddess. This silver axe is a beautiful treasure, indeed! It could bring my family a fortune! (beat, honoring his conscience) But like I said, my axe is ordinary, nothing fancy at all. Much as I’d like to claim this silver axe as my own, it must belong to someone else.

NARRATOR: The River Goddess arched a pearly eyebrow. Then, she dove back down into the water. When she rose up again, she held out yet another axe.

RIVER GODDESS: (testing him) Is this your treasured axe?

NARRATOR: The woodchopper gasped. While the first axe had been made of bronze, and the second of solid silver, any guesses what this third axe was made of?

That’s right! Gold!

WOODCHOPPER: Oh, River Goddess! This golden axe is a treasure beyond compare! The glittering axe-head alone is worth more money than I could ever make in my entire lifetime! (beat, honoring his conscience) But, it’s like I told you — my axe is plain. Simple. And old. Much as I’d like to claim this golden axe as my own, it must belong to someone else.

NARRATOR: The River Goddess peered deep into the woodchopper’s eyes. Then, slowly, she began descending into the water.

RIVER GODDESS: Well, good woodchopper, if you won’t claim any of these axes as your own, you should just go home. It’s clear my work here is done.

WOODCHOPPER: What do you mean? And what about my treasured axe? Is it really gone forever?

NARRATOR: The River Goddess sank down even further.

RIVER GODDESS: That is for you to find out, woodchopper! (slowly, mysterious) That is for you to find out!

NARRATOR: Then the goddess’s iridescent head slipped beneath the surface, and she was gone... leaving nothing more than a ripple behind.

NARRATOR: What do you think the woodchopper will find out?

We’ll hear what happens next, after a quick break.

[BREAK]

NARRATOR: Welcome back to Circle Round. I’m Rebecca Sheir. Today our story is called “The Treasured Axe.”

NARRATOR: Before the break, a hardworking woodchopper lost his trusty old axe in the river. The Goddess of the River offered him three other axes… one made of bronze, one made of solid silver, and one made of pure gold… but the honest man confessed that none of them belonged to him.

After the River Goddess disappeared beneath the water, the woodchopper sighed, bowed his head, and... with a heavy heart... dragged his feet back to the tiny cottage he shared with his mother and son.

As he approached, his family came bursting through the door. They were brimming with excitement.

MOTHER: Oh, son!

SON: Daddy!!!

MOTHER: You must come inside!

SON: Open up your present!

NARRATOR: The woodchopper tilted his head.

WOODCHOPPER: My “present”?!? But it isn’t my birthday! Did somebody get me a gift?

MOTHER: They most certainly did, my dear!

NARRATOR: The family went inside and sure enough, sitting on the kitchen table was a large package, wrapped in creamy silk and tied with a blue bow.

MOTHER: A lovely woman brought it over just now. She had the most gorgeous hair... iridescent, almost! Anyway, she told me that she met you today… and that you were the most humble, hardworking and honest person she’d ever encountered. So she wanted to give you this gift!

NARRATOR: The woodchopper’s heart raced as he untied the blue bow. And once he removed the silk wrapping, he found some very familiar objects. Or treasures, really. One made of bronze, one made of solid silver, and one made of pure gold.

SON: Wow, Daddy! Look at those axes!

MOTHER: My dear son, I’ll bet you never dreamed of chopping wood with such treasures! (beat) But wait…

NARRATOR: The woodchopper’s mother rummaged beneath the bronze, silver and golden axes.

MOTHER: There’s something else in there!

NARRATOR: The woodchopper watched in amazement as his mother picked up a velvet bag. She reached inside, and do you know what she pulled out?

That’s right!

WOODCHOPPER: My axe!

NARRATOR: Indeed, it was the treasured old axe the woodchopper had inherited from his father — the well-worn iron hatchet with the smooth wooden handle.

WOODCHOPPER: (mystified, impressed) Well, I’ll be! (to the axe) Good to see you again, pal!

NARRATOR: Before long, the entire village was buzzing with the news of the woodchopper’s newfound treasures. Because the woodchopper was such a humble, hardworking and honest soul, everyone was happy for his good fortune.

Well… almost everyone.

Down the road from the woodchopper lived a farmer… and the two neighbors were as different as summer and winter. While the woodchopper was hardworking, the farmer was lazy — hiring dozens of farmhands to work the land while he stayed in bed all day. And while the woodchopper was honest, the farmer was deceitful — often cheating those farmhands of their daily wages! And keeping their money for himself!

As you can imagine, when the lazy, deceitful farmer heard the story about the woodchopper’s new axes, the greedy man seethed with jealousy.

FARMER: Hmph! If that goody-goody down the road can get all these treasures just by dropping a shoddy axe into the river, then I can get them, too!

NARRATOR: So the farmer rummaged around his barn for an old axe, stuffed the axe into a big satchel, and brought it to the riverside.

Now, do you remember why the woodchopper’s treasured axe wound up splashing beneath the water? If you’ll recall, it’s because he was working hard, right? Sweating and straining, heaving and ho-ing as he swung his axe against that giant oak tree? Then the axe got stuck, he yanked and tugged to pull it out, and splash! Off it went into the swift, deep river!

Well, just thinking about all this hard work made the lazy farmer want to go to bed! So when he arrived at the river, do you think he started swinging his axe? Sweating and straining, heaving and ho-ing?

Most certainly not!

Instead, he took his axe from the satchel, dangled the hatchet at the water’s edge, and let it fall into the river with a plop.

NARRATOR: Then he crouched down on the bank and pretended to cry.

FARMER: (ad-lib fake crying)

NARRATOR: Just as the farmer had hoped, the river began to bubble and churn. A cloud of mist rose from the water’s surface, and the farmer heard the magical voice he’d been dreaming of.

RIVER GODDESS: (kind, ethereal, wise, already knowing he’s up to no good) Good farmer, what troubles you?

NARRATOR: When the farmer caught sight of the River Goddess, he frowned and wrung his hands.

FARMER: (laying it on thick) Oh, River Goddess. I was hacking away at a tree when my dear, treasured axe got caught in the trunk! (faux-humble) I used my incredible strength to pull it free, and next thing I knew it had fallen into the river!

NARRATOR: The farmer felt his heart leap as the goddess of the river dove down into the water. When she emerged again, she reached out her long, graceful arm and held up… a bronze axe!

RIVER GODDESS: Is this your treasured axe?

NARRATOR: The farmer trembled with delight as he snatched the bronze axe and stuffed it inside his satchel on the riverbank.

FARMER: (totally full of it, with growing greed) Actually, River Goddess… that is my treasured axe! (beat) But, silly me, I somehow forgot to tell you — I lost another axe in the river today, too. One that’s a little more... silvery…?

NARRATOR: A smile spread across the River Goddess’s face. Then she dipped beneath the water. When she came back to the surface, she held out another axe… this one made of solid silver!

RIVER GODDESS: Is this your treasured axe?

NARRATOR: The farmer giggled as he grabbed the silver axe and crammed it into the satchel next to the bronze axe.

FARMER: (totally full of it, with growing greed) Why, yes! That’s my treasured axe! (beat) But… I’m so embarrassed… I actually lost yet another axe in the river today, too. One that’s far more… golden!

NARRATOR: The River Goddess arched a pearly eyebrow. Then, she glided back down under the water. When she rose up again, she held out an axe made of pure gold!

RIVER GODDESS: Is this your treasured axe?

NARRATOR: The farmer licked his lips as he took the golden axe and laid it inside the satchel, next to the silver and bronze axes.

FARMER: (totally full of it) You know what? That is my treasured axe! I’d know that golden glint anywhere! (beat, laying it on thick, totally ingenuine) Oh, River Goddess! All three of these treasures have been so near and dear to me - and here I was, thinking they were lost forever! However can I thank you?

NARRATOR: The River Goddess peered deep into the farmer’s eyes. Then, slowly, she began descending into the water.

RIVER GODDESS: (mysterious) Well, ‘good farmer,’ if you truly have ‘your treasures,’ then you should just go home. It’s clear my work here is done.

NARRATOR: Then her iridescent head disappeared beneath the surface, and she was gone... leaving nothing more than a ripple behind.

The farmer danced with greedy delight before picking up his satchel and skipping back to his farm.

FARMER: (ad-lib joyful, gleeful, greedy delight)

NARRATOR: But when he got home and unloaded his bag…

FARMER: (ad-lib aghast gasp)

NARRATOR: … he was in for a major surprise! Although the satchel had felt heavy and full as the farmer traveled back from the river, he now discovered — much to his dismay — that the great big bag... was empty!

And so, unlike the humble, hardworking woodchopper, the selfish, lazy farmer wound up empty-handed. He’d lost the bronze axe, he’d lost the silver axe, he’d lost the golden axe, and… thanks to his greed and dishonesty… he’d lost his own axe, too.


Credits:

This episode was adapted for Circle Round by Rebecca Sheir. It was edited by Circle Round’s executive producer, Katherine Brewer. Original music and sound design is by Eric Shimelonis. Our artist is Sabina Hahn.

Rebecca Sheir Twitter Host, Circle Round
Rebecca Sheir is the host "Circle Round," WBUR's kids storytelling podcast.

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