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Stephen Suen
The Golden Axe
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Once upon a time, in China, there lived a poor boy named Cheng. One day in winter, his parents were shivering with cold, so Cheng went to the mountains to gather firewood.

As he was crossing the bridge, he tripped and his black axe was sent sailing into the river. Cheng began to cry, for that was the only axe his family owned. Suddenly an old man appeared at Cheng's side and asked, "Why are you crying, young fellow?"

"I dropped my family's only axe into the river, and I can't swim!" Cheng replied.

"Don't worry, I'll fetch it for you," replied the old man, who dove into the water with a huge splash. After a few minutes, the old man resurfaced with a golden axe in his hand.

"Is this your axe?" the old man asked from the water.

"No, my family's axe is a simple black axe!" answered Cheng.

"Because of your honesty, I will give you this golden axe," said the old man, who then threw the axe at Cheng's feet and disappeared in a puff of smoke.

Cheng quickly chopped the wood, and returned home.

Rumors of Cheng's golden axe spread through the village, so a greedy villager went to the same bridge.
He tripped and dropped a plain axe into the river. The old man appeared once again, and asked the villager what had happened.

The villager replied with Cheng's exact words. "I dropped my family's only axe into the river, and I can't swim!"

The old man leaped into the river, and resurfaced a few minutes later with a golden axe.

"Yes, yes, that's my axe," shouted the villager hastily.

"Because of your greed, you lose everything," said the old man. The villager rushed at him, but the old man had already vanished into thin air. The villager landed in the water instead.

"Help, help!" he shouted -- but nobody was there. "I can't swim!" And the greedy villager drowned, while Cheng and his parents lived happily ever after.


(Based on an old Chinese folk tale.)

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Read by: Stephen Suen
 

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