Today, we can rely on top quality, safe to use hydraulic log splitters, to get our firewood ready for the winter. But in the olden days, woodcutters were, hard grafting axemen.
Poor and superstitious, as these folk were, it’s perhaps unsurprising that myth and folklore has mentions aplenty of woodcutters.
So here is our pick of the best tales from the forest.
Romania – the ungrateful log splitter
You don’t want to mess with Merlin, but that’s what this fool did. When the wise old wizard intervenes to lift the Romanian log splitter and his family, out of poverty, the man isn’t as grateful as he should be.
By the time the Romanian log splitter has been made mayor, seen his son into the Bishop’s job and married his daughter off to a director, he has no time whatsoever for the old man of the woods. Merlin is not impressed, and with a flick of the wrist, the son and daughter are dead and the log splitter back to square one.
The moral of the tale? Don’t forget to send your thank you letters.
France – fortune and the lumberjack
Another poor lumberjack – this one has been hacking away for years, and even though his sons are grown and can help him, still his fortunes do not improve. One day, he has a fit of the blues and goes to bed, vowing never to go to work again.
Seeing the man’s donkeys having a day off, his neighbour borrows them, to carry a treasure home. The only thing is – the gold belongs to the King, and on his way back with the loot, the neighbour spies some soldiers and runs off to hide.
The donkeys know their way home though, and to the delight of all, turn up in the lumberjack’s courtyard, weighed down with a fortune. So there you go – don’t chase after lady luck – let her come to you.
Korea – the Heavenly maiden
A young lumberjack – poor but hardworking, is bashing away with his log splitter, in the mountains, when a deer, asks him to hide it from a hunter. As a reward, the deer tells him where to find some heavenly maidens, bathing in a lake.
All the man has to do is steal the undercrackers of the girl of his dreams and she won’t be able to go back to heaven. The man is delighted, but the deer warns him not to let the lovely lady have her knickers back until she’d had four children. But women are nothing if not persuasive, and when the man gives her back her pants after the third child, she zooms up to heaven. Luckily the woodcutter finds the deer again, who advises him to wait by the lake, and watch for a bucket being lowered from the clouds. Get in, the deer tells him and ride that pail to heaven.
This the man duly does. He likes it in heaven but misses his Mum, so he borrows a dragon-horse thing and nips down to see her. Unfortunately he falls off, and is stuck on earth. When he dies, he turns into a cock – and that’s why cockerels always climb as high as they can before crowing. Just trying to get nearer to the missus.
Estonia – the kind woodcutter
A woodcutter is about to cut down some trees, but every time he takes his axe to one, it cries out begging him not to kill it. The soft hearted woodcutter can’t bring himself to murder a single tree. He’s worried what his wife will say, but as he sits there who should appear, but the father of the forest.
This sprite, thanks the woodcutter for not taking his wood splitter to his trees, and gives him the gift of a golden rod, to ask of nature what he will. The only stipulation; to use it wisely, and never to ask for too much. The woodcutter is a wise fellow and uses the rod well, as do his children and his children’s children – and all lead happy, carefree lives.
But eventually, the rod falls into the wrong hands, and a terrible forest fire is the result. The rod is destroyed and since then, the trees have never spoken. Best not ask too much of mother nature.
Greece – the honest woodsman
A woodsman weeps when he drops his axe in the river. Hermes, hears him and asks him, what the matter is. Hermes takes pity on the woodsman, and dipping a hand into the water, pulls out a golden axe, asking if this is the lost implement. But the woodsman says no, so Hermes pulls out a silver axe, and again the woodman won’t claim it as his own.
Hermes is impressed by the guy’s honesty, so he gives the man back his own axe and lets him keep the others too. The woodsman’s friend hears about this good fortune, so he goes down to the river, chucks his axe in and wails. Hermes appears, offers him a golden axe, and the neighbour accepts.
Hermes is annoyed by this display of greed, so he chops the chap’s head off. Honesty is the best policy.