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The Stolen Axe

A Taoist Tale

A woodcutter went out one morning to cut some firewood and discovered that his favourite axe was missing. He couldn’t find it anywhere. Then he noticed his neighbour’s son standing near the woodshed. The woodcutter thought, “Aha! That boy must have stolen my axe. I see how he lurks about the shed, shifting uneasily from foot to foot, greedy hands stuffed in his pockets, a guilty look on his face. I can’t prove it, but he must have stolen my axe.”

A few days later the woodcutter was surprised and happy to come upon the axe under a pile of firewood. “I remember now,” he said, “Just where I’d left it!”

The next time he saw his neighbour’s son, the woodcutter looked intently at the boy, scrutinising him from head to toe. How odd, he thought, somehow this boy has lost his guilty look.