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Hovhannes Tumanian: Brother Ax

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Translation of story by Hovhannes Tumanian

ONCE A MAN went to a far-off land in search of work. He came to a village where he saw people breaking up firewood with their bare hands.

“Brothers,” he said, “why do it with your hands? Have you no axe?”

‘‘What’s an axe?” asked the villagers.

The man took his axe from his belt, chopped up the wood and stacked it into a neat pile. Seeing this, the peasants ran through the village calling:

“Hey, everybody! Come and see what Brother Axe has done!”

The villagers gathered about the owner of the axe, begged him, entreated him, gave him valuable goods in exchange and took the axe from him.

They decided to take turns to use the axe. The first day the landlord took his turn. As he swung the first blow the axe landed on his foot and cut it. He rushed through the village roaring with pain.

“Come here, everybody! Brother Axe has run amock. He has bitten my foot.”

The peasants crowded around, and taking up thick sticks began to beat the axe. When they saw the axe was none the worse for the heavy beating they gave it, they piled wood on it and set fire to it. The flames rose high. When the fire had died down, they approached, poked about in the ashes and discovered that the axe had turned red.

“Alas!” they cried, “Brother Axe is angry. Look how red he has turned! He will bring some calamity upon us. What shall we do?”

They thought and pondered, and finally decided to throw the axe into prison. So they took it and flung it into the landlord’s barn. The barn was full of hay. As soon as the red-hot axe touched the hay a fire burst out and great flames leapt up to the sky.

Terrified, the villagers ran after its owner, overtook him and pleaded, “Come, for God’s sake, and bring Brother Axe to his senses!”