Friday Fable. “The Image of Mercury and the Carpenter”*

Posted by jlubans on May 11, 2017

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Caption: Anonymous illustration from an 1867 edition of Samuel Coxall’s “Aesop”. Coxall lived 1689–1752.

“A VERY POOR MAN, a Carpenter by trade, had a wooden image of Mercury, before which he made offerings day by day, and begged the idol to make him rich, but in spite of his entreaties he became poorer and poorer. At last, being very angry, he took his image down from its pedestal and dashed it against the wall. When its head was knocked off, out came a stream of gold, which the Carpenter quickly picked up and said, 'Well, I think thou art altogether contradictory and unreasonable; for when I paid you honor, I reaped no benefits: but now that I maltreat you I am loaded with an abundance of riches.'”
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This fable is also known as “A Man and a Wooden God.” Here is L’Estrange’s moral to his version from 1692:
“Most People, Clergy as well as Laity, accommodate their Religion to their Profit, and reckon that to be the best Church that there’s most to be got by.”
Early Babbitry.
But, our Mercury version offers an alternative. Mercury, according to the Britannica, is “the god of shopkeepers and merchants, … and thieves and tricksters” (emphasis added).
I imagine Mercury having a good laugh at the carpenter as he finally breaks off his routine of making daily obesiance while suffering personal hardship.
The carpenter’s storms, “No more! The hell with this,” and tosses the wooden god on its head. Out pours the treasure!
Is this not Mercury rewarding the carpenter for finally taking action instead of hoping Mercury will? In other words, “The Lord helps those who help themselves."
And, so, it can be O-T-J. When we decide to chuck what’s safe and secure, we may enrich our lives. How many of us, to get a paycheck, put up with a toxic boss?
May you always remember when you said “No more!” and slammed the door on the old and opened a new door to opportunity.

*Source: FABLES By Aesop Translated by George Fyler Townsend (probably from this edition): “Three hundred and fifty Aesop’s fables”. Chicago, Belford, Clarke & Co., 1886. Available at the Gutenberg Project.

N.B. My next book, Fables for Leaders, Ezis Press, comes out in June 2017 as an e-book ($9.99) and a soft cover print-on-demand book, ($25.99). The print book will feature original illustrations by the renowned Béatrice Coron.

© Copyright John Lubans 2017

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