Short Story #1 – Three Questions by Leo Tolstoy

Three Questions by Leo Tolstoy can be found here on WikiSource:

I have no idea what this is going to be about, maybe there is going to be three questions, who knows? It will be interesting to get a sense of how Tolstoy writes, before I eventually (way in the future) venture to read War and Peace which is frankly a monster, at nearly 1400 pages, with quite small font size!

But now onto Three Questions I found another slightly different version whilst googling, but I put that just down to slightly different translations as it was originally Russian, but the Literature Network seems reputable.

Interesting idea to avoid failure. Good timing, knowing the right people and the right knowledge are all you need to always succeed. Well, apparently. Though it makes perfect sense, the amount of jobs and other things that happen because of the right timing and knowing the right people, is staggering. The number of stories that start with a king trying to find out ways to be like the best, and they do it through their subjects, and then it takes forever to find the right guy, and then that guy fools the king, is high, lets hope there is a little more to this story than that.

Of course they all answered it differently, these questions are nearly unanswerable and 100% opinionated, but it’s a story, so we have to go with it. Interesting answers for the first question, draw up a table and plan your days for the rest of your life, only do the things that are important or make some ‘wise men’ decide when the right time was. The second answer, of really only doing what is important and not doing pointless things, is probably the ‘best’ answer, don’t waste your time, good lesson for today’s culture! One more suggestion, consult magicians. Right… good thing this isn’t such an old story that they would burn witches.

Oh, the second question is who is the best person to listen to, not quite the same as knowing the right person, but close. But again, lots of answers, council men, doctors, priests and warriors. Doesn’t it really just depend on what you are doing, cause you wouldn’t really consult a doctor when you are in the middle of a war. Likewise you wouldn’t consult a council man when you need to be ‘healed’. Though it was written in 1885, it nearly sounds even older, with a king and warriors, I guess he could be writing as if it was really long ago, not during his time.

Finding out which knowledge is going to be most useful in life, is a hard thing to do. You can always change your mind to what you want to do, and there will be situations where if you had learnt this, it would have been helpful, but you should just learn whatever interests you, and what you think will be important. Current education systems, don’t quite allow for this, and they don’t really seem to understand that some people just aren’t interested in maths or science or English or history, or any other subject. These days schools are expected to teach so much, including things PARENTS should be doing, like manners and sexual education and how to swim, and then they have to teach so many different subjects and then related them all to one another and write reports and discipline kids, whilst trying to cope with the other 30 kids, who all need attention. No wonder there seems to be fewer and fewer people studying to be teachers, too much stress. Smaller class sizes would be amazing, and if parents actually focused on their kids and showed them love, then maybe fewer kids would be as ‘feral’ and delinquent as they are. Maybe the old-fashioned way of apprenticeships for nearly everything would be the best thing, you don’t have to go off to school, but go into the field you want, and get hands on training and learn whatever you need to do, from someone who has done it for years, sure there would have to be some background knowledge, but the amount of USELESS knowledge that is shoved into kids minds, is astounding, most of the rubbish is forgotten quickly and probably more than 95% is never used again, not very efficient!

Enough babbling, back to the story. Science, warfare and religious worship, well again it depends on what you are planning on doing, if you are running a country, can’t you have a nice balance? Good on the king, for disagreeing with everyone, and giving rewards to no one. And now of course, he must go and consult with the ‘wisest of them all’, a hermit.

So the king has to disguise himself as a common man, knowing stories like these, the hermit probably will see through this regardless. Interesting that the king actually offered to do some manual labour! And predictably enough, the hermit doesn’t answer his questions, which makes the king quite enraged. Then somebody comes running towards them. The man is wounded, and nearly dies, but the stop the bleeding and then all fall asleep.

Alrightly. The man was going to kill the king because he exiled his brother and stole his property (for an unknown reason) but ran into the guards who knew who he was and attacked him. Now because the king saved his life, he will become a slave and will make his children do the same. Right… Then just like that the king is all happy with the man, and he is his friend and would return the property he stole. Cause kings aren’t usually greedy bastards or anything…

Of course the king goes and asks the questions again, without realising that of course the questions have been answered already. But I can’t be cynical of the message, alright I could be, but I actually agree with the message! The only time that matters is NOW!

“It is the most important time because it is the only time when
we have any power. The most necessary man is he with whom you are,
for no man knows whether he will ever have dealings with any one
else: and the most important affair is, to do him good, because for
that purpose alone was man sent into this life!”

Wise old hermit. For a long time I was really cynical of the story, it is quite cliqued, but since it was written in 1885, the cliques probably followed after, so it may have been quite original in its time. The storyline is quite simple, which is good in a short story, it isn’t supposed to go on forever. The king is greedy and stupid as always. But the message is a good one! We should all be living in the now. Why? Because it is the only time when we can do things, we cannot change the past, and we can’t actually do things in the future, because when we can actually do anything it is now and not the future, and the future will be the same length of time away forever! And we should only pay attention to the people around us, as in we should pay full attention and give them the respect and courtesy to listen to them and not to be in our own little world. And the message of doing good, has been often repeated.

It’s not really the best short story, it cannot top The Lottery, not sure if any of the 10 I have chosen will be able to, but we shall see. But this has a simple message, The Lottery’s message was complicated, and a good one to dissect and analyze. Three Questions is to the point, and obvious. It isn’t all that enjoyable, but the final message makes up for it. A lot of people would just scoff at the message, but they should heed the advice. It makes a lot of sense if you have an open mind and don’t try to refute it with your thoughts. It reminds me of Eckhart Tolle’s work, with The Power of Now and A New Earth which are good ‘spiritual’ books, with a similar message of living in the now, but has ‘ways’ of doing this, and explains it really well. But if you don’t have an open mind, and think it is all quackery, then don’t really bother, unless you are willing to give it a go.

I did actually like The Three Questions it is a little simple and quite cliqued, but it has a nice message, so it wins some points, but The Lottery is way better. I will be interested to read War and Peace to see if Tolstoy mentions ‘the now’ further.

Tomorrow’s short story is  Frank Stockton’s The Lady or the Tiger?


6 thoughts on “Short Story #1 – Three Questions by Leo Tolstoy

  1. It is very great story , which leave a very big moral for human kind therefore i had decided to show this story as drama in my school.

  2. This story is really very amazing. I and my group is performing a skit on this story and I am the leader of my group. This page has provided me great ideas which have helped me a lot to train my group well.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s