The great Russian writer Leo Tolstoy is perhaps best known for his epic novels “War and Peace” and “Anna Karenina”. However, he also wrote many short stories. This story is about a king who wanted to find the answers to what he considered the three most important questions in life. The first thing he wanted to know was when was the right time to begin every action. The second was who were the best people to have around him. The third was what was the most important thing to spend his time doing. If you want to know the answers, you will have to read our story.
English Learner Vocabulary Help
General Comments on the Story
Tolstoy was a Russian Count and spent most of his early life living in luxury. “The Three Questions” is a story from his book What Men Live By and Other Tales. This was written later in Tolstoy’s life during a period in which he began to question traditional Russian values and Christian beliefs. It can be downloaded in various e-book forms from Project Gutenberg here, and an audiobook is available from Librivox here. The stories in the book, are parables designed to give advice about life to poorly educated Russian peasants. Tolstoy’s three questions are not only meant for kings, but for anyone who wants to live a good life.
Sometimes when you read a book that was originally written in another language you wonder if some of the author’s ideas might have been lost or confused in the translation. In the generally accepted English version of this story the third question is referred to in three ways:
- In the first and second paragraphs the narrator and king refer to it as to always know the most important thing to do.
- When talking about the advice the king received, the narrator describes it as to know the most important occupation The answers given (science, skill in warfare and religious worship) suggest fields of study or activity.
- Later, when talking to the hermit, the king asks: And, what affairs are the most important, and need my first attention?
At the end of the story the hermit answers: The most important affair is to do him (the person you are with) good, because for that purpose alone was man sent into this life! We have taken the question to mean what is the most important thing for a man to spend his time doing.
At around the same time that Tolstoy wrote What Men Live By and Other Tales, he wrote another famous book, The Kingdom of God Is Within You. This is considered a masterpiece of non-fiction writing. It directly influenced the thinking of the great Indian leader and pacifist Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi and through him American civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. Gandhi wrote that the book “overwhelmed” him and “left an impression.” It is available from Project Gutenberg here and from Librivox here.
(n: council pl councils) 1. A group of people who provide advice or guidance on something. 2. In the U.K. and some other countries, a group of people elected to control the workings of a local government area. 1000
(adj: faithful) Having or showing true and constant support or loyalty. 2000
(v: forgive, forgives, forgave, forgiven, forgiving) To stop being angry with someone who has done something wrong or caused something bad to happen. He forgave her for stealing his watch.
(n: forgiveness, noncount) The act of forgiving. He asked for forgiveness. 2000
(n: handkerchief pl handkerchiefs or handkerchieves) A small usually square piece of cloth used for wiping your face, nose, or eyes. 4000
(n: hermit pl hermits) A person who lives in a simple way apart from others, especially for religious reasons. 12000
(n: hut pl huts) A small and simple house or building. 3000
(n: priest pl priests) A man who leads people in the worship of a god or group of gods; a man who leads or performs religious ceremonies. 4000
(n: reward pl rewards) A benefit that someone gets or is offered for doing good work, good behavior etc. 3000
(n: servant pl servants) Someone who is hired to do household or personal duties [such as cleaning and cooking]. 1000
(n: slave pl slaves) Someone who is legally owned by another person and is forced to work for that person without pay. (ทาส) 3000
(n: spade pl spades) A tool with a metal blade attached to a long handle, used for digging. (พลั่ว) 4000
(adj: wise, wiser, wisest) Having gained a lot of knowledge from books or experience or both and able to use it well. (ฉลาด)
(n: wisdom; noncount) 1. The knowledge gained from books or experience. 2. The quality or state of being wise. (ปัญญา; สติปัญญา) 2000
(v: worship, worships, worshiped, worshiping) 1. To honor or respect someone or something as a god. (สักการะ). 2. To love or honor someone or something very much or too much. As a kid I worshiped my brother. Our society worships money. (เคารพ) 4000
(n: wound pl wounds) An injury that is caused when a knife, bullet, etc., cuts or breaks the skin. (บาดแผล) 3000
(adj: abiding) [of a feeling or belief] Lasting for a long time and not changing. abiding love
(v: abide, abided, abides, abiding) 1. To remain or continue. 2. To accept or bear [someone or something bad, unpleasant, etc.] I can't abide bad manners. 5000
(phrasal verb: abide by) To accept or act in accordance with; obey [the law/rules, etc.]