The Three Questions by Leo N. Tolstoy: Questions and Answers | Major English Class 11



The Three Questions by Leo N. Tolstoy: Questions and Answers | Major English Class 11
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The Three Questions by Leo N. Tolstoy: Questions and Answers| Major English Class 11

The Three Questions by Leo. N. Tolstoy 


The Three Questions by Leo N. Tolstoy

The Russian author Leo N. Tolstoy is considered one of the greatest novelists of all time. His novels "War and Peace" and "Anna Karenina" are often considered the greatest novels ever written. His short stories are equally famous. Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King were greatly influenced by his views on non-violent philosophy. 


The Three Questions by Leo N. Tolstoy

"The Three Questions" is a story from a collection of short stories titled 'What Men Live By and Other Tales'. In parable form, it tells the story of a king who tries to find answers to three questions that, according to him, are important to being successful in life.

The story begins at a certain place, in which the king wonders how fruitful it would be if he knew three important things:

1. The right time to begin everything

2. The right people to listen to and whom to avoid

3. The right thing to do

He believed that if he knew these three answers, he would never be defeated. Thus he declared throughout his kingdom that whoever taught the right answers to his questions would be rewarded handsomely. The learned men differed in their answers, due to which the king was disappointed. He then decided to consult a hermit who lived in the forest and was widely known for his wisdom. Thus, the king, in simple clothes, left his bodyguards behind and reached the hermit's hut.

When the king reached the hermit, who was digging the ground in front of his hut, he saluted the king and continued digging. He looked weak. The king went to the hermit and said directly that he wanted answers to his three questions related to the right time, the right people, and the right thing. The hermit listened to the questions but did not answer anything and spat on his hands, recommending the digging. Understanding a hermit can be exhausting; the king took the spade and dug out the two beds, paused, and repeated his questions. The monk still did not answer but took the shovel and said, "Now you rest, let me do some work." The king refused to spade and kept digging for hours. Suddenly, a strange bearded man came running, pressing on his stomach. Blood was bleeding beneath them. He approached the king and fainted. The king and the hermit washed the wound and tied it up well with a handkerchief. They carried the injured man inside the hut and let him rest there. After the task of the whole day, the king exhausted himself and fell asleep on the threshold.

When the man woke up early in the morning, he immediately apologised and thanked the king for saving his life. Then the man added that, to avenge his brother's execution, he was sitting in an ambush to kill the king. When it was evening and the king did not return, he left his place, and the bodyguards followed him and wounded him. He assured the king that he would serve as the most loyal slave. The king was so pleased to make peace with the enemy. Before leaving the king, he once again, with his questions, approached the hermit who was sowing the seeds in the lost beds. The hermit claimed that if he had not pitied the frail hermit but had gone his way, he would have been attacked. So the most important time was when he was digging the beds, and the hermit was the most important person for him. Also, doing good for the person was the most important thing to do. The hermit finally graded and said that the most important time is now! Because this is the only time we have any power. The most essential person is the one someone is with, and the most important thing is to do well. For this particular purpose, man is sent into this life. The king was finally pleased with the wise hermit's answers and followed his words.


The Three Questions by Leo N. Tolstoy


1. What were the king's three questions?


The king's three questions were as follows:

1. What was the right time to begin something?

2. Who was the right person to listen to?

3. What was the most important thing to do?

2. Why did the king dress up as a common person? Why did he go to visit the hermit?


The king dressed up as a common person because he wanted to meet a simple and wise hermit in wood as a commoner, and the hermit also received none but common folk. He went to visit the hermit to get the answers to his three questions.

3. Who was the bearded man?


The bearded man was the enemy of the king, who vowed to take revenge on him for seizing his property and putting his brother to death.

4. How did the king and the hermit help the wounded man?


The king and the hermit helped the wounded man by providing their selfless care. They washed his wound, covered it with a handkerchief, and dressed it until the bleeding stopped completely. The king also offered him fresh water to drink. Both of them carried him inside the hut and allowed him to spend the night there.

5. Describe the changes in the wounded man's feelings for the king.


The wounded man became quite grateful to the king the next morning. His feelings changed a lot after finding the king so kind and helpful. Actually, he was after the king to take his revenge. He vowed to kill the king and take revenge for his brother's death and his confiscated property. But the king's kind act of saving him made him feel good about the king.

6. What were the hermit's answers to the king's three questions?


The hermit's answers to the king’s three questions were as follows:

Hermit's answer to the king's first question:

The hermit said that there is only one important time, ‘Now’ i.e., present. It is the only time when you have the power to act.

Hermit's answer to the king's second question: The hermit said that the most important person is the one with whom we are at the present.

Hermit's answer to the king's third question is:

The hermit answered that the most important thing to do is to treat that person well.


1. “Now, if live, and if you wish it, I will serve you as your most faithful slave and will bid my sons do the same. Forgive me!"

a) Who is 'l' here?


A wounded man is 'I' here.

b) Who does 'you' refer to?


'You' refers to the king.

c) Why is the speaker asking for forgiveness?


The speaker is asking for forgiveness because the king saved his life. He came there to take revenge on the king, but instead, the king helped him get better.

2. "You have already been answered!"

a) Who had already been answered?


The king had already been answered.

b) What answer is referred to here?


The answer given by the hermit for his three questions is being referred to here.

c) Do you think the answers are appropriate? Why?

Yes, I think the answers are appropriate because the most important time is our present. After all, it is the only moment when we have the power to act. Secondly, the most important person is ourselves because the future is unpredictable, and the third thing that we need is to do good to others because we have been sent into this world to serve this noble cause.


1. Discuss the story as a form of a parable.


By parable, we mean a short fictitious narrative that is designed to teach a lesson (usually religious or moral) by comparison or analogy. In the parable, we find the human characters. The story "Three Questions" by Leo N. Tolstoy is a parable. This story is from Tolstoy's 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. The stories in the book are in the form of parables, designed to advise 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. This story has presented the story of the king, who wants to be free from the failure of his life by knowing the answers to three questions.

Here, the writer Leo Tolstoy crafts the most thoroughly tackled questions. The derived answer holds justice and stands the test of time. In today's world, we regret the past and work hard for the future. The present, which is a priceless gift from the Almighty, is always ignored or not fully enjoyed. With the advent of technology, we frame our appearances and thoughts elsewhere. When we are with our loved ones, we must make sure to connect with them physically and mentally. It will also enable us to think about their betterment and help them grow. Showing care and concern at the right time and doing the right thing for the right person work wonders in life. The philosophy depicted in the answer has universal appeal. Told in simple language, and that too in the form of illustrations, enhances the understanding of the concept, making it effective and engaging.


1. What lesson did you get from the story?


I got a fine lesson from the story. This story has taught me a very valuable lesson: we should live in the present moment instead of grumbling about the past and worrying about the upcoming days or the future. We should be in this moment as important beings, whether poor or rich.

2. "Forgiveness is the peace of mind and wisdom”. Explain.


The above-mentioned statement is quite right. By forgiveness, we mean the act of forgiving someone. The term "forgiveness" means different things to different people. It is a kind of decision where one forgets others' bad deeds and avoids resentment and thoughts of revenge. This act is considered one of the great acts of human tendency. It is difficult to make the decision to forgive. We have to excuse a person who has given us lifelong trauma as well as mental torture. Forgiveness is the way through which we can lose our grip on ourselves. This concept helps us free ourselves from the control of the person who has harmed us in our lives.

Forgiveness provides us with a variety of things. It keeps us away from the emotional trauma of hurt and anger caused by a person or organization. The concept of true forgiveness cannot be revealed suddenly. It takes a long time to reach a stage where we feel about life and make this great decision in our lives. Forgiveness has to come from a position of strength, or at least equality. Forgiveness provides us with peace of mind and wisdom. Forgiving others makes us great and helps us attain a higher stage of self-awareness. This concept allows us to live a life without envy. We can live our lives wisely, giving priority to a peaceful existence.

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