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



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

The Three Questions by Leo. N. Tolstoy


The Three Questions by Leo N. Tolstoy

This short story, "The Three Questions," has been written by the Russian writer Leo N. Tolstoy. This story explores the themes of wisdom, acceptance, kindness, and forgiveness. This story is about a king who wanted to know the answer to the three questions to get enlightenment.

Once, a king thought that he would never fail if he knew three things. The king wanted to seek out the answers to the following three questions:

No. First: What was the right time for every action?

No. Second: Who were the right people to be with?

No. Third: What was the most important thing to do?

The king wanted to know these three questions' answers at any cost. He sent his messengers across his kingdom to make the announcement. He declared that he would give a great reward to the person who could answer his three questions.

After the declaration of the king, a lot of learned men came up with different answers. They gave many answers and advice from their sides. One of the learned men said that the king should go by a timetable. The next one said that the king should do whatever seemed necessary to him at the moment. The third one suggested that the king should consult wise men or magicians.

Answering the second question, they gave much importance to his councillors, priests, doctors, and soldiers.

In reply to the third question, the wise man put his opinion forward, giving much importance to science, fighting, and religious worship.

Unfortunately, no one satisfied the king with their answers. After being dissatisfied with different answers, the king decided to consult a wise hermit who was widely renowned for his wisdom.

The king went to a hermit in the jungle alone, disguising himself. There he found the old and weak hermit digging the ground. The king moved up to him and asked his questions directly to get his answers. The hermit listened to the king but remained silent. A bit later, the king took the spade from the hermit and began to work in his place. After digging two beds, the king stopped and repeated his questions again. But the hermit didn't reply to his questions. Several hours passed. It was evening, so the king stopped digging. The king was ready to take leave from the hermit. Just then, the hermit told them that someone was running towards them.

When the king turned around, he saw a strange, bearded man running towards them. The man held his hands pressed against his stomach, from which blood was oozing. As he approached the king, he fainted and fell to the ground. He was seriously wounded.

Both the king and the hermit helped him unfasten his clothes. They found a large wound in his stomach.

The king washed the wound and bandaged it with his handkerchief. At last, the bleeding ceased. The man felt better, was revived, and asked for water to drink. The king brought fresh water and gave it to him.

The sun had set by then, and it had become cool. Both the king and the hermit carried him inside the hut and laid him comfortably in bed. The king also fell asleep due to his tiredness. When he awoke the next morning, he saw the bearded man gazing at him intently with shining eyes. The bearded man asked for forgiveness in a weak voice. The king became surprised to hear his words.

The bearded man started telling the truth to the king. According to him, he was, in fact, the king’s enemy. He was following the king to take revenge on him. He vowed to kill the king. The king had once put his brother to death. The man hid in a bush on the way to the forest. When the king did not return for a long time, he came out of his hiding place. He was wounded by the king's bodyguards.  If the king had not applied ointment to his wound, he would have died. He felt grateful to the king, who had saved his life. He promised to serve the king as a faithful servant. The king became so glad that he had made peace with his enemy. He forgave the man and promised to restore his property.

The king then went out onto the porch and looked around for the hermit. Before going away, he wished to ask for answers to his three questions again. The hermit explained that the king had already gotten his answers. According to him, by digging the beds for him, the king had escaped the attack. Thus, the most important time was when he was digging the beds. The hermit said that he was the most important person to the king. Thus, doing good for him was the king’s most important business.

The hermit explained the meaning later on. According to him, "If the king had not pitied his weakness yesterday and had not dug those beds for him but had gone his way, that bearded man would have attacked him, and the king would have repented of not having stayed with the hermit. So the most important time was when the king was digging the beds.

Next, the hermit referred to himself as the most important man for the king, and to do good for him was the king's most important business. He added that when that man ran to them, the most important time was when the king was attending to the bearded man, for if the king had not bound up his wounds, he would have died without having made peace with the king. So he was the most important man, and what the king did for him was his most important business.

1. Now is the time to take every action because now is the only time that we have power.

2. The right person is who you are with.

3. The most important thing to do is to do good for the person you are with.


The Three Questions Summary & Questions & Answers


Three Questions by Leo N. Tolstoy

dismounted (v): got down

executed (v): killed someone as a legal punishment

feebly (adv.): in a way that lacks strength or force

hermit (n): a person living in solitude as a religious discipline

moaning (v): making a long, low sound of pain, suffering, or another strong emotion

proclaimed (v): announced officially or publicly

recommenced (v): started again

repent (v): feel regret about one's wrongdoing or sin

revenge (v): to harm someone as a punishment for harm that they have done to you

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