Tolstoy is an unforgettable literary figure. His devotion to literature is unquestionable. It was he who was a trend-setter for realistic novels in Russia. He was a great source of inspiration to the writers of his next-generation like Dostoyvosky, Maxim Gorkey, Chekhov or Solokov. Tolstoy’s voluminous novel War and Peace has achieved an epic grandeur in the domain of novels. His Anna Karenina is a classic example of this notable genre of literature. Apart from these, his earlier works portray his own reminiscences of his colourful childhood, boyhood and youth. In fact, Tolstoy has left his stony mark on world literature.


Here is a short story, rather a religious narrative. The questions that were raised in the mind of a Tsar are still relevant. Every time we too, like the Tsar of the story, face these questions. We are in a doubt to find out who are our right guides. We can’t decide when we should begin an act. And We hesitate to decide on the correct mission of life. But like the Tsar we are answered. For the Tsar, the hermit is there. For us, the writer is the pen-voice of the hermit.

We are taught an invaluable lesson. We are advised to take every moment of life into account. Let us not bother about the past which is only dead. Let us not fear the future which is only uncertain. And Let us make the most of ‘now’. It is the moment when we can assert that ‘I am the monarch of all I survey.’ The story offers us a good education and entertainment.



Three Questions is a good short story. The title is short and simple. Two words make the title. ‘Three’ is a mysterious number. And ‘Questions’ are always a puzzle. So three questions put by the Tsar are really mysterious. The of the kingdom try to answer them. But their answers are countless. The Tsar welcomes no answer. He wants the advice of the hermit. He repeats his questions thrice. The hermit gives him no answer. But a thing happens soon that gives the Tsar take to find out his answers.

He happens to serve a wounded man. His service brings the dying man a new lease of life. The Tsar later learns that the man is none but his enemy. He had a motive to murder him to avenge the death of his brother. Now Tsar’s kind acts come as an answer to his wrongs. The man becomes the Tsar’s loyal servant and friend. But what will be the answers to his questions? The Tsar approaches the hermit. When he hears the explanation in connection to the incidents he has been involved, he is sure to have his answers. The whole story deals with the Tsar’s three questions. Hence it is an excellent choice.



A Tsar thought that if he always knew the right time to start a thing, right people to listen and the right action to do, he would never fail in anything. Preoccupied with this thought he had it proclaimed throughout his kingdom. He declared a great reward for the answers. Learned men soon met him but their answers were varied. As to the first question some said that the Tsar must require a timetable. Some others thought that the Tsar should follow the events and take decision according to them.

Others observed that the Tsar must take the help of a council of learned men. Some advised the Tsar to take the advice of the magicians. Now to the second question some said that the Tsar required his councillors. Others said that he needed priests. Some went for the doctors. Others supported the warriors. In reply to the third question, some learned men said that the most important activity was science. Some wanted skill in warfare. Others spoke for religious worship.


The Tsar bade farewell to his learned men. He was out to meet a wise hermit. He lived in a wood. When the Tsar saw him, he found him engaged in digging the earth. He saw the Tsar and greeted him. The Tsar asked him his three questions. But he was silent. The hermit was frail and weak. He was working and breathing heavily. The Tsar wanted to help him. The hermit gave him the spade. The Tsar began to dig the earth. After digging two beds, the Tsar stopped. He repeated his questions. The hermit told him to take rest. The Tsar thought that the hermit was perhaps thinking over the questions. He went on digging. He went on working till the evening. Then he decided to part with the hermit. For the last time, he wanted to know if the hermit could answer his questions.

The hermit saw someone come running towards them. The Tsar too saw the sight. In the meantime, the man reached the Tsar. He could stand no more. The man fell down. He was senseless. The Tsar unclothed him and found a large wound in the stomach. He bound up his wound. But blood was still flowing. He bound it up again. The fight was on until blood stopped flowing. At last, the man revived. The Tsar carried him to the hermit’s cottage. The man went off to sleep.

The Tsar was very tired. He fell asleep. The next morning he came to learn that the wounded man had followed him in the wood to kill him. The man confessed that he was the enemy of the Tsar. But as he saved his life, he begged apology. If forgiven, he would serve the Tsar as his most faithful friend. The Tsar was happy. He promised to restore his property. Now the Tsar met the hermit and asked him the three questions. The hermit said that the Tsar had already got the answers. The Tsar could not understand him. Then the hermit explained to him how in different situations he had got his answers.

First, the most important time for the Tsar was when he was digging the earth. The most important man was then the hermit and the most important work was to do good. Second, the most important time was when he was attending to the wounded man. And the most important business of the Tsar was to do him good. Now the Tsar learnt an invaluable lesson. He learnt to value the present time most. He learnt to deal with persons well whom he met at present. And he learnt to do good to man, which is the only mission of life.




Three Questions by Tolstoy is a story of moral instruction. The Tsar faces some problems. These are his questions. He begins to believe that once he has their answers, he will be ever successful. Now, these are questions and how the Tsar gets their answers are the theme of the story. In a bid to get the answers the Tsar is to meet a wise hermit. But the hermit does not give him ready answers. He wants that the Tsar should wait to find out his answers by himself. In course of action, the Tsar saves the life of a wounded man.

Eventually, the man is his worst enemy. But the noble acts of the Tsar change his heart. He becomes apologetic. The Tsar gets a friend. But the Tsar is not wise enough to understand the answers. The hermit explains to him. The Tsar must be satisfied. By way of getting answers, the Tsar learns an invaluable lesson from the hermit. He is taught to do selflessly for all men.

The Tsar is taught to value every moment of life. He is taught to count on those whom he deals with. And he is taught that self-teaching is the best teaching, Our questions are ours and their answers should be sought from our own lives. None can teach us. We teach ourselves. The hermit is wise because he learns from life. Anyway, the story deals with the finer values of life. It is not a cold moral lecture. It has the warmth of life. Tolstoy follows a simple style. Technically it does not contain the features of the modern short story. But it delights us for the sincerity of expression, and language. It both delights and educates us.




Leave a Comment

error: Content is protected !!
× Join Chat