The Three Questions By Leo Tolstoy

Summary

In the short story “Three Questions” Leo Tolstoy explores the theme of wisdom, acceptance, kindness, and forgiveness. The story is about a king who wants to know the answer of the three questions so as to get enlightenment.

The three questions were: what was the right time for every action, who were the right people to be with and what was the most important thing to do. He proclaimed that he would give a great reward to the person who can answer his three questions.

A lot of learned men came up with their answers. Unfortunately, their answers did not satisfy the king. So the king decided to consult a wise hermit. He saw the hermit digging the ground and out of compassion, he did it for the hermit. He kept on asking the three questions but the hermit kept silent until hours passed and it was already sunset.

The hermit saw a bearded man running and his hands on his stomach. He was wounded and dying; the hermit told the king about it and they helped the bearded man.

The next day, the king woke up and the bearded man saw him and apologized to him. He admitted that he was an enemy of the king. The bearded man said that he heard about the king going to the hermit so he tried to kill him when he was in his way back home but he failed.

The king asked the hermit once again for his answers to which the hermit said that the most important time is our present because it is the only moment when we have the power to act. The most important person at a moment is we ourselves because the future is unpredictable and the most important business is to be kind and good to others because we have been sent in this world to serve this noble cause.

So this way the hermit tells the king that all the answers are within himself. By helping the wounded man and by spending time with the hermit he gets to know the answer to his questions which he got through self-realization. He learned to do good to others without thinking about own-self.

OR

There was this certain king who believed that he would not fail if he knew what was the right time for every action, who were the right people to be with and what was the most important thing to do. Until he proclaimed that he would give a great reward to the person who can answer his three questions.

A lot of learned men went for their answers. Unfortunately, their answers did not satisfy the king. So the king decided to consult a wise hermit. He saw the hermit digging the ground and out of compassion, he did it for the hermit. He kept on asking the three questions but the hermit also kept silent. Until hours passed and it was already sunset.

The hermit saw a bearded man running and his hands on his stomach. He was wounded and dying; the hermit told the king about it and they helped the bearded man.

The next day, the king woke up and the bearded man saw him and apologize to him. He admits that he was an enemy of the king. The bearded man said that he heard about the king going to the hermit so he tried to kill him when he was in his way back home but he failed.

The king asked the hermit once again then in every question, he answered:

1. Now is the time to do 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.

I. Word-Meanings

1. Listen to– pay attention

2. Council– a group of people choose to give advice to the king and make rules

3. Instead– beside

4. Wisdom– a body of knowledge and experience

5. Hermit– saint

6. Greet– welcome

7. Pitied– look pity on

8. Particular– certain

9. Purpose-object

II. Antonyms

1. reward x punishment

2. idle x industrious

3.renowned x obscure

4. feeble x strong

5. seized x release

III. Make Sentences

1. proclaimed: He proclaimed the car to be in sound condition.

2. ambush: Seven members of a patrol were killed in an ambush.

IV. Reference to Context

1. 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 are ‘l’ and ‘you’ here?

Ans. ‘I’ refers to the wounded man and ‘You’ refers to the king.

b) How are the two of them connected?

Ans. The king has executed the wounded man’s brother and seized his property so the man has come to take revenge for his brother’s death.

c) Why is the speaker asking for forgiveness?

Ans:- The wounded man asked for the king’s forgiveness because he wanted to kill the king but the king has saved his life and he was grateful to the king now.

2. ‘You have already been answered! ‘

a) Who had already been answered?

Ans:- The king had already been answered.

b) What answer is referred to here?

Ans:- The answer given by the hermit for his three questions are being referred here.

c) Do you think the answer is appropriate? Why?

Ans:- Yes, I think the answers are appropriate because the most important time is our present because 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 in this world to serve this noble cause.

V. Short Answer Questions

1. What were the three questions after which the story is named?

Ans: The three questions after which the story is named are: what was the right time to begin something, who was the right person to listen and what was the most important thing to do.

2. What suggestions were made in answer to the third question?

Ans:- In answer to the third question, some said science will be most important while others suggested warfare and religious worship.

3. Why did the king go to the wise hermit?

Ans:- The king went to the hermit as he was renowned for his wisdom and the king was unable to get satisfying answers from the others.

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

Ans:- The king washed the wound and covered it with his handkerchief and kept on dressing it until the bleeding stopped completely. The king also offered him water to drink and with the
the help of the hermit brought him inside the hit and allowed him to spend his night there.

5. What were the hermit’s answers to the three questions?

Ans:- The hermit said that the most important time is our present because it is the only moment when we have the power to act. The most important person at a moment is we ourselves because the future is unpredictable and the most important business is to be kind and good to others because we have been sent in this world to serve this noble cause.

Extra Questions and Answers

1. Why did the king want to know answers to three questions?

Ans: He wanted to know answers to three questions because of the thought came to his mind that he would never fail if he knew answers to the three questions i.e. what was the right time for every action, who were the most important people and what the most important thing to do was.

2. Why was the king advised to go to magicians?

Ans: The king was advised to go to magicians to get the answer for his first question. In answer to the first question, i.e. to decide the right time for doing something urgent one must have to look into the future. Since the only magician could do that, the king was advised to go to magicians.

3. What suggestions were made in answer to the third question?

Ans: There were many suggestions for the third question. In answer to the third question, i.e what is the most important thing to do, some said science will be most important. Others suggested fighting, and some said religious worship.

4. Did the wise men win the reward? If not, why not?

Ans: No, the wise men did not win the reward. The king got different answers for all the three questions he had asked. He was not satisfied with any of them.

LONG ANSWER TYPE QUESTIONS

1. What were the hermit’s answers to the three questions? Write each answer separately. Which answer do you like most, and why?
Ans: In 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.

In answer to the king’s second question, the hermit said that the most important person is the one with who we are at the present.

In response to the king’s third question, the hermit answered that the most important thing to do is to do that person good.

I like the answer of the first question the most because time has the supreme power. It can take you to height if you do something good and can also make you fall on the ground if you won’t act in presence. One should live and act according to the present.

2. (i) Who was the bearded man?

(ii) Why did he ask for the king’s forgiveness?

Ans: (i) Bearded man was the enemy of the king who swore to revenge him for seizing of his property and putting his brother to death.

(ii) He asked for the king’s forgiveness as the king had saved his life. He came there for taking revenge from the king but instead, the king helped him to get better.

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

Ans: The king and the hermit helped the wounded man by providing him the shelter and protected from the army. The king washed and covered the wound of the man with his handkerchief, but the blood would not stop flowing. The king re-dressed the wound until it stopped bleeding. They took him to hut for taking rest and king also gave him fresh water after being relaxed.

Activity

Complete the story with the help of given words in the box.

now. answered servant enemy questions hermit reward good important dressed right satisfied

A king had three————. He wanted to have answers to these questions. The questions were:
what is the ———- time to do something, what is the most important work and who are the most ——– people? He announced a ——— to the person who would answer his questions. Many people tried but the king was not ———-. Then he went to a ———– for the answers. The hermit told him to wait. In the meantime, a wounded man came to them. The king and the hermit helped the wounded man, cleaned his wounds and ——— his wounds. The man was king’s ———. He wanted to kill him. But as the king helped him, he became his most faithful ———–. Then the hermit ——— his three questions as:

The right time to do something is ———. The most important work is to do people’s ———– and the most important people are whom you are with at a particular time.

The Three Questions By Leo Tolstoy Summary and Questions and Answers

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