Three Questions

by Leo Tolstoy

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How did the hermit demonstrate answers to the king's questions through his actions?

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The king wants to know the answer to what he considers to be three very important questions:

  • What's the right time to begin something?
  • Who are the most necessary people?
  • What's the most important thing to do?

The wisest men in the kingdom come from far and wide, hoping to answer the king's questions. But the king isn't satisfied with any of their responses, so he seeks the advice of an old hermit with a reputation for wisdom. Initially, the hermit's not much help; he doesn't say a word in response to the king's questions. Instead, he simply goes about his business, digging the ground in front of his simple little hut.

But when a seriously injured man comes running out the forest, clutching his wounded stomach, the hermit's able to answer all three of the king's questions by action rather than words. The hermit helps the king take care of the injured man, tending to his wounds. It turns out that the man was planning to assassinate the king and was attacked by his bodyguards. Yet on seeing how kindly the king has treated him, he's now full of remorse and seeks the king's forgiveness.

At long last, the king now has the answers to his three questions:

  • The right time to begin something is always now;
  • The most necessary people are the ones that you happen to be with at the present moment;
  • And the most important thing is simply to do good for the person that you're with.

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