The Three Hermits

by Leo Tolstoy

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What is the purpose of the Archbishop's voyage in "The Three Hermits"?

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In "The Three Hermits," the purpose of the Archbishop's voyage is to deliver religious instruction to three men who are described to him as "foolish" men who "understand nothing." The Archbishop believes that their simple prayer is not pleasing to God and that he can properly train them by teaching them to memorize the Lord's Prayer.

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The Archbishop is told about three hermits who live together on an otherwise isolated island. The three are described to him as "foolish" men who "understand nothing." The Archbishop determines that it is his responsibility as a man of God to properly instruct the men in matters of religious doctrine, including how to properly pray.

When he reaches shore, the Archbishop asks the three men what they are doing to serve God. Smiling, the men confess that they do not know how they should serve God. The Archbishop then asks them how they pray, and they recite their simple prayer: "Three are ye, three are we, have mercy upon us!"

The men therefore have a knowledge of the Trinity, and their prayers are heartfelt and sincere. The Archbishop, however, comments that they do not know how to pray appropriately but that he will teach them "the way in which God in the Holy Scriptures has commanded all men to pray to Him." As the Archbishop teaches them the Lord's Prayer, the three men stumble over the words and keep forgetting the sequencing of the prayer. Determined, the Archbishop continues his instruction "a hundred times over" until the men can recite the prayer by themselves.

Satisfied with his efforts, the Archbishop departs, filled with pride regarding his own talents and sense of purpose. He is astounded, however, when the three men come running across the surface of the water, asking the Archbishop to remind them once more of the words God wants them to use when praying. The Archbishop is forced to recognize the holy efforts of these three simple men and bows before them in honor of their God-pleasing endeavors.

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