Three Questions

by Leo Tolstoy

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What was the hermit's answers to the tsar's three questions in "Three Questions"?

Quick answer:

The hermit's answers to the king's three questions in "Three Questions" are that the right time to begin everything is now, the most important person is the one that you're with, and that the most important thing to do is to do good to the person that you're with. Unbeknownst to the king, he already answered all his questions by tending to the wounded man.

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A king has set off on an epic quest to find the answers to three questions that he finds especially perplexing:

  • What is the right time to begin everything?
  • Who is the most important person?
  • And what is the most important thing to do?

Many wise-men and philosophers make a bee-line to the royal palace in the hopes of answering the king's questions. But the king finds that none of the answers they give are in the least bit satisfactory. So he heads off on a journey to consult a hermit renowned for his wisdom.

As it happens, the hermit's not very forthcoming, and it seems that the king's had a wasted journey. Just then, though, an injured man emerges from the forest, clutching a large wound to his stomach. It's clear to the king and the hermit that he's seriously injured. The king tends to the man's wound and, as darkness approaches, he and the hermit take him inside the hermit's hut, where he starts to recover.

The injured man sleeps soundly that night, and by the following morning, it's clear that he's made a spectacular recovery. As it turns out, the man was a would-be assassin who'd intended to murder the king but was attacked by the king's bodyguard. The man, overwhelmed by the kindness shown to him by the king he tried to kill, asks for forgiveness, which is duly given.

As the hermit points out, the king, in taking care of the injured man, has answered all his own questions:

  • What is the right time to begin everything? The time is always now.
  • Who is the most important person? The person with whom you are.
  • What is the most important thing to do? To do good to the person that you are with.

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