A Treasury of Literary Classics -
Short Story Series


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The Three Questions

Leo Tolstoy

Leo Tolstoy (9 September 1820 - 20 November 1910) was a Russian writer who is regarded as one of the greatest authors of all time. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature several times. He is best known for the novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina , but he also wrote dozens of inspiring, thought-provoking short stories, such as "The Three Questions".

1. Which of the following is NOT what the king wanted to know?

A. the best time to do something
B. the easiest way to do something
C. the right people to attend to
D. the most important thing to do

Your answer:

The three questions the king asked were:
1. what was the right time for every action?
2. who were the most necessary people?
3. what was the most important thing to do?

2. Why did the king want to find out the answers to the three questions?

A. The learned men told the king to find the answers.
B. The king wanted to get a great reward.
C. The king wanted to succeed in everything he did.
D. The king wanted to please his councillors.

Your answer:

Paragraph 1:

"... he would never fail in anything the might undertake."

3. Why did the king decide to see the hermit?

  1. The hermit was famous for being wise.
  2. The king wanted to leave his bodyguard behind.
  3. The king got confused about the different answers to the three questions he heard.
  4. The king wanted to hide from his enemy.

A. (i) & (ii)
B. (i) & (iii)
C. (ii) & (iii)
D. (ii) & (iv)

Your answer:

(i) "... he decided to consult a hermit, widely renowned for his wisdom."
(iii) "All the answers being different, the king agreed with none of them ..."

4. Which of the following is NOT true about the bearded man?

A. He was wounded by the king's bodyguard.
B. He initially planned to kill the king but made peace with him at last.
C. He was thankful to the king for saving his life.
D. He used to be the king's faithful slave but the king executed his brother.

Your answer:

The bearded man said, " ... if you wish it, I will serve you as your most faithful slave ..."

5. Put the events in the correct order based on the story.

  1. The king helped the hermit with digging, seeing that he was tired and weak.
  2. A wounded man appeared and the king and hermit cared for him together.
  3. The hermit greeted the king and went on digging the ground in front of his hut.
  4. The king got the answers to his three questions.
  5. The king forgave the bearded man and befriended him.

A. (iii) --> (i) --> (ii) --> (v) --> (iv)
B. (iii) --> (iv) --> (i) --> (v) --> (ii)
C. (iii) --> (ii) --> (i) --> (iv) --> (v)
D. (iii) --> (iv) --> (ii) --> (v) --> (i)

Your answer:

6. Complete the following table with the hermit's answers to the three questions:

Questions Answers
6a. The most important time
6b. The most important man / necessary person
6c. The most important affair / business

Last paragraph:

6a. "Remember then: there is only one time that is important - now!"
6b. "The most necessary person is the one with whom you are ..."
6c. "... the most important affair is to do that person good ..."

7. Which of the following adjectives does not describe the king?

A. compassionate
B. forgiving
C. open-minded
D. proud

Your answer:

A. The king tried his best to save the bearded man.
B. The king befriended the bearded man who intended to kill him and even promised to restore his property.
C. The king collected answers from his people and even visited the hermit for answers.

8. Which of the following is the theme of the story?

A. revenge
B. kindness
C. power
D. survival

Your answer:

"... the most important affair is to do that person good, because for that purpose alone was man sent into this life."

9. "The Three Questions" is often described as an allegory. Which of the following is the most appropriate definition of an allegory?

A. a story that reveals a hidden meaning or moral
B. a story that tends to personify animals and objects
C. a story that is short and clearly structured
D. a story that shows the conflict between individual and society

Your answer:

- The story doesn't contain any personified animals and object.
- An allegory is not about the length or structure of the story, or the conflicts there in.

10. Which of the following events is the climax (i.e. the most exciting part / a major turning point) of the story?

A. Different people gave the king diverse answers to his questions.
B. The king dressed as a commoner to see the hermit.
C. The king encountered the bearded man and cared for him.
D. The king got the answers to his three questions from the hermit.

Your answer:

The Three Questions

Score Sheet

Questions Results
Question 1
Question 2
Question 3
Question 4
Question 5
Question 6a
Question 6b
Question 6c
Question 7
Question 8
Question 9
Question 10

Extension: Think and Share

11. If you were the king, would you be satisfied with the hermit's answers and give him the reward? Why or why not?

12. Of the three answers, which one do you agree with the most? Explain with an example from your personal experience.