The hermit lived in a wood which he never quitted, and he received none but common folk. So the king put on simple clothes and, before reaching the hermit’s cell, dismounted from his horse. Leaving his bodyguard behind, he went on alone.
     When the king approached, the hermit was digging the ground in front of his hut. Seeing the king, he greeted him and went on digging. The hermit was frail and weak, and each time he stuck his spade into the ground and turned a little earth, he breathed heavily.
     The king went up to him and said: “I have come to you, wise hermit, to ask you to answer three questions: How can I learn to do the right thing at the right time? Who are the people I most need, and to whom should I, therefore, pay more attention than to the rest? And, what affairs are the most important and need my first attention?”
     The hermit listened to the king, but answered nothing. He just spat on his hand and recommenced digging.
     “You are tired,” said the king, “let me take the spade and work awhile for you.”
     “Thanks!” said the hermit, and, giving the spade to the king, he sat down on the ground.
The hermit lived in a small forest, all alone. He never came out of the woods. He met only simple people - the common men.
The old hermit lived in the woods!
If the king went in his usual clothes, full of riches, the hermit would not see him. So the king wore ordinary clothes. Before reaching the small hut, where the hermit lived, he left his horse with the bodyguard who had accompanied him, and he walked alone to meet the hermit.
As he neared the hut, he saw the hermit digging the ground in front of his hut. The hermit greeted the king (without knowing he was a king) and he continued his work. The hermit looked very old and weak, and he was panting for breath because of the heavy work.
digging the earth.jpg
The hermit was digging the ground in front of his hut!
The king went near him and asked politely if he could answer his three questions:
  • How can I learn to do the right thing at the right time?
  • Who are the people I need most?
  • What affairs are the most important?
The hermit heard the questions but chose not to answer. He spat on his hand, continued his digging work. The king patiently told the hermit that he looked tired and asked if he could work in his place. He asked for the spade to start digging.
The hermit thanked the king and gave him the spade. Then he sat on the ground.
Meanings of difficult words:
wood/woodsa small forest
affairsbusinesses, events, issues, matters
spadea tool with a sharp-edged, metal blade and a long handle, used for digging earth
State Council of Educational Research and Training (2019). Term-2 English Standard-8. The Three Questions - Leo Tolstoy (retold) (pp. 102-112). Published by the Tamil Nadu Textbook and Educational Services Corporation.