“Twenty-Three Tales” by Leo Tolstoy

Also Read: “What Men Live By and Other Tales” by Leo Tolstoy

A collection of twenty-three parables which teach the principles of life and virtues such as temperance, courage, perseverance, simplicity, forgiveness and love. Whatever Tolstoy writes, whether it be love stories, war epics or moral tales, it always leaves a deep impression on the reader. The tales are edifying and entertaining without being overly didactic or sentimental.

There is one folktale retold by Tolstoy that I especially like, “The Godson”. It tells a story of a young man who was adopted as a ‘godson’ and invited to visit his godfather’s golden mansion. He sneaked into his godfather’s throne room where he could see and control all the things that were happening in the world. He took upon himself to eliminate evil. Naturally he made a mess and caused more trouble in the world. His godfather then sent him on a journey to learn what he needed to become to destroy evil in men.

In “What Men Live By”, an angel is sent down to earth to lean three lessons, What dwells in man, What is not given to man, and What men live by. He learns them while living and working under the roof of a shoemaker.

In “Three Questions”, a King looks for answers to another three questions, How to do the right thing at the right time, Who are the people he should pay more attention than to the rest, What things are the most important. The answers are quite surprising, but compelling nevertheless.

The guests in “The Coffee House Of Surat” engage in an intense argument about whose religion is the truth. A bystander, “a student of Confucius”, gives the final answer and silences them all.

“How Much Land Does A Man Need” tells a story of a peasant who dreams of acquiring enough land so that he wouldn’t fear the Devil, who schemes to get the peasant under his power.


    Part I. Tales for Children: Published about 1872

  1. God Sees the Truth, but Waits
  2. A Prisoner in the Caucasus
  3. The Bear-Hunt
  4. Part II: Popular Stories

  5. What Men Live By (1881)
  6. A Spark Neglected Burns the House
  7. Two Old Men
  8. Where Love Is, God Is
  9. Part III: A Fairy Tale

  10. The Story of Iván the Fool
  11. Part IV: Stories Written to Pictures

  12. Evil Allures, but Good Endures
  13. Little Girls Wiser than Men
  14. Ilyás
  15. Part V: Folk-Tales Retold

  16. The Three Hermits
  17. The Imp and the Crust
  18. How Much Land does a Man Need?
  19. A Grain as Big as a Hen’s Egg
  20. The Godson
  21. The Repentant Sinner
  22. The Empty Drum
  23. Part VI: Adaptations from the French

  24. The Coffee House of Surat (1893)
  25. Too Dear!
  26. Part VII: Stories Given to Aid the Persecuted Jews (1903)

  27. Esarhaddon, King of Assyria
  28. Work, Death and Sickness
  29. Three Questions



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