A Moral Story by Leo Tolstoy
Adapted, abridged and retold
"Which piece of land? There was only one land – this earth – that God granted us. There were no owners, no property, no authorities. Only one thing was such that was the property of each and all and it was Labor.”
Long ago… some children were busy playing on the bank of a river. Suddenly they observed a golden object hidden in the sand. It looked like a grain of wheat but it was very… very big. Children had never seen such a big grain of wheat. It was almost like a mango in size. While children were examining the grain, a passer-by took it from them. Even he had never seen such a strange object. So he went to the capital and sold it to the king. The king also had never seen such a large-sized wheat grain. So, he consulted with his ministers but they could say nothing about it as none of them had ever seen a grain of wheat of such an unusual size. Ultimately the king ordered : "Summon all the elderly farmers to my court. They must be able to tell about this.”
One day a very old man appeared before the king. He was so old that could not even walk properly. A man had to support him. His face was pale and his eyesight extremely poor. He was almost deaf and the king had to speak abnormally loud to him while he put the grain of wheat in his hands and said : "Respected Sir! Can you tell me when and where such a grain could be cultivated? Have you ever bought or sown such large-sized grains?" Closely examining the wheat grain in his weak hands, the old man ultimately said: "No, I've never sown or reaped, bought or sold such a grain… but my father is older and more experienced than me. You can ask him if he knows anything about it." Then the king sent his messenger to fetch the father of that old farmer. Few hours later, the father appeared in the court. The king put the grain in his hands. He examined it closely. The king asked: "O honorable gentleman! Have you ever seen such a large-sized grain of wheat?" The old man had difficulty in hearing and he had problem in walking, too, but still his condition was better than his son. He said: "In our time, grains were heavier and solid but I never saw such a grain as you have. Better you call my father; I think he will be able to shed some light on this." So now the father of the father was summoned to the court. He came smilingly in the court without any support. His eyesight was normal and he could speak and hear properly. The king put the grain in his hand and asked: "Grandfather! Have you ever seen such a grain of wheat?" The old grand man saw the grain, smiled and chirped: "After ages I see today such a solid grain." The king was happy. He further asked: "Oh… please tell me when and where such a big grain was being produced?" The grand man said: "O king! Only in our time this type of wheat was produced. I have come of this age eating such grains only." Amazed, the king asked: “Kindly tell me… had you bought such grains from a foreign land or they came out naturally from earth?" Offended, the grand man replied: "No… in our time selling the grains was a sin. We did not even have coins. What is selling and buying we did not even know. Everyone had sufficient to satisfy his needs." Then the king asked: "Where was that piece of land where such grains were produced?" The old man replied: "Which piece of land? There was only one land - this earth - that God granted us. There were no owners, no property, and no authorities. Only one thing was such that was the property of each and all and it was Labor.”
The king was highly influenced. Humbly bowing before the old grand man, the king said: "Grand father! Answer two more questions of mine. First: How the earth produced such big and golden grains before and why it is not producing now? Second: Your son has some hearing problem and he is lame. Your grandson is even more weak and pale and cannot walk on his own, but you are still in good health, with perfect hearing and eyesight. How it became possible?" And this was the reply the old grand man gave : "People today have stopped living by their own labor. They depend on others. In our time, people followed the rules of God. What was their own, only that was their own. They were not greedy after the fruits and labors of the other… but now that time has gone. And therefore the Earth does not produce such grains and people are weak and frail.”
Image courtesy: abcgallery.com
Portrait of Leo Tolstoy as a Ploughman on a Field. 1887 by Ilya Repin.
Oil on canvas. The Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia.